I don’t know a great deal about politics. I try to stay informed, but I read the news in 140 characters more often than not. However, I’m almost positive about one thing — the American political domain is not black and white. As easy as it is to argue that on one side they’re from one place and live one life, that is wholly untrue. Members of the same party come from different places. There are variations, different shades of gray, that come with every individual political identity. I’m not only hoping to engage with other political parties this semester — I’m hoping to find depth within my own.
This week, I sat down with CAS junior Ryan Trumbauer to talk about where his political views come from and where he plans to take them.
Emily Fagel: How do you identify politically?
Ryan Trumbauer: I identify as a Democrat. I supported Hillary Clinton in the primaries, and then I continued to support her during the general election.
EF: Have you always identified as a Democrat?
RT: I actually did not grow up in a political household by any stretch of the imagination. My parents come from different political backgrounds, so they made it a point to not talk about politics at all. We would watch the news, but we would never really discuss the news. So I didn’t really get engaged in politics until conversation about who was going to run in 2016 started to pick up in the news cycle. I was very excited when Hillary Clinton launched her campaign, but I didn’t know how the presidential nomination process works or anything like that. I got to NYU that fall, and during Club Fest I signed up for College Democrats out of the blue. [I] went to the first meeting, [and I] fell in love with the organization, the people. And as I got more and more involved with the club, my knowledge and my passion for politics, Democratic politics especially, also exponentially grew.
EF: Did where you grew up influence your political views?
RT: I grew up in rural South Carolina, a town called Lexington, and it is a majority Republican area. By far. In my high school there [were] Young Democrats and Young Republicans clubs. I was really good friends with this girl named Caroline, and I went to — she kinda dragged me to — the Young Democrats. I definitely started listening to the issues a little bit. We did a debate, in high school, between the two clubs, and I ended up debating the issue of immigration. And that really opened my eyes, cause I really looked at the two parties in terms of what their political leanings were and how they approached the situation. And it started with immigration but it quickly turned into where they stand on gay rights, women’s rights and kinda went down the list. So I ultimately concluded that [I] could not see myself as a Republican, and I ended up siding with the Democrats. And [I’m] still one today.
EF: How do you feel in the NYU community based on your political identity as a Democrat?
RT: There’s a long answer and a short answer. The short answer is I feel comfortable, because the student body is more liberal. However, beneath that surface of everybody being on the same side of things, there are sometimes some apparent differences. There are those that are quite left, those that are middle left, leaning conservative left. So it’s [with] those types of differences that real conversation happens within the Democratic club on NYU’s campus. And some of them get more heated than others, of course, but in the end they’re all done out of a place of good faith. Because people come with facts, and they come with figures, but they also come with a strong ideology. So I feel comfortable [is] the short answer, but there’s a lot of diversity within the Democrat or the left-leaning political environment.
EF: You’ve been very involved with the College Democrats organization at NYU. What has that been like?
RT: I think the College Democrats are in a very unique position because the school is so left-leaning. The College Democrats are certainly part of that conversation. We certainly work with tons of organizations, but we also try to maintain our own sense of independence. We try to stay within the Democratic Party’s general platform. But, of course, party change happens at the local level, with [the] young generation, because we’ll be tomorrow’s leaders. And so we try to push the envelope a little bit. We try to push the conversation, see how we can progress from 2016 moving forward.
EF: What are your career goals? Are they political? That’s just a guess.
RT: My career goals are political. In terms of what exactly in the realm of politics, I am not exactly sure. I would definitely like to go into public service of some kind. But, ultimately, I would like to further my education and end up teaching. Teaching political science, perhaps as an adjunct professor. Because if I can bring to the table my experience, and I can teach the material, I would see that as one of the biggest accomplishments that I can share with the next generation. To inspire others to follow in my footsteps or create their own path … if I can play a small role in that, in teaching them even the smallest of facts, it would bring a smile to my heart.
EF: Do you have any advice for college students who have strong political feelings but aren’t sure what outlet to use to make change with them? I feel like a lot of us are in this position where we hate what’s going on, or we love what’s going on, but we don’t know what to do about it.
RT: I would say talk to clubs on campus. Whether that’s sending a Facebook message [or] showing up to a meeting. That’s a very easy answer. But I would also say don’t limit yourself to things on campus. Get involved with NYU, take full advantage of it. But also get outside of NYU. NYU is not the world. We are a global university, but we are not the world. And there’s a lot of issues that New York City is facing. You name it, New York City is on the front lines of it, for better or worse. And so there’s a lot of room for growth. And there are a million and one organizations that you are able to join. Take advantage of it. Start that conversation.
Also, don’t be afraid to do something that you don’t know a lot about, and that you think you might not like. People say try something new, but when they say that, a lot of what people hear is “I’ll do something new, but I [already] think I’m gonna like it.” I would encourage someone to do something new, something that you don’t think you’re gonna like. You’re either gonna learn, “Oh, I really don’t like that,” or it’ll start some questions, and you’ll end up choosing something that perhaps could lead to something more. So try something new, but try something that you’re not sure about — where there’s room for growth.
Email Emily Fagel at [email protected].