By Jack Evans, News Editor
Each student hesitated for a moment after crossing the threshold into Farmer School of Business, room 25. Taking tentative steps down the aisle, they scanned the room left and right, looking for a friendly face. The lucky ones saw the Ronald Reagan cutout standing on the right side of the room and sorted themselves out.
The political debate season has finally arrived at Miami. With the Democrats’ final debate planned for May and Ted Cruz’s call for a one-on-one battle against Donald Trump, Miami’s College Republicans vs. College Democrats showdown couldn’t have been more timely.
Each student organization selected a three-person team to face off in discussion of three categories of questions: foreign policy, economic policy and social policy. Audience members were also able to suggest questions through Twitter for a short set near the end of the event.
The debate was moderated by Kirsten Fowler, president of the Janus Forum, and sponsored by the ASG Government Relations Committee, represented at the event by GRC Secretary Kyle Mortimer.
“Does ISIS represent an existential threat to the United States, and how should it be addressed?” was the first question posed by Fowler. The Republicans kicked off the debate.
“I think that ISIS absolutely does represent a huge threat. You’ve seen the destruction caused in Brussels and in Paris, among other places in the world,” said Alexandra Harris, a sophomore College Republican and a political science and international studies double-major. “I think we need to take a very active approach to defeat them, and one of the only ways I see that we can do that is by building a coalition with other Arab nations.”
The College Democrats disagreed with the notion that ISIS represents an existential threat to the United States, but agreed with building a multinational coalition.
“Are we really so afraid of ISIS that we are concerned about them being a threat to the entire stability of our nation? I think that’s exactly the level of fear that they want us to have,” said Nick Froehlich, a College Democrat and first-year political science and social justice major. “We are in agreement that we should be cooperating with the Arab nations around there. Saudi Arabia has the third largest military budget, surpassing even Russia.”
Both sides traded solid blows throughout the debate. While the crowd was generally quiet, bursts of emotion were peppered throughout the event. Caleb Stidham, a College Republican and first-year political science major, received applause from the right side of the room for his defense of gun rights.
“There are various things that we need to do, but the big thing is we should not restrict people’s right to own a gun. This is our Second Amendment right,” Stidham said. “There is not even any evidence to suggest that it would lower crime in this country — you can point to other countries — but in this country, when guns have been restricted, crime has gone up.”
Froehlich received substantial applause from the left after a strong speech proposing single-payer healthcare.
“I’m pretty sure that [nations like] Germany, France, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Norway, Finland, Sweden, England, when they have conservative governments, just like the U.K. does with Cameron and the conservative party, I’m pretty sure they’re not trying to go to the American system,” said Froehlich. “That’s because they know that people are satisfied with the care they have, they know they have higher life expectancy than us, and they know that it’s ultimately cheaper per capita than our system of healthcare, as proven by the [World Health Organization].”
Charles Kennick, a first-year anthropology and political science major, and Alli Dillinger, a junior political science major, rounded out the College Democrats’ team. John Digiacobbe, a sophomore finance major, was the third debater for the College Republicans.
Questions were selected by the ASG Government Relations Committee and Fowler, though suggestions were taken from both the College Democrats and the College Republicans. Both sides wished the debate had covered more topics. College Democrats felt that LGBTQ, racial, and women’s issues (among other issues) were sorely left out. Stidham of the Republicans felt that the national debt, immigration, and same-sex marriage should have been discussed.
Overall, participants said, the debate was a success. Both organizations look forward to continuing this event in future years.
“I think we heard great things from both sides. They were both definitely very well-prepared and I was really, really happy with how it went,” said Fowler. “I only wish we had more time. There was a lot we could have followed up on, so hopefully ASG and Janus Forum will continue this event next year.”