With election season just around the corner, a national spotlight has been focused on politics; this is true at Webster Groves High School, too.
The “Young Republicans” club was founded by seniors Ryan Ribant, Carter Doll, Jackson Berger and Andy Bennett.
The “Young Democrats,” founded by seniors Alex Harper and Cameron Thomas, is now formulating a plan to merge with the liberal-minded “Students for Progress” club.
Each group has goals of promoting its party and spreading its political ideals.
“We feel like there are a lot of negative viewpoints going around, being conservative,” Ribant said. “We want to get rid of those views and spread our views.”
Another large reason for the formation of these political clubs is to share the ideas of a party with moderate or undecided potential voters.
“We’re open to people who don’t know what their views are,” Ribant said. “While we want everyone to make their own opinions, we also want to show them our viewpoints.”
“We invite the whole WGHS community to come put their feet in the water and hear what we’re about,” junior club member Matt Haug said.
The club, which first met on Dec. 9, plans to continue to meet before school on Wednesdays. It is sponsored by Marketing teacher Kara Siebe.
The club has used a group message to spread the word of its activities and to attract new members. As of Dec. 4, the chat included 42 students.
“We hope it keeps growing,” Ribant said.
Harper remarked the two were motivated to form a club in support of liberal ideals by the creation of the club supporting conflicting conservatism. About the Young Republicans’ influence on them, Harper said, “It had everything to do with it.”
Still, Harper, like Ribant, didn’t want to force the ideas of her party onto anyone.
“It’s more of an option than a requirement to be in the debate,” Harper said. “People can just come and listen. It’s more of just a learning thing about politics.”
“The goal will be to educate people and let them make their own decisions,” Thomas said. “I think the persuading is left up to the candidates themselves, and once you understand what their views are and what they stand on, it’s for you to decide what you want to be a part of, and what party you want to be.”
According to Thomas, the group, which was still in the process of passing through the stages to become an official club, now plans to merge with the Students for Progress club, which was founded by junior Patrick Schranck and sponsored by English teacher Deborah Bohlmann.
“I love it when students are wanting to be involved in the larger world,” Bohlmann said. “I think it’s really important that every student find their voice.”
Schranck originally started the club on the basis of promoting presidential nominee Bernie Sanders’ campaign but has since broadened its purpose to spreading progressive ideals.
“The Democratic Party has a pretty diverse amount of views ranging from moderate, center left, and liberals or progressives, so we’re open to hearing different views about issues,” Schranck said. “I’d say there will probably be a merger.”
Thomas hopes to bring his idea of arranging debates with the Young Republicans into the Students for Progress club, which meets on Monday afternoons. Whether or not those debates will become a reality remains to be seen.
“At this moment, we plan on discussing current events and encouraging our peers to become more involved in the political process,” Schranck said. “We also are very interested in having an open and respectful dialogue with the Young Republicans. The members of my club and I are very interested in having a debate with them sometime down the line.”