Democracy is based on the exchange of ideas.

Opinion columns such as the one Jacob and I have written for the Torch help foster political discussions on campus. While opinion pieces may seem archaic compared to the glossy memes on the internet, they are still an important source for argument and discussion. To close out the year, this will be defense of opinion writing and reflection of what I have learned as an opinion writer.

Political opinion pieces have a place in college newspapers. College is a hotbed of political action and activism. Many political movements have had their beginning on college campuses. Political opinion columns in the college newspapers serve three critical purposes.

The first purpose is to inform. An opinion piece can bring an issue into campus conversation. There are many issues college students may not have experienced with such as organized labor, and a piece in the college newspaper may spark an interest in that issue. The goal is bring the political issues of our time into the campus conversation. Each article is an invitation to start a discussion with your friends.

The second purpose is to persuade. Unlike political memes that dominate the internet, Jacob and I do research on each topic from credible sources, ensuring each article is up to an intellectual par expected at a university. We used our background in history, economics and political science to produce argumentative essays that could persuade people to our views. Political opinion pieces should never be shouting matches or name-calling affairs. It is the responsibility of opinion writers to present accurate information from reliable sources.

The third purpose is to react. A number of our pieces have been reactions to events, such as the refugee crisis, Donald Trump and the anniversary of the Affordable Care Act. Everyone who has Facebook has seen others reacting to impactful events such as these. These reactions are often influenced by ideological pages that distort the event. Opinion writers use their skills to peel away the ideological tinges and present a more accurate view. A good writer uses logic and facts to react to an event instead of personal ideologies.

I have learned a lot about writing while working for the Torch. Trying to capture an entire issue with a word limit of 1,000 words can be daunting at first, but as the year went on, I got better at it. My researching skills were sharpened as I continually researched a topic while writing. Honestly, the hardest thing for me to learn was writing at a fifth-grade level. I typically write like I talk and I have a penchant to use obscure vocabulary. It was frustrating at times to be told a word I used regularly was considered “too unfamiliar for campus,” but I got over it and would adjust my choice of words while still trying to sneak in an advanced word or two.

Writing these weekly opinion pieces helped my learn more about my own politics. At first impression, one might think the president of College Democrats would be an ultra-liberal with more bumper stickers on their Prius than they have job prospects. Personally, I had considered myself more aligned with the Progressive wing of the Democratic Party before writing for the Torch. Writing the weekly columns, along with my own research, I came to find out that I was more moderate than I expected and more pragmatic than ideological. I feel more aligned with “Vital Center” politics of Truman and Kennedy than I do with the economic neoliberalism of the Clintons or the New Left’s politics of identity. This did lead to criticism from the DNC. For the Affordable Care Act article, the Democratic National Committee said I gave too much credit to the Republicans because I mentioned that Nixon developed the idea of the employer mandate for health insurance, a critical feature of the ACA. I refused the DNC’s suggested edits because I value my integrity as an independent writer instead of talking marching orders from the DNC.

Overall, I have enjoyed my time as a Torch opinion writer. It has been a fun time researching and educating about the issues of our time. I may have disappointed liberals with my moderate stances. I may have irritated Turning Point USA with reference to “glossy signs made in China” or “reactionaries.” However, I always enjoyed reminding Republicans of Eisenhower and Nixon and their “big government” and liberal policies. It has been a great honor to write a weekly column. I wish the best for my successor in writing next year’s columns.

The views expressed are those of the writer and not necessarily those of The Torch. Contact Hunter Balczo at torchopinions@valpo.edu.

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