Dozens of Miami University’s most zealous political activists filed into the auditorium. The air was filled with an unmistakable tension. A student wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat walked past one wearing a “Make America Gay Again” hat, matched with a pair of rainbow socks.
On Wednesday, Nov. 29, the Miami University College Democrats and College Republicans faced off in a debate in Shideler Hall from 8:15 to 9:30 pm.
The debate was sponsored by the Janus Forum and moderated by Madeleine Zick, the president of the Janus Forum.
The College Republicans were represented by graduate student Caleb Stidham and first-year Samantha Moore. Representing the College Democrats were sophomore Jake Porcarelli, sophomore Adrian Radilla and junior Bobby Adler.
The debate was separated into multiple segments based on current political issues. Questions were prepared beforehand, and audience members could send in additional questions via an online form.
The first topic of the night was focused on current issues at Miami. Among the local issues discussed were student protests and recent cases of vandalism on campus.
“We were particularly disappointed to hear about the pro-life display that was vandalized in Central Quad about a month ago,” Stidham said.
“I think the protests you’ve seen on campus have regarded hate speech, like where people argue for eugenics and blatant racism. Those are not protected under free speech,” Radilla said.
Next, the two groups discussed state politics in Ohio, specifically the upcoming election for Ohio’s governor.
“I believe that all but one of our major candidates are incredibly qualified,” Adler said. “Justice Bill O’Neill obviously had some incredibly insensitive and unqualifying remarks on his Facebook page that we completely reject. But every other candidate in our field, I believe, has great merit to them.”
Adler was referring to an Oct. 17 Facebook post in which Ohio Supreme Court Justice Bill O’Neill boasted about his sexual history, writing that he “was sexually intimate with approximately 50 very attractive females” over the last 50 years.
The Republicans responded by voicing their support for candidate Mike DeWine. DeWine is Ohio’s current Attorney General and is running as a Republican in the race for governor.
“We honestly think that DeWine is a very good candidate. I worked on his campaign, and he is a very very qualified person,” Moore said. “He has so many qualifications, he’s done so much, and he has such a great plan to help us.”
The two sides then shifted to national issues, most prominently the proposed tax reform bill, which was passed by the Senate early Saturday morning.
The Democratic representatives were critical of the bill.
“The bill itself, the House bill that has passed, is just a complication of different things that will harm the middle class extensively,” Porcarelli said.
The Republicans, on the other hand, offered their support for the bill, particularly the repeal of the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate.
The next portion of the debate remained centered on around national issues, this time focusing on questions about foreign policy and military spending.
“I personally think that on the issues of military defense, we need to act as part of a multilateral coalition and always just try to consult our allies,” Adler said. “We cannot be acting unilaterally.”
“[We support] a strong, traditionally conservative foreign policy, based on peace through strength and not intervening in every situation, but intervening when our interests are at stake,” said Stidham.
During the final section of the debate, the debating representatives took questions from the audience. This segment of the evening dealt most prominently with cases of sexual harassment and assault involving multiple politicians from both parties that have recently come to light.
“I applaud all of the people for coming forward and telling, and just making it more well known,” Moore said. “Now people can try to have this discussion actually, and maybe try to go in the right steps to stop it.”
“There is absolutely no justification for any of that, and anyone who does it should be punished 100 percent,” Adler said. “I think that Al Franken should resign. I think that Roy Moore should step out of the race. I think there should be absolutely no tolerance in our society for this behavior.”
During their concluding remarks, a representative from each side of the political aisle gave a final pitch.
“I think that we’re a traditionally conservative party, based in free markets, limited government, socially conservatism and a strong national defense,” Stidham said. “I think that the president also holds many of those values and beliefs.”
“We’re really trying to make an economy that works for everybody as well as promoting social mobility for the people on the bottom,” Porcarelli said. “I see a big future as we come together more and agree on more socially progressive issues and economically progressive issues.”
Thursday’s debate was the first held by the two groups this semester. There has been one debate every year between the two groups for the past three years.
An earlier version of this article stated that the debate was held on Thursday, Nov. 19, in fact it was held on Wednesday Nov. 29. Further information about how many debates are held between the two groups every year was updated and there are currently no charity dodgeball events planned.