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Gainesville State College club focuses on ideas, issues, not hostile rhetoric

POSTED: April 17, 2010 11:43 p.m.
SARA GUEVARA/The Times

Attorney General Thurbert Baker, second from left, speaks Tuesday with Gainesville State College Democrats President Andrew Wilkinson, right, during an event co-sponsored by the college's Politically Incorrect Club.

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For Gainesville State College professor Douglas Young, the current political environment is far too hostile.

Young is the adviser for the college’s Politically Incorrect Club, a rare place where Republicans, Democrats and independents can come together and have intelligent discussions on current issues.

“No matter how controversial the subject, people don’t shout, people don’t use profanity,” Young said. “All too often, the political talk shows on TV turn into ugly shout-fests.”

The club has had an active semester, bringing in big-name candidates from the upcoming elections, including gubernatorial candidates John Oxendine and DuBose Porter and 9th District U.S. House candidates Steve Tarvin and Bert Loftman.

Young founded the nonpartisan Politically Incorrect Club when he began teaching at Gainesville State in 1999.

“I wanted to try to help students learn to think critically, analytically and always independently,” Young said.

And though party politics may be all the rage in the national arena, students said they enjoy discussing issues with a diverse group of people.

“I really think it’s a better educational tool to open people’s minds to opposing views,” said Brittany Bailey, the club’s secretary.

Club President Christy Worthington said in the two years she has been in the club, she has chosen to participate in discussions without declaring a party affiliation.

“They identify my opinion with me,” Worthington said. “No one even knows where I stand (politically), and I like to keep it that way.”

The club has about 20 active members, which keeps discussions lively, Young said.

But if people start agreeing too much, he’s there to step in with an opposing view.

“My job as moderator is to play devil’s advocate,” Young said. “The more points that are expressed the better.”

Young said students discuss what is on their minds and tend to tackle a number of controversial issues, like gun control and abortion.

“But we’re not a formal debate club by any means,” Young said.

Over the last few months, the club has been quite active on campus, bringing a number of political candidates to campus.

On April 12, the club was host to Loftman, a candidate for the U.S. House seat recently vacated by longtime U.S. Rep. Nathan Deal.

Loftman is a conservative candidate who endorses the fair tax and small government.

The next afternoon, the club co-sponsored an event featuring Attorney General Thurbert Baker, a Democratic gubernatorial candidate who recently made headlines for refusing to lead the state lawsuit against the health care bill.

Students who attended Loftman’s presentation asked a lot of questions, illustrating the range of political views.

Bailey said she’s seen many students at the college take a more active interest in politics over the last few years.

“With the downturn of the economy and so many changes going on, people are taking an interest,” Bailey said.

Though candidates are always interested in talking with potential voters, Worthington said the club has gained clout over the years as a group that politicians want to speak to.

“Lots of people know the Politically Incorrect Club,” she said.



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