/ The Daily OrangeConservative
Senior conservative columnist offers tips for political conversations at college
My first mistake was thinking that politics was a good conversation starter. My second mistake was explaining my position on social security reform to a girl I’d just met. My biggest mistake was doing all of this at your typical college party.
That night, I learned one of many important lessons about talking politics in college. And no, she wasn’t interested.
As a seasoned veteran of political discussions with classmates and hallmates, here are some tips for keeping things civil — and socially accepted — in this contentious election season and beyond.
Be smart, be educated
While political debates are entertaining, some formal training is needed. Our society deserves a young generation that is informed and engaged in politics. Syracuse University has seemingly unlimited outlets to hear the opinions of others and express your own.
By taking thought-provoking classes like IST 500: “Social Media and the 2012 Election” or PSC 314: “Public Opinion and Electoral Behavior,” you will find more structured forums for debate. Learn from top professors who can answer your complex questions and pose some of their own. Have your opinions challenged by professional academics with years of experience. Be respectful and attentive, and you will be a better citizen in the long run.
At first, take it easy
Feel free to jump in on political discussions, but don’t treat it as an opportunity to pontificate at length about one topic. Your peers will write you off as one of many political stereotypes and tune you out.
Prone to 15-minute rants on the Second Amendment and “dropping the nuke” on Iran? You’re now the redneck Republican war hawk. Remember that shouting match about drug decriminalization and corporations controlling our lives? Surprise — you’re the pothead conspiracy theorist.
It’s the quickest way to lose respect among other students, as they will frame any future arguments within a narrow understanding of your ideology. Elevate political discussion beyond catchphrases and polemics.
Grab a cold one
Sometimes, the best way to hash out political disagreements in college is over a cold beer. In fact, two students at George Washington University created a Super PAC to do just that. They aim to bring members of Congress together for a bipartisan discussion of the federal deficit, all over a frosty brew.
The group — Slam Dunks, Fireworks and Eagles Super PAC (really its name) — wants lawmakers to put away party differences and develop a social discussion of the issues. College students, too, can follow this advice.
Discussing politics with friends makes for a more relaxed discussion, but tread carefully when mixing politics and your social life — especially alcohol.
After one too many drinks at 2 a.m. isn’t the time to argue about affirmative action, same-sex marriage or Occupy Wall Street. People will get mad, start shouting and probably spill beer on the carpet.
In social situations, know when to drop politics and just talk about something else.
Classroom and dorm-room political debates are some of the most enlightening discussions in any college career. In these moments, we learn to develop our own opinions as we open our minds to different points of view.
Take these moments seriously. In a short time, our generation will have the burden of shifting the late-night debates from Flint Hall and Watson Hall to the hallowed halls on Capitol Hill.
We’ll probably still bring the beer.
Jared Kraham is a senior political science and broadcast journalism major. His column appears weekly. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed on Twitter at @JaredKraham.
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