By Lauren Cosca
Baltimore Watchdog Staff Writer
Young people should not be afraid to get involved in politics so that they can affect government policy at the state and national level, according to a panel discussion at Towson University Wednesday.
The four panel members said political involvement has many forms, from joining local organizations to voting.
The panel was sponsored by the Office of Civic Engagement & Leadership and was held in the union at Towson. An estimated 40 people attended.
“Get involved in neighborhood associations and civic associations” is one way to get involved, said John Bullock, a member of the Baltimore City Council who represents the city’s ninth district in west Baltimore. “Young people are not being involved and being groomed and trained to take on leadership positions. It’s not just about you guys being in the room, it’s about you assuming some leadership positions.”
“It’s about the big picture, it’s not just about your future,” said Tony Campbell, a professor of political science who has been working at Towson since 2005. “It’s about what’s happening right now.”
Panel member Matt McDaniel, a Republican who ran unsuccessfully for Baltimore City Council last year, urged people to vote, regardless of their party affiliation.
“Regardless of what side you’re on, actually do something,” McDaniel said. “Don’t argue with people in a college dorm room or on Twitter. Get out and actually do something about it.”
Bullock said politics is not something people should just be watching on television. They need to get involved.
“It is important to take what we learned from the classroom and apply it to the real world,” Bullock said. “Politics is not a spectator sport, so get involved — whether that’s as a candidate, or as a volunteer, getting out to vote, or making yourself aware of the candidates, like where they stand and what you do in the process.”
State Rep. Steve Lafferty, who has represented the Towson area in the Maryland General Assembly since 2006, said that his job in public service is to ask the tough questions and understand what is going on.
“Politics is not for somebody else. Politics is for all of us because decisions that are being made today are decisions that are going to impact you,” Lafferty said. “We’re making laws not for your parents but for you and your future. If you care about what your future is going to look like, as far as employment, finishing school, and creating a family – if that’s important to you — but also the world around you. Get engaged.”
The panelists were asked about what they think of the changing political climate in Maryland.
“Maryland is pretty insulated from national politics,” Campbell said. “Maryland still has 7-1 D to R. In the local level, it is pretty much status quo.” He was referring to Maryland having seven Democrats and one Republican in its congressional delegation.
Bullock said that the conversation – rather than politics itself – is what has changed over the years. He said Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican, did not openly support the president during the election. He said Maryland has also opposed President Trump’s call for a ban on travel to the United States from seven predominantly Muslim countries.
Bullock said the political climate has changed since the election, with more people getting involved after Trump’s election. He pointed to the Woman’s March on Washington as an example of expanded political activism in the country.
“I think the mobility of the climate has changed because we’ve seen more and more people,” said Bullock. “People are ready to resist a lot of the initiatives that have come out if Washington.”
McDaniel believes that there is a lot of pushback from the far left and right, and people need to take a step back from the issues they are arguing about and see if they are colored just by ideology.
He also said it is too early to tell how Maryland politics has changed since Trump took office.
“Has the Democratic Party fought for the soul of the party?” McDaniel asked. “Especially in a hard blue state like Maryland.”