This article is produced by Elon University students traveling throughout Iowa to cover the 2020 caucuses.
DES MOINES, Iowa - Vote Common Good, an organization promoting liberal activism during the 2020 election cycle, is hosting its “Faith, Politics, and the Common Good: A Voter’s Summit and Presidential Forum,” between Jan. 9 and Jan. 11 in Iowa’s capital city.
Event organizers and speakers said they hope to remind voters in Iowa and across the nation that evangelical Christians do not have to vote to re-elect President Donald Trump, but rather that they have options across the political spectrum. These include former Republican Gov. Bill Weld of Massachusetts and author Marianne Williamson, who announced this morning that she is suspending her campaign.
Both Weld and Williamson, among other candidates, spoke at the summit's Candidate Forum in Des Moines, Iowa.
Vote Common Good, which according to organizers will be taking its message across all 50 states, is also looking to give a voice to college students. VCG Political Director Robb Ryerse said this is the type of outlet certain students are looking for.
“There’s a number of college students around the country that maybe grew up in conservative religious homes and they get to college they start to think a little differently from their parents, and they’re looking for an outlet to express their faith and political views in a new way,” Ryerse said.
Vote Common Good Executive Director Doug Pagitt said he has seen many college students question how their religious peers stick to voting for republicans.
“Why do religious people seem like they’re so committed to voting for Republicans almost no matter what the set of conditions are? It seems as if they would vote for Republicans even if they were anti all the things that their faith called them on Sunday mornings," Pagitt said. "So, we found with college students was a real sense of ‘What’s going on?’”
Ryerse said VCG is reaching out to college students by making stops in college towns and inviting students to participate in events.
Rev. Jacqui Lewis, a speaker at the summit, said she would tell progressive Christian students to incorporate their religious identity into their studies.
“Just like you are a college student learning history or sociology or math, be a person who studies the political process from your faith,” Lewis said. “Put your faith in the middle of all your life, your dating life, your study life, but also your political life, and don’t be afraid to stand, don’t be afraid to ask questions, and don’t let anybody split you in half from ‘I’m a religious person on Sunday and all the rest of the week I’m not,’ keep those things together.”
Although Ryerse said VCG could not endorse a specific candidate, he said the organization hoped to help college students and other voters find a candidate that supports the common good.
“There’s been this thought that religious voters all think a certain way and vote a certain way,” Ryerse said. “What we’re trying to do is open up a space that recognizes that if you’re a person of faith regardless of your age, regardless of where you live in the country if you’re in an urban area or a rural area if you’re from a high income or low income, whatever your background might be whether it’s ethnic or racial, whatever it might be, the common good is something that affects all of us.”
“We’re kind of chasing the primary calendar, so before different states have their primaries we’ll get to those states,” Ryerse said.
With the 2020 North Carolina Democratic Primary set to take place on March 3, Ryerse said VCG will likely stop in the Raleigh area in late February.
Maeve Ashbrook and Baylor Rodman contributed to this report.