Student Debaters Battle Over Best Presidential Candidate


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Four political campus organizations debated which presidential candidate is best for the nation as part of the first of three debates comprising ASUCI’s first annual Campus Debate Series on Jan. 13.

Representatives from BernEaters encouraged students to vote for Bernie Sanders. The debaters from College Republicans at UCI and College Democrats at UCI chose Marco Rubio and Hillary Clinton, respectively, but both organizations clarified that their endorsement does not reflect the views of their campus organization as a whole. Young Americans for Liberty at UCI endorsed Rand Paul.

The debate was organized by the ASUCI “60 by 16” commission, which aims to register 60% of the student body by this year’s national election, and HQ: Student Commentary, which seeks to encourage political dialogue among the student body.

The debaters discussed the qualifications of their candidates, the top issues of their candidate’s campaign, their candidate’s stance on foreign policy and the candidate’s relevance and appeal to college students.

James Winchester and Callum Lamb from BernEaters argued that Bernie Sanders is best for America because, as president, he will correct the growing economic inequality between the rich and the poor and will meaningfully address global climate change.

Robert Petrosyan and George Novshadyan from College Republicans at UCI argued that Marco Rubio will be able to address the growing national debt, the toxic climate in Washington D.C. and the failing healthcare system, and that he will also focus on ISIS and other foreign policy concerns.

Gio Chavez and Rafael Artiga from College Democrats at UCI, who endorsed Hillary Clinton, argued that President Obama has helped the nation’s economy improve substantially from where it was less than ten years ago, and discussed Clinton’s contribution to the current administration, arguing that, as president, Clinton would continue to contribute to the progressive movement.

Tyler Walker from the Young Americans for Liberty at UCI argued that Rand Paul would effectively address the $18.8 trillion national debt, as well as the growing government bureaucracy and corruption.

The democratic organizations, BernEaters and College Democrats at UCI, debated between the qualification and efficiency of Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton as the nation’s chief executive.

“What has Bernie actually done besides shouting? He has only sponsored three bills and they’ve done absolutely nothing,” said Chavez from College Democrats at UCI during a 30-second rebuttal. “All I want to see is action because all I hear are words and words and words, but no action.”

Representatives from BernEaters argued that given Clinton’s years of involvement in the current administration and in government in general, she may have lost touch with the concerns of the general people and may not be aware of government corruption. They also repeatedly mentioned Sanders’s efforts in veterans’ legislation.

“When Obama rallied all of his support in 2008 he so-called invigorated the current populace and then he got into office and said ‘thanks everyone I’ll take it from here,’” said Lamb from BernEaters. “Bernie’s biggest critique of the administration is that Obama didn’t channel all of his young enthusiasm into politics, so what Bernie will do instead is use all of the excitement generated around this campaign to elect a new Congress in 2018.”

College Republicans at UCI and Young Americans for Liberty at UCI agreed on the necessity of limiting government bureaucracy, addressing the staunch political divisions in Congress and reducing the national debt, but differed on their stance in foreign affairs.

“The fact is that a lot of the enemies across the world are enemies that we created. ISIS is blowback from the Iraq War, and many other terrorist groups like the Taliban was trained by the U.S., so we cannot afford a growing military-industrial complex,” said Walker of the Young Americans for Liberty at UCI. “If there is a threat out there, Rand Paul will address it, but most of these terrorist organizations are not a direct threat to us and we are only creating more problems by going in there.”

College Republicans at UCI, however, spoke about the need to support America’s allies and the ongoing threats from ISIS and Iran.

“It is our duty to our allies to assist them by any means possible so that they can defeat ISIS once and for all,” said Novshadyan from the College Republicans at UCI. “This administration’s nuclear deal with Iran also produces great distress to our nation as we have practically given them [the Iranians] the ability to build nuclear weapons with nothing in return.”

Per student concerns, the debaters also focused on the candidates’ views regarding education and college tuition.

“Bernie Sanders views education as an investment for our nation and so if we want to be competitive in the world, if we want to create the best technology beyond the cutting edge of science, then we need the most educated populace in history,” said Lamb from BernEaters. “If we really subscribe to that then we also need to subscribe to universal education.”

While the endorsers of Rubio and Clinton argued for a middle-ground approach with education reform and paying back tuition debt, Walker from Young Americans for Liberty at UCI argued that Rand Paul was against any education subsidies.

“Free education is the most expensive education out there because government is an inefficient bureaucracy,” said Walker of the Young Americans for Liberty at UCI. “I would like to ask you all: do you really trust the state with regulating your school? I mean look at K-12, I grew up in a K-12 public school system and let me tell you, it sucks. I cannot imagine my government taking over my college.”

The debaters not only mirrored the political policy viewpoints of their desired candidates, but with only male debaters on stage, also inadvertently mirrored the continued underrepresentation of women in U.S. politics.

“It bothered me that there were no female debaters on stage, but I was glad that some women were at the very least moderators,” said Kathryn Romo, a fourth-year Chicano/Latino studies and political science double major. “I have a feeling that they determined debaters by volunteers in each club, so it may have been a problem of a lack of female volunteers. But even if that’s the case, I find that problematic because it’s telling of the continued reluctance of women to voice their opinions, especially in public arenas such as this.”

ASUCI administered a poll of the debate on their Facebook page. There was no clear winner, as BernEaters and College Republicans at UCI received the same number of votes for their respective performances in the debate.

ASUCI debaters will host the second debate of its series entitled “Political Correctness: Oppressive to Free Speech or Inclusive Campus Climate?” on Feb. 2 from 6 to 8 pm in the Crystal Cove Auditorium of the Student Center.