College Democrats and Republicans Meet for Civil Debate

No one resorts to name calling, ad hominem, or weird attacks—NOT

by Declan Murphy

News Co-Editor

The Fordham College Democrats and College Republicans met up on Thursday, November 2nd, for their semesterly debate, sponsored by the Fordham Political Review. Over a raucous hour and a half, the two sides covered four topics: free trade policies, minimum wage, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), and the death penalty. The panel was moderated by Father Bentley Anderson, from the African-American Studies department.

The debate began with an attempt towards bipartisanship. As is custom for these departments, two Democrats and two Republicans debate, with one of each on each side of the given issue. In this case, the issue was free trade. Even among those on same side of the issue, ideological differences emerged. On the pro-free trade side, the Democrat argued for the protections afforded by international agreements, while the Republican put forth a view bordering on anarcho-capitalism. On the anti-free trade side, the Democrat worried about potential abuses of labor while the Republican espoused protectionist sentiments. Faced with such internal contradictions, the two sides debated the merits of each approach with limited success.

The second debate dealt with minimum wage (which, in the interest of full disclosure, I participated in). The debate was intended as an economic one, but soon took on moralistic tones. What began as a discussion of the economic realities of a $15 minimum wage became an ideological critique and defense of corporate America. After the moderator cut off the Republican’s closing statement (due to time), the crowd grew restless, signaling a discord that would last the remainder of the evening.

The third debate dealt with DACA, and was unfortunately derailed almost immediately. The Republican debater’s laptop crashed, and, lacking notes, he turned to the offense. After a fruitless back-and-forth, in which the Republican seemed baffled by the fact that these “childhood arrivals” had now become adults, the debate turned to the legality of the President’s executive order. Given Trump’s extensive use of executive orders, the discussion turned back into a defense of each side’s respective Presidential model. As with most, the debate ended in an impasse.

Finally, the Democrats and the Republicans debated the death penalty, in perhaps the most provocative event of the evening. The tone was alarmingly colloquial, with debaters throwing around terms like “wack” and “dog”. The Q&A dove into subjects both practical (the economic costs of the death penalty versus life in prison) and purely provocative (an ill-advised question about whether ISIS members deserve the death penalty). While both sides raised intriguing moral and philosophical questions, ultimately that was buried in the adversarial tone.

These debates are a tradition within the Fordham political scene, but increasingly, they reflect the growing divide on campus. The recent speaking appearance of Roger Stone highlighted these divides, but the spirit of animosity lingers. Even when working together, the Republicans and Democrats are unable to put aside differences. The ideological has become increasingly personal. It does not bode well for a campus already marked by major political divisions.

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