Georgetown University College Democrats and College Republicans expanded upon key issues from this year’s election cycle during the upperclassman debate in the Healey Family Student Center Great Room on Tuesday.
GUCR, GUCD, the Georgetown Program Board and the Georgetown Institute for Politics and Public Service co-sponsored the event to provide an in-depth conversation on each party’s platform before Election Day on Nov. 8th. Issues addressed during the debate ranged from how to alleviate college debt and mitigate climate change to the Syrian refugee crisis and what should be done with the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
The event was moderated by CNN Senior Producer Brooke Brower and Ashley Spillane, former president of Rock the Vote, which seeks to mobilize the vote of young people, and current member of the GU Politics advisory board.
Former GUCD President Matthew Gregory (SFS ’17) introduced the debate, discussed the nature of political debates in this electoral cycle and said this election cycle has underscored the necessity for both parties to pursue a deeper discussion of substantive political issues.
“Democrat or Republican, I think we can all agree that we as a nation can do better than some of what we’ve received during this 2016 race,” Gregory said. “Tonight we gather to elevate the political discourse, we gather together to discuss the issues.”
For the first section of the debate on social issues, Meredith Forsyth (SFS ’19), Jessica Scoratow (COL ’18) and Mattie Haag (COL ’18) represented the Democratic Party, and Zachary Hughbanks (COL ’18), Harry Clow (COL ’19) and Mitchell Tu (SFS ’16) represented the Republican Party.
Forsyth said the Affordable Care Act revolutionized the American health care system.
“The Democratic Party believes that health care is a human right, not a privilege, and thanks to [President] Obama, we now have 20 million Americans under the Affordable Care Act who hadn’t been insured before, so we believe we have to protect and uphold Obamacare,” Forsyth said.
Hughbanks said the government should shift the focus toward privatizing health care and creating a more laissez-faire system.
“Obamacare has just destroyed middle-class and working-class communities across the nation,” Hughbanks said. “We need to return to a free-market reform, repeal Obamacare and implement an effective solution as outlined by Speaker [of the House] Paul Ryan.”
Shifting from health care to race relations, Tu said initiatives should focus less on blaming police officers and instead target the root of the problem by eradicating poverty and improving schooling.
“The solution of course isn’t by blaming police or attacking law enforcement,” Tu said. “It’s fixed by education reform, it’s fixed by economic control, its fixed by economic growth.”
Haag, a Democrat, said proper training for police is essential to reduce all differential minority treatment.
“There is empirical evidence that police are not trained enough and that they are actively shooting and being aggressive toward people of color versus white people,” Haag said.
Another major social issue addressed was abortion rights. Hughbanks said the issue was not about women’s rights.
“This isn’t an issue about women’s rights as much as it is an issue about the rights of the unborn, so what we’re saying before you’re born you have no rights and you can just be killed, ” Hughbanks said. “My position and the position of the Republican Party is that this is not a women’s issue; it’s an issue of protecting the rights of those of us who are unborn and have no other protections.”
Scoratow said that the Republican Party is hypocritical for being in favor of a woman’s right to choose.
“I think that if the Republican Party would like to be in support of a right to life, then they should be in support of things that ensure people’s right to life, like gun control,” Scoratow said. “It is really a basic issue of bodily autonomy for women.”
Joel Elkins (SFS ’18), Jawad Pullin (COL ’18), and Max Rosner (COL ’18) spoke for the Democrats on issues of finance, while the Republican side included Stephen Yin, Christopher Crocki and Michalel Parmiter.
Rosner said it is important for the next administration to raise the minimum wage, so that those earning it can at least afford to pay for their basic living expenses.
“If you were to work 40 hours per week at $7.25, making around $15,000, honestly that’s pathetic. If you’re working 40 hours per week you should at least be able to feed yourself and feed your family, so the Democratic Party, at least, unlike the standard bearer of the Republican Party believes that wages are not too high,” Rosner said. “The Democratic Party believes that $15 should be the starting talking point for minimum wage.”
In response to the Democratic argument, Yin said that raising the minimum wage could hamper the economy and lead to lower rates of employment.
“The question shouldn’t be whether we should raise the minimum wage or not, but rather what’s the best solution to get people to average salaries without reducing their purchasing power,” Yin said. “An increase in the minimum wage could reduce job growth.”
According to Parmiter, instituting higher education options other than four-year universities is critical to ensure students have the experience necessary to secure professional employment.
“I think what you have to look at instead of the affordability of college is the job prospects after it,” Parmiter said. “I think more people in America should go to a trade school or a two-year college, without taking out these massive loans, and then when they get out they can actually secure a job.”
To end the debate, Alex Coopersmith (COL ’19), Matt Hinson (SFS ’17), Madison Pravecek (SFS ’19) represented the Democrats, and Clow, Erica Tillotson (COL ’18), Hunter Estes (SFS ’19), and Richard Howell (SFS ’19) represented the Republican side to discuss foreign policy.
Hinson argued that although Obama may have erred on the side of caution, his policies in Syria have yielded successes and that Democratic Presidential Nominee Hillary Clinton’s policies will yield to even greater reductions in loss of life.
“We have engaged in Syria, we have been striking ISIS, ISIS has lost over 40 percent of its territory so far, and we have had the success of causing Bashar al-Assad to reduce his chemical arsenal,” Hinson said. “Looking forward to the Clinton administration, Hillary Clinton is going to take a very active approach in protecting civilians in Syria.”
Howell emphasized the Obama administration’s interventions as insufficient and argued in favor of the deployment of ground troops in the region.
“From the beginning of the Arab Spring the United States has not done anything effectively in Syria. … Later Obama promised a red line if Assad used chemical weapons and that red line was crossed,” Hinson said. “We need to work with our partners for real, assure Turkey and Israel that we will commit troops to the region.”
Other students, such as Shanzeg Hameed (SFS ’17), said the debate was successful as a forum to further educate students about political discourse.
“I think it’s good that Georgetown has these sorts of events and opportunities for people to be able to discuss their opinions and to stimulate discussion and conversation,” Hameed said.