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Find Your Political Identity

Often described as many as the blue dot in the middle of a red sea, Bloomington, IN provides students and community members with a very liberal political setting. This, in part, is greatly due to the number of college students who inhabit the town.

For students that identify as Democrats, this political backdrop can be very reassuring and beneficial. Terry Tossman, a junior studying political science at Indiana University, is the President of College Democrats, a club at IU that helps students get involved with politics through rally involvement, hosting political candidates to come and speak, as well as other events of the sort.

“It kind of just makes me express [my political identity] more openly and get me more involved on campus, by just working with other organizations, whether it’s those with climate change, Black Lives Matter protests... just getting out the idea that voting for Democrats in a good thing for college students and for people of all ages,” Tossman said.

Tossman joined the College Democrats organization in the fall semester of his sophomore year at IU. He was the Director of Voter Registration last spring, and when his fellow Democrat Kegan Ferguson asked him to step up to take his position as President this year, he did so in July. Tossman said that he already considering running, but Ferguson had his hands full being the president of the state-wide College Democrats, so he was happy to step up.

Tossman says that he started identifying as a Democrat during his junior year of high school during the 2012 presidential election, and his opinions were more solidified after coming to college. He highlighted social issues as being the main reasons that he identified as a Democrat.

“[My parents] let me engage in my own views, and form my own opinions, and the opinions that stuck with me were always like social justice, equality for all, and getting rid of this flat tax idea,” Tossman explained. “Mainly just the social ideas were the big ones: LGBT rights, college affordability has been a big one for me lately, and Black Lives Matter is another big one.”

Similar to Tossman, senior Chair of College Republicans at IU and Chair of the Indiana Federation of College Republicans Brian Gamache says that he identifies as Republican because he wants to give everyone the same opportunities of work that his grandfather and his mother had.

According to him, his grandfather grew up as the son of Irish immigrants and was a road laborer who eventually became the Vice President and General Manager of the same roadwork company and really fought for his right to fulfill the American dream. In a similar case to his grandfather, his mother paid her own way through medical school and symbolized, to Gamache, the values of a Republican.

“That story of the American dream and equality of opportunity -- and if you work hard and dream big, good things will happen -- that’s not a fake story for me. That’s a real story, that’s my family,” Gamache said. “At that core of hard-work, responsibility, opportunity, that’s what it’s all about right there.”

Gamache says that he was always involved in politics, stating that it always seemed interesting and important. Currently majoring in history and economics with a minor in business, he is working for Todd Young, and has been almost continuously since 2014, a re-election year for Young in Congress. After graduation, Gamache wants to work in government and politics.

Though Gamache says that he has had a lot of luck finding and working for a political candidate whose values align closely to his early on in his college career, being a Republican on a liberal college campus can be hard. Gamache says that he has been yelled out at parties and bars and shut down immediately in conversations. However, he does note that even on a liberal campus, the Republican voices can still make a large difference because Republicans seek each other out.

“There are definitely more Democrats than Republicans on campus, but sometimes you’ll see the College Republicans being more active than the College Democrats,” he said. “Even if 1% of the students at IU are dedicated to Republican politics, that’s still 400 kids.”

Though Gamache will admit that the College Republicans and the College Democrats have not always gotten along, they have always tried to work together anyway.