Fargo remains fairly liberal in a conservative state
Walking around campus it’s not hard to find politically charged symbols of expression. There will be Trump stickers on laptops and flags in dorm windows, just as there will be Planned Parenthood buttons and Heidi Heitkamp t-shirts worn by students. NDSU is, like many other universities, particularly politically charged. However, unlike many universities that attract students of similar political traditions, the student and faculty population can vary widely across the political scale.
North Dakota is a famously conservative state. In every election, it seems as if the state beams red. So how is it that Fargo, the most populated city in this red state, is so often the destination for the state’s more left-leaning populace? There are a few reasons why Fargo presents this way, but a lot of it seems to do with the student body here in Fargo and how they’re changing the political landscape of an entire area.
Fargo is a college-town. You’d be hard-pressed to find a business in town that doesn’t show off Bison-pride in some way or another. Not to mention the influences of having Concordia and Minnesota State University so close by. With the student populations making up such a large portion of the residents in town, it’s easy to see why people tend to sway further left.
Traditionally, younger generations, Millenials and Gen-Zs, are far more inclined to be liberal than baby boomers. According to the Pew Research Center (PRC), 45 percent of Millenials associate themselves with strong liberal values, as compared to the 36 percent of baby boomers who say the same about conservative ideologies. While this trend of having younger generations lean left is nothing new as far as history is concerned, the disparity between left and right is growing considerably.
Then there is the matter of education. After conducting a study, the PRC concluded, “Highly educated adults – particularly those who have attended graduate school – are far more likely than those with less education to take predominantly liberal positions across a range of political values.”
This can be a hard pill to swallow for a lot of people, but it holds up. According to this study, 54 percent of people with graduate or postgraduate degrees had consistent (31 percent) or mostly (23 percent) liberal values, compared to the 24 percent who held consistent (10 percent) or mostly (14 percent) liberal values.
As a college-town, the numbers of individuals participating in higher education thus affect how liberal politics are here. As students receive more education at NDSU, the likelihood of them aligning themselves with liberal views increases, even if they come from a more conservative upbringing.
Another truth that may be hard to accept is the reality that North Dakota as a whole is becoming more Democratic. Looking at statistics via the Associated Press, every single county in North Dakota voted more democratically in the 2016 election compared to 2012.
The range of increase from Republican to Democratic was anywhere from 8.7 percent in Hettinger County to 27.1 percent in Richland County. While these numbers also reflect a general distaste for the Trump as the Republican candidate, they also reveal that individuals are increasingly more willing to cross party lines should they choose.
Even at NDSU, organizations such as College Democrats and College Republicans seem to reflect the growing interest in politics in young students. Both organizations have relatively high membership, but the College Democrats have 96 members whereas the College Republicans only have 77. Even at a state school, in a Republican state, membership is higher in the liberal organization.
If Fargo is a blue city, in a red state that is becoming increasingly blue, what is the impact here at NDSU? Well, there are a few things. First of all, as we’ve seen in the last few weeks, people on both sides become increasingly polarized. When the inquiry for Trump’s impeachment began, the initial reaction of many Republican students was not to take the inquiry seriously but to hunker down on their entrenched beliefs.
Similarly, many Democratic students seemed only too ready for the impeachment processes to begin. There seems to be an indwelling tension on campus. Whether it is in the classroom or in talks with friends, when politics come up, it can be a matter of seconds before a hell of dispute and arguments break loose.
That is not to say that the impeachment inquiries will cause a major stir on campus, but they certainly could. If it has been easy to criticize the current President as he has been labeled a racist, a misogynist, a xenophobe, a rapist or an idiot, then it will only get easier to criticize that same president as he faces an inquiry which could remove him from office. These events will only serve to fortify students in their beliefs, whether out of stubbornness or vindication.
Even if Fargo is a blue city, and even if many students identify with liberal views, any person who goes here can address an interaction where the topic of politics got a little touchy. As these next weeks progress and the presidential elections heats up, it is only going to get more precarious addressing (or dodging) the topic of politics.