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Sources: Eddie Osburn and Parker Abrell, co-founders of Ball State's YDSA chapter
Editor’s Note: Two sources for this story are members of the Ball State speech team. Grace McCormick, news section editor for The Daily News, is also a member of the speech team.
If you were to ask Eddie Osburn what they thought of the Biden administration's first 100 days, they’d probably express some disappointment.
Osburn, junior English creative writing major and chair of the newly formed Ball State chapter of Young Democratic Socialists of America (YDSA), founded the chapter with some help from fellow speech team member and sophomore political science and English rhetoric major Parker Abrell.
Osburn applied to the YDSA’s chapter program and took a brief training course on running a chapter while Abrell handled social media outreach to attract members for a callout meeting.
On Jan. 26, the first meeting of the new chapter was held virtually in compliance with COVID-19 safety recommendations. Osburn said the organization now stands between 10 and 15 members strong at any given meeting.
“I started this chapter because I saw a need for it at Ball State and in colleges and universities across the country,” Osburn said. “There's a need for free college and university within this nation because our academia is often filled with affluent people, and the working class often can't afford education because of its cost. At Ball State, I saw a need for us raising the minimum wage of student workers, a better response to COVID-19 and many other reasons.”
In keeping with many of the core values of YDSA, Ball State’s chapter will pursue political- and community-based action while advocating for socialist ideals like free healthcare, a $15 minimum wage and student debt forgiveness.
While the chapter is not yet officially a part of YDSA due to some holdups in registration, Osburn said it intends to endorse the Supporting Tenants Across Indiana (STAI) campaign soon, which involves teaching tenants about the Center for Disease Control’s moratorium on evictions during COVID-19, informing tenants about rental assistance and helping with eviction trials.
“We want to do that because people getting evicted is obviously bad and shouldn’t happen,” Osburn said. “Housing is a human right but also because evictions contribute to issues related to the pandemic —it makes the pandemic worse when you evict people.”
The pandemic, Osburn said, may have heightened public awareness and support for socialist economic and social ideals. 2020 saw racial turmoil, a historic pandemic and the largest economic downturn since the 2008 Great Recession, which may have provided incentives for many Americans to seek alternate political ideologies, they said.
The inverse of that statement is also true, Osburn said. As more people reach class consciousness, they begin to realize there are also policies in the United States that are designed to benefit the upper class and society’s elites.
“All these awful things started happening to people because of this pandemic, and it showed us how almost frail and weak capitalism is,” Osburn said. “American people are noticing when you implement a mask mandate, that’s a government policy, and it helps people to not get infected. So, they notice other policies as well — things like their working wage. They’re like, ‘Oh, this isn’t enough to live in a pandemic.’”
Abrell, who was initially introduced to more leftist policies while crafting arguments on the speech team, said the events of 2020 similarly motivated him to help found a YDSA chapter at Ball State.
“[Exposure to leftist ideals] started my gears turning,” Abrell said. “I just realized I could not stand by anymore. I, at least, had to be a part of something, an organization working toward the socialist ideals. With my lessons in political science as a political science major, what I see is that some systems work for some citizens, and some systems don't work for others.”
Economic issues like a $15 minimum wage and a $2,000 stimulus check for most Americans, which Biden and many other Democrats publicly supported during the 2020 campaign, have yet to be realized by Congress.
While Democrats were able to retake control of the executive branch and both houses of Congress by a slim majority, Abrell is concerned about their ability to live up to promises made on the campaign trail.
“We're going to have to take a stand and be more vocal, both to Biden himself as well as the more moderate Democrats in Congress, to not compromise with conservatives and not compromise on the social values that we say we have high priorities on because we already, with compromises, were not able to get that support,” he said.
Osburn echoed Abrell’s willingness to challenge the political establishment in future elections like the 2022 midterms.
“Obviously, we'll want to replace the Republicans and whatnot, but we also want to replace established Democrats who don't uphold the ideals that we support,” they said. “This means supporting candidates who don't take big money from corporations, who don't take corporate PAC money. This means supporting candidates who are supporting grassroots movements and supporting candidates who are very adamant about socialist policies.”