Four members from the Campus Conservatives and Campus Republicans voiced their opinions in a heated debate against four members of the Campus Democrats Oct. 28 as a kick-off for Political Awareness Week, sponsored by the Student Government Association.
The two political sides discussed controversial and difficult topics such as the immigration law in Arizona, the Citizens United Case and the budget deficit.
Junior Erik Hatlestad, in his opening statement for the Campus Democrats, said their group believes all citizens must be guaranteed the rights from the second Bill of Rights, which guaranteed employment with a living wage, freedom from unfair competition, housing, medical care, education, and social security. He also said it is up to the people to recreate jobs the other party destroyed.
Junior Tyler Dugger, in his opening statement for the Campus Conservatives and Campus Republicans, said conservatives do not hate government, contrary to popular belief. He said the government should, however, make the rules but not rig the game; responsibility is for the people, not the government.
Senior and SGA President Erik George served as moderator, and brought up the topic of the immigration law in Arizona and asked if a similar law should be made in Minnesota.
“No,” Jake Johnson, senior and Democrat, said, moving the microphone away and ending his side’s views on the argument.
“Is it effective? No,” Dugger said. “We have a president who promised, among his many promises, that he would pass an immigration law after six months of being in office. These laws ban racial profiling. The Arizona law is far more conscientious than Obama backing down; there has to be an ulterior motive.”
Freshman Jon-Erik Nelson, Democrat, then gave an argument which got the attention of the audience.
“If a policeman pulls me over, my last name is Nelson,” he said. “Do you think a policeman would ask for my papers? If my last name was Ortiz, that would be racial profiling.”
Another topic involved the Citizens United Case, which doesn’t require a limit on the amount of spending of independent political broadcasts.
“Political speech should not be regulated,” Ben Sand, senior and Republican, said. “My vote isn’t up for sale or to be swayed.”
Johnson said his main worry was where the money comes from for these advertisements.
“They don’t have to disclose where money comes from,” he said. “Corporations aren’t people.”
Dugger quickly retaliated.
“Democrats have a fundamental mistrust of people,” he said. “Arguments are there for a reason.”
Each political party had the chance to address the topic of the budget deficit, and it spurred many arguments back and forth between the two parties.
“There are certain times a government needs to spend more than it makes,” Nelson said. “Priority number one is to build more jobs and infrastructure, and we need to spend more money than we’re making to do that. It may be a necessary evil.”
Dugger, from the conservative Republican side, was quick to grab the microphone and respond.
“[Democrats] want to create jobs, but they’ve done a lousy job of it,” he said. “We need money in the hands of innovative people.”
Other topics over the course of the hour-long debate included filibusters, tuition discounts and school vouchers, with both sides jumping in frequently with disagreements and arguments.
The floor was then open for questions from the audience, and the first question was aimed at both parties, asking if the founding fathers didn’t know how to create either Senate of the Bill of Rights.
“The constitution is a living document,” Hatlestad said, citing why he feels some things are up for interpretation.
Dugger quickly responded with a metaphor.
“The living constitution is a two-way street that shouldn’t go either way,” he said.
After a few more disagreements, each side made their closing statements.
“Democrats have been attempting to push through policies, while the Republicans have been using filibusters to say no,” Johnson said.
Dugger then said we need to make this country better for future generations.
“Our failures will be our own,” he said.
With that final comment, the debate was called to a close.
Sophomore Hannah Mohs said she found it interesting hearing what students have to say rather than just professionals; however, she did have some critiques of the debate in general.
“It seemed a lot of the time that either side was a little unprepared,” she said. “The democrats were unprepared a lot of times when questions came to them. The questions could have been more specific and focused more on topics that affect our campus.”
Junior John Head said the debate was a good opportunity which generates excitement about the whole political process to get students involved, which is needed. The debate left him a lot of questions, he said.
“Did the people debating just want to debate and prove they’re better than the other side or actually go somewhere?” he said. “I was under the impression they just wanted to debate.”
Mohs said there were differences in how the Democrats versus the conservatives and Republicans presented their arguments.
“The Democrats brought a lot of their sole opinions; they didn’t necessarily bring in facts,” she said. “They were a lot more personable as far as bringing forth an issue. The right side was a lot more thought-provoking. Their arguments were a lot more put together and organized, but they were a lot less personable, too.”
Head said that was the way both parties are represented.
“When it came to actual debating skills, it wasn’t exactly an even match,” he said. “I don’t know if it was just for this situation, but I thought the Republicans had very solid debating skills as opposed to the Democrats, not necessarily overall.”
Mohs, who said she is typically Republican, said she appreciated the fact they the right side was able to come back with thought-provoking, informative things to say; however, she said she felt women should be represented, too, since neither side had any female debaters.
Head said one of the problems he had with the Democrats, with whom he typically agrees, was to a point they went to the extremes defending their views. He said they were very turned off to the moderate side of things.
“I consider myself very liberal but I can see some of these viewpoints as more of the middle,” he said. “They were trying to show off how Democratic they were. I was a little disappointed in their ability to reason with the other side, but they seemed to have a mind where they were looking for the best intentions.”
Mohs said she felt it was not a productive debate.
“It seemed they were just trying to prove the other one wrong,” she said. “It was clearly a debate, but debates are not there just to pick on the other side.”
Head said he felt the debate was productive in the sense of firing people up to care about politics.
“You need people to care about it to keep it going,” he said.
Sand got involved with the debate since he is the current president of the Campus Conservatives. He said he felt their side represented themselves well, and he felt the same about the left side.
“This is the best the Democrats have done in a debate by far,” he said. “It was more of a challenge than in past years. They seemed much better prepared than previously and they had some new blood in there. They were impressive.”
Sand said really enjoyed engaging in dialogue with the audience since they were willing to hear the issues. Some people, however, expressed their opinions in a different manner than expected.
“They were given the same forum as us to express themselves and they tried to take advantage of it,” he said. “Too bad it couldn’t be seen as productive in everyone’s eyes.”
Mohs said in order to get more students fired up about Political Awareness Week, the debate should engage the audience more.
“Twenty minutes was not enough time for question and answer,” she said. “It seemed like some of the questions asked were just to nitpick and get under their skin for no reason. They really weren’t curious what the debaters had to say.”
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