by Cassie Silebi
While politics may not always seem to be at the forefront of college students’ minds, the Dolores Huerta room was packed for the Spring Quarter debate between the college Republicans and Democrats on Tuesday, April 29th. Topics brought to the floor included voter identification laws and workers unions. The two clubs also brought a new category to the debate – a ten minute slideshow on each side’s idea of how to move forward to ensure a sustainable economy for America’s future.
The first issue to be debated was voter identification. The representative from the College Republicans, Emily Goldenberg, presented a very strong argument as to why state requirements for voter identification are important to eliminating fraud and keeping elections fair and honest. The representative from the College Democrats, Daniel Firoozi, had some different opinions, not only concerning the issue of voter identification, but also what the Republican party had to say on the issues. The Democrats argued voter ID would disenfranchise thousands of Americans, denying them the right to vote as photo identification at the voting booth would not include college ID cards, social security cards, or birth certificates. This in turn would force people to pay for a state ID card or a drivers license. Emily shed light on the situation by reading from the voting regulation’s of Indiana, the state known to have the strictest voter ID laws, explaining a social security card, birth certificate, and other forms of ID Democrats had attempted to say would be denied, are in fact acceptable. Republicans argued that without ID, fraud is much easier citing this past election as having many of the same voters both registered and voting in multiple states. Additionally, Emily squashed the claim that most fraud is perpetrated by mail-in voters excluded by identification laws. Emily was well prepared explaining that even mail in voters must send, at least, a photocopy of their identification in order to verify their ballot. Overall, Emily spent much of the debate righting misconceptions and explaining the Democratic accusations of very few right wing extremist are not the views of the whole Republican party.
Next, Austin Peters from the College Republicans and Zane Rice from the College Democrats debated workers’ unions. Austin Peters went first, arguing that workers unions should be allowed, as they are protected under the First Amendment but clarifying they should not dominate employment. He argued people should be able to work in trade jobs, education, and other businesses without being forced to go through unions; rather, while unions may offer memberships, they should not exclude non-members from entering a profession. College Democrats focused on education. Their argument identified a need for unions to ensure fair pay and work for the middle class. They remained specifically focused on the teachers unions and education reform. Austin proposed teachers be paid on merit to reward best teaching practices rather than incentivising tenure and union ties.
Finally, in the final heat of the debate, both sides tested a new category by presenting a ten minute slideshow showcasing methods to achieve a more sustainable economy. College Republican Marco Vasquez presented first. His slideshow claimed free market enterprise would boost the economy allowing room for a stronger middle class whose members could improve their status through hard work. He went on to explain the need to have room for capitalism–the average American should be able to work hard and earn a living to better their livelihood. This could be accomplished by removing crippling restrictions from business enterprise. Vasquez went on to further explain new business laws are driving business away from California and into less highly regulated states, like Texas. By loosening the ropes of corporations and making it easier for middle class citizen to live the American dream and open a business, he believes we can rebuild the middle class and have a sustainable economy for future generations.
All three members of the College Democrats debated this topic. They claimed the first step to a better economy is better infrastructure, presenting plans for a high speed railway to cut through California in order to connect Los Angeles and San Francisco. They discussed measures for education and health care reform citing graphic representations of “Affordable Healthcare” to support the claim of successful enrollment due to a greater number of participants than originally projected to be enrolled by this time. (I guess that’s what happens when you make something mandatory and extend the deadline twice.) Finally they addressed economic concerns – specifically jobs and business. Their main point in this area of reform was to promote an increase of minimum wage. By raising the minimum wage, they argued, we could close the income gap between the rich and the poor, thus restoring the middle class. However, they never discussed how this would affect inflation and market costs of goods. While I don’t think anyone would complain about making more, I wish they would have addressed these issues as well.
In the end, I would say the college Republicans brought a polite, well thought out argument to the table, while I think it was evident the College Democrats did not have the best things to say. During the slideshow, for example, while discussing immigration, the college Democrats claimed, “Republicans want to deport 11,000 immigrants.” This broad, sweeping attack took place at a time when the Republicans were not allowed to respond to such criticism despite the fact that a vast majority of Republicans would definitely disagree with this statement. They then ended the debate with a comment directed at a College Republican in the audience who had been taking photos of both sides of the debate. In my favorite line of the night, it was stated “I’m not talking about ‘wanna be’ photographers who take photos to distract people.” Overall, I felt their arguments were diminished by the lack of etiquette and the harsh tones thrown at the College Republicans. I know both sides have varying viewpoints, but common courtesy should be to show respect to your opponents.
In anticipation of more great discussions, I cannot wait to see what the College Republicans and Democrats have in store for us come the Fall!