Are you new at The University of Texas at Austin? Trying to get into politics? A convenient way for you to start getting involved is by joining clubs. You won’t exactly be getting front row seats to the two major parties clashing on tv, but you will taste a bit of scolding and a lot of heartfelt appreciation. Two prominent political organizations are Young Conservatives of Texas (YCT) and University Democrats (UDems). If you’re uncomfortable with certain beliefs of these organizations, you can stick to your associated organization. However, I implore readers to learn about and listen respectfully to arguments that you may disagree with. See the differences between both of the clubs and try having a civilized conversation with their members.
While reading, please understand the notable individuals I mention will not be specified so as to prevent doxing. I’m biased towards YCT, but I am a member of both political organizations. I do my best to hold both of these organizations to the same standard. Hopefully, this article gives you an understanding and helps you find a place you would fit in more.
Young Conservatives of Texas – University Chapter
YCT is easy to join, but it’s hard to find. The most straightforward way to think of the organization is as the outsider high schoolers hanging out in the school parking lot. Going into your first meeting might be a little strange. Walking in, you’ll find yourself in a small classroom with a PowerPoint on the board. The Chairman will be at the podium and everyone will be somewhat spread throughout the room. Before a meeting begins, you have the usual members making conversation together. The meeting begins with The Pledge of Allegiance, the Texas flag pledge, and an insightful reading from the Bible or Gospel (I cannot tell as I’m not as religious enough). [editor’s note: the gospel is part of the bible] It might feel cultish if you’re not used to Christian practices, but I think it’s meant to give some spiritual insight and valuable advice. A typical presentation starts with the chairman introducing themselves and talking about internships, club-related events, and other opportunities for members. The chairman also describes the membership process. We then get to the main event, specifically, the chairman invites a guest speaker onto the non-existent stage. The guest eagerly discusses their job, their achievements, what they are doing, and finally takes questions. The meeting ends and the group goes to get food.
Easy to find, but hard to stay in. The simplest way to describe the organization is that they’re the weird high school band kids. Going into your first meeting will be structured and informal. The club has officers and members who try to make a specific political change but lacks social skills where it can’t be taken seriously at times. Walking in, you’ll find yourself in an auditorium-like classroom with a giant PowerPoint on the board, some of the officers on a small stage, and everyone in the front of the classroom in distinguishably separated friend groups. The PowerPoint has very eye-catching special effects, and it’s very eye-catching. Before a meeting starts, you have the usual members talking to the officers in the front and small groups talking to themselves. You don’t really have an open window to join a group. I sat in the back, where one of the officers introduced themselves to me and tried to make me feel welcome. Once a meeting starts, the president welcomes everyone and starts the PowerPoint (I would find out that the president introduced themselves in the first meeting). Going through the PowerPoint, you have a URL that leads to you a sign in, each officer announces their role and events related to their role in the PowerPoint, they describe having friend groups you can sign up for called families, and they have another subclass of groups called caucuses which are focused on societal problems. Similarly, the president invites a guest speaker onto the stage where they discuss their plans, and what they have done, and take questions afterward. The meeting ends and the group goes to go get food.
I appreciate both organizations bringing guests to their meetings to discuss current events with members. It helps individuals get a better understanding of government and what elected officials are doing for the betterment of their constituents. In the various meetings I’ve been to, these officials are often very informal. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as it allows speakers and audiences to connect on a personal level.
Specifically, in the YCT environment, the guests have a long presentation that they tell in a story format. Not the most formal, but it is welcoming. The guest will go through their credentials, what their job is, some undergraduate school experience, working experience, the reason they joined politics, what they are doing now. They would then take questions. The guests are able to conduct themselves in a personal manner and ensure the presentations are not a snooze-fest. They sell their point and make sure to have a thorough presentation that you can understand. Some of these speakers stay after the meeting ends and take personal questions, for which I am very appreciative. YCT members often ask small, simple questions about their roles and experiences. I can say I have not felt a need to ask that many additional questions as I was able to understand their points.
The UDems environment has guests that are notably different from YCT. From my experience, guests have a relatively short spiel describing what they are going to do and why you should vote for them. For some reason, the speakers feel scripted and unnatural. While they present their points, you can see the guests jumping around, not knowing what to do with their hands, sometimes cursing, and sometimes they just seem like they want to leave. Despite my impression, their style seems to be a crowd-pleaser. This style somewhat rubbed me the wrong way.
Of course, the speaker takes questions afterward, but it still feels off. I generally saw UDems members ask extremely critical questions in a very professional manner compared to YCT. Questions about how they will conduct with Republicans, does the speaker thinks they actually have a shot in their race, and many more insightful questions show how much these members care about politics. The only issue is that, often, the speaker’s responses to the questions seem to just reiterate the speech topics from moments earlier, which was infuriating. I don’t see any attempt to sell me their position. It’s as if you are expected to buy because they’re Democrats. It doesn’t sound like they care about what they speak for. I don’t question the speaker because I don’t want to intrude on the UDems atmosphere and make them feel as if I’m trying to heckle them. Based on experience, the guests just leave after they have made their small spiel.
These are two uniquely different environments in the form of presenting. Please understand that I gave both YCT and UDems guests the same standard that I give to any individual presenting. They do deserve such harsh criticism, as they are elected officials paid for by tax dollars, representing the people, and trying to make a change in our community. By the presentations, you can tell who actually cares about what they speak about and who is trying to just get votes. It is just professional courtesy to treat others well and to be able to conduct yourself in a professional manner in front of an audience.
You will find that both of these organizations follow a similar style and, in many ways, they really aren’t that different. However, there is one distinct characteristic I’ve found during my time in both organizations. As an example, ask yourself: what do you have to do to convince your friend to watch a movie with you? Specifically, if they don’t want to watch it. You have to sell your friend the movie. Making them think that the movie is the most amazing one ever made. You just have to continuously talk to them until they give in and finally watch the movie with you. Depending on your friend, it matters how effective that persuasion is. This same idea applies if you ever want people to join your organization. You have to sell the organization and get people to want to join it.
I can say I felt more wanted in YCT than in UDems, especially after they found out I was involved with YCT. I only found YCT because they were tabling, and only three guys were at it. All three of them introduced themselves to me and started selling me their organization and telling me when a meeting was. In my first YCT meeting, most everyone in YCT introduced themselves to me, I was recruited to write for the Texas Horn, and they held a serious presentation on how to enter professional politics where you could tell the speaker clearly prepared. I felt like I was being treated like a professional.
I did join YCT first, but my father told me to learn about the other side of politics to make sure I didn’t become closed-minded. I was able to easily find UDems as they were tabling and registering voters on Speedway. I had to pull the information out of the officers and members at the table to join the organization. They did ask for my name, but none of them introduced themselves. I expect them to give me the same professional respect any organization should give, or better. My first meeting was interesting, it was supposed to be a debate between two democratic nominees for land commissioner, but only one showed up. They were very professional, and there were strict rules for the debate. One of the officers did introduce themselves to me and I was very appreciative of that. They made some conversation with me, but I felt like I was trying to sell myself to the organization. I had to introduce myself to most everyone else in UDems, which was annoying. The only other instance I recall of any individual from UDems introducing themselves to me would be trying to sell me to join another democratic organization. I could see how much they actually cared about that organization, and I admire their confidence and resolve. You can find their organizations here.
From an outsider’s perspective, UDems club seems aloof and is only for people who are willing to stay, while YCT seems to make more conversations together. You can see one being more laid back and welcoming than the other. Don’t be scared off by anything I said about UDems. If you stay long enough in the UDems, they try to make conversations and put effort into getting to know you. It can actually be quite comforting and welcoming. Every blue moon, at both organizations, there is an amazing or terrible speaker. If you disagree with the speaker, speak out and challenge their beliefs. I encourage you to visit both organizations to figure out where you fit better.
Editor’s note: this article was updated at 1:00 on April 22nd.
Austin Barthel is an aspiring writer and contributor to The Texas Horn. Austin is a part of the undergraduate class of '25 at The University of Texas at Austin. Hobbies include playing video games, hanging out with friends, and hunting.