On Tuesday, October 16th, incumbent Texas Senator Ted Cruz squared off against democratic candidate Beto O’Rourke in what may be the last debate before election day. The clash between Cruz and O’Rourke has gained a rather robust following, as the impact of O’Rourke’s election would reverberate far outside the borders of Texas. Should he win, O’Rourke would be Texas’s first democratic senator in the past 25 years; not only would this paint the state blue for the first time in a quarter century, but so too would it make an important ideological stride for democrats hoping to gain control of the Senate. The implications of this particular gubernatorial race are not lost on citizens across the nation, least of all students.
The Daily Texan: Unsurprisingly, the University of Texas at Austin has been among the most vocal of higher education organs, offering coverage of the political race since early September. Student writer Chad Lyle has tasked himself with keeping fellow students up-to-date on the key foundation of each contestants’ platform.
• “For the second — and possibly final — time before election day, incumbent Sen. Ted Cruz and his challenger, U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, sparred in a televised debate highlighting their key domestic and foreign policy differences. Both contenders, vying for a seat in the U.S. Senate, discussed issues such as abortion and the government response to Hurricane Harvey."
• When dealing with abortion, Kavanagh was inevitably brought up in Forgany’s first question, directed at Cruz, asking if the “country should expect changes to abortion law after the confirmation.” Naturally, Cruz made clear that he opposed abortion but avoided direct answer to the fate of Roe v. Wade, stating “we’ll have to see when cases are decided.”
• In the case of immigration policy, O’Rourke vehemently opposed the construction of the infamous wall: “El Paso is one of the safest communities in Texas because of immigrants. No wall is going to solve security concerns.” Cruz was quick to attack this opinion as an indifference toward the people of Texas as well as Americans at large, insinuating O’Rourke cares more about immigrants than he does American citizens.
• In combating Cruz’s jabs, particularly those aimed to situate O’Rourke’s policies as nothing but tax-raisers for Texas citizens, the democratic nominee reminded viewers that “Senator Cruz is not going to be honest with you. That’s why the President called him ‘Lyin’ Ted,’ and it's why the nickname stuck."
• The moderator’s also questioned both contenders about the government response to Hurricane Harvey, an issue that hits close to home for the two Texans. “Cruz called out O’Rourke for his vote against an ‘emergency’ disaster relief bill that he co-authored with fellow Sen. John Cornyn,” Lyle writes. “O’Rourke said he didn’t regret his vote because he was unsure if the money would make its way to the places where it was needed.” O’Rourke also went sofaras to denounce Cruz’s inattention to Texas and Harvey, as the republican was caught up in his own bid for president.
The Eagle: Whereas Lyle reports the facts, remaining neutral in his analysis of the race, other students are more vocal about whom it is they support. Sasha Jones of American University writes that “as the 2018 midterm elections approach, a growing group of AU students have come out in support of Democratic candidate Beto O’Rourke.
• On campus, students and “native Texans Mia Simon and Mathieu Lavault have organized weekly phone banks on campus to support O’Rourke’s campaign,” Jones reports. “Simon leads the events every Wednesday and Lavault leads them every weekend.”
• In a quote to The Eagle, Simon says “There is just so much negativity and fear in today’s political rhetoric. But Beto gives out a message of hope that is refreshing, genuine and real.”
• Campus organizations, such as The AU College Democrats, are also doing the part in the push for O’Rourke, hosting their own phone bank event in the month October. Olan Trosky, the group’s director of communications, understands that “the Texas senate election has a lot riding on it.” Trosky tells Jones “It's been predicted across the board that Democrats will take the House. However, there is a lot more riding on [the] Dems’ ability to take back the Senate as well.”
• Support for O’Rourke, however, is not an ubiquitous phenomenon at American University. Thomas Kenna, the communications director for the AU College Republicans, acknowledges that “the priority for Republicans in this election is to make sure they maintain their control of the Senate. To maintain their foothold in Texas and around the country, Kenna said, Cruz must beat O’Rourke in November.”
• Though Kenna believes that the “the population of American University is analogous to that of the state of Texas,” there is no doubt that a massive mobilization in support of O’Rourke has occured at American University.
• “Lavault, the phone bank organizer, credits O’Rourke’s personality and what he represents as the reason why more and more students at AU have decided to support his candidacy. College students are drawn to O’Rourke’s youth and interesting background, he said.”
The Stanford Daily: On the opposite coast, students at Stanford are also promoting political engagement, as “political groups across campus are campaigning for candidates around the nation and encouraging students to register and vote.” Torn down a partisan line as well, student-writer Udani Satarasinghe details the aims of both democratic and republican groups on campus.
• “Both the Stanford Democrats [(SD)] and Stanford College Republicans (SCR) have hosted phone banks and events to support Congressional races across the country”
• For the Stanford Democrats, the “top priorities are Congressional campaigns in California and Texas.” Much like other university groups around the nation, the SD “hosted phone banks for Democratic nominee Beto O’ Rourke’s Senate bid against the incumbent Cruz.”
• Stanford Democrats Co-president Gabe Rosen speaks to the importance of this midterm election. “These campaigns are very consequential. [We want] to have a Democrat in Paul Ryan’s seat, to make sure someone as obstructionist as Ted Cruz — to put it delicately — is out of a position of power and to make sure the Democratic ideals of California are fulfilled as much as they can.”
• Stanford College Republicans, on the other hand, “hosted a day of deployment in early September, during which members went door-to-door to campaign for Republicans Ted Cruz…According to SCR Recruitment Director Christian Giadolor ’21, members knocked on hundreds of doors to spread their message.”
• Yet despite their partisan disagreements, both Giadolor and Rosen find harmony in the importance of civic engagement during elections. “A lot of attention is brought to the president, but your local or state elected officials are hugely important in what can be done for your district to influence local projects and advocate on your behalf,” Giadolor tells Satarasinghe.
• In form, Satarasinghe details how both groups, “in addition to campaigning for certain candidates...have encouraged members to register to vote, even if they may not have direct interest in the groups’ campaigns.”
The Bottom Line:
Indeed, anticipation for the 2018 midterm elections has been bubbling since November of 2016. Though the senatorial race in Texas has captured particular attention, it is merely an exemplification of the considerations currently facing our nation. Civic engagement has never been so important, especially for young people across the country. The outcome of the Texas race, much like those in other states, will have a tangible impact on the nation’s political climate, and will indubitably have bearing on the upcoming 2020 presidential election. As one Stanford student who is helping lead the charge for voter registration says, “The country we’re going to inherit is [being] built right now and the fact that a lot of young people don’t take advantage of this…is kind of wrong to me… The first step to creating an America that young people can feel comfortable living in is to vote and participate in democracy right now.”