By Paul A. Anthony, Editor in Chief
The university chapters of College Republicans and College Democrats may differ on policy-above all on who should be president the next four years-but they agree that one thing is more important than politics.
In that spirit, the groups’ leaders say, they will be planning voter-registration drives in advance of next month’s state primary and Novem-ber’s Big Day.
“We’re mainly going to focus on voter registration and letting people know what President Bush is all about.” said Jason Knight, president of the College Republicans’ campus branch.
On the other side of the political aisle is Nicole Ashley, co-founder and president of the campus Democrats.
“We’ve got a lot of plans,” she said. “Voter registration is a big one.”
Both leaders acknowledge that on the ACU campus, they have a challenge, al-though Ashley’s may be the most formidable.
She and her sister, Ruth, restarted an organization that had fallen dormant since the 2000 election. They kicked off their first interest meeting with advertising that read: “Democrat: It’s not a dirty word.”
Ashley said she was pleased with the initial turnout-about 20 students-and added that this year, local Democrats have an issue around which to rally: the re-election campaign of U.S. Rep. Charlie Stenholm, D-Abilene, who faces fellow Rep. Randy Neugebauer, R-Lubbock, in a newly drawn district.
“[Republicans] sent the vice president here to help him,” Ashley said, referring to a December visit by Vice President Dick Cheney that raised $150,000 for Neugebauer’s campaign. “That’s kind of intimidating.”
Even among the College Republicans-who volunteered as staff at the fund-raiser-there is ambivalence about Neugebauer. The group’s sponsor, State Rep. Bob Hunter, university vice president emeritus, told the Optimist in December that his attendance at the fund-raiser did not indicate an endorsement of Neugebauer. Rather, he said, he attended at Cheney’s request.
“We don’t really know enough about Neugebauer yet to say anything,” Knight said. “I’ve always been a fan of Stenholm. He’s always been a pretty conservative Democrat.”
Until the national Dem-ocrats definitively choose a candidate, the campus branch will focus on registering potential voters, Ashley said.
“Until the Democrats have selected a candidate,” she said, “there are so many factors. …” We’ll work with the College Republicans on voter registration.”
The two groups likely will plan debates, Ashley said, as was done in 2000. But their greatest challenge may not be each other-it may be the students they are trying to reach, according to Dr. Mel Hailey, chair of the Depart-ment of Political Science.
“This is not a politically active campus,” Hailey said. “In an election cycle, you will see a little more interest.”
But not much, said Hailey and Dr. David Dillman, professor of political science. Even during the nation’s most turbulent time, the university campus re-mained uninterested.
“The 1960s were a hotbed of apathy” on campus, Hailey said, while Dillman said “the most excited I saw students get around here was in the  Stenholm campaign.”
The apathy exhibited by large portions of the student body-infamously named the “ACU Bubble”-could be due to several reasons, Hailey said.
“There’s a strong strand of pacifism in the Churches of Christ,” Hailey said. “They were strongly averse to political activism” before World War II.
Likewise, Hailey said, the uniform nature of political and religious views on campus leads to complacency.
“ACU has such a homogenous campus,” he said. “There has not been a critical mass of individuals on this campus to create a loyal opposition to the majority in politics.”
With most students having been raised in similar backgrounds, they are accustomed to large-scale agreement with their political beliefs, Dillman said. And if not agreement, he added, then widespread silence.
“Most of us grew up in a church environment and a school environment where the emphasis is on the personal,” Dillman said. “No-body talks about the collective responsibility, it seems to me.”
Ashley’s pleasure with the 20 students who attended the Democrats’ introductory meeting and Knight’s report that similar numbers attend Young Republican meetings seem to support Hailey and Dillman’s theories.
So Ashley and Knight have developed broader goals for their organizations: debates, voter registration, anything to get the students interested.
“I really want to create a political picture on campus,” Knight said. “I want students to know what’s going on.”