The Undergraduate Government of Boston College organized a debate on important national issues this election season between the College Democrats and College Republicans on Oct. 6 in an effort to promote civic engagement on campus.
“With the upcoming presidential election, we wanted to emphasize both the differing perspectives that the two major political parties have, but also highlight how important it is to get out there and vote,” said UGBC representative Shannon Lydon, MCAS ‘18.
The questions asked during the debate were created by the Eagle Political Society (EPS), a nonpartisan political discussion group that seeks to promote discussion and debate between people of different backgrounds and political ideologies. The debate was moderated by the president of EPS, Domenick Fazzolari, MCAS ‘17.
The debate opened with a question about national security policy. College Republican Eric Sporel, MCAS ‘18, began the debate by stating that the Democratic policies pursued by the Obama administration during Hillary Clinton’s tenure as Secretary of State contributed to instability in Syria, Libya, and other countries. He criticized Clinton for her missing emails and her response to the Benghazi terror attack.
“Ultimately, the foreign policy of the last eight years has failed, and it is time for a new one where America is put first above the interests of other countries to make us safe” said Sporel.
Although the College Democrat Matthew Terry, MCAS ‘19, agreed that the Obama administration made some mistakes in its foreign policy, he pointed out that Republican President George W. Bush led the country into the Iraq War, which contributed to the political instability in that region.
Additionally, Terry and Rohit Bachani, CSOM ‘19, mentioned successful democratic policies that led to increased intelligence information on terrorists and Clinton’s role in negotiating the Copenhagen Accord as a step toward a united global response to climate change.
The second question was about the issue of gun control. Terry acknowledged that he is a gun owner and supporter of the second amendment before stating that Clinton’s goal is to expand background checks, not to take away guns from responsible citizens.
“If we expanded background checks, we could stop a number of shootings, granted not all, but that is a start. A recent poll said that 90% of Americans support stronger background checks,” said Terry.
College Republican Olivia Lanagan, MCAS ‘18, affirmed her belief that gun ownership is constitutional right that is necessary to protect oneself from tyrannical government, however, she argued that existing background check laws are not being enforced enough and should be strengthened.
Although the College Democrats and Republicans were in agreement about enforcement of background checks and strengthening the mental health care system, they clashed over the issue of gun free zones.
Lanagan argued that criminals will bring guns into these places while law-abiding citizens will not, which leaves these zones especially vulnerable to attack. Terry countered that her logic implies that “all laws are not worth it because people are going to break them.”
On the issue of climate control, Sporel argued that climate change is a threat and that the government should be investing in renewable energy; he asserted that these initiatives should come from the free market, not government regulation that hurts businesses.
The College Democrats countered that climate change has already begun in the United States, where coastal communities are experiencing more flooding, and said that the country cannot afford to wait to act.
“There is a timeframe in which global warming becomes totally irreversible,” said Conner Coles, MCAS ‘20. “They want to talk about jobs being lost; I think that when Boston is underwater by 2075, you are going to find a lot of people lose their jobs.”
In response, Sporel argued that climate change requires an international effort and it is not worth harming our economy by regulating carbon emission if countries like China or India refused to decrease their emission levels
“It is a misnomer to think that renewable energy is going to hurt the economy. It’s one of the largest growing industries in America,” responded Coles. “America has technological superiority; we should take the lead and other countries will follow.”
Despite disagreements about government regulation, both sides were able to agree upon the merits of investing in renewable energy in addition to agreeing that government subsidies granted to big oil companies should be stopped.
The final question was about social issues, particularly on college campuses. Both parties began by condemning the recent hate crime against the LGBTQ community at BC.
The College Democrats criticized the Republican platform, which has no mention of LGBTQ issues, and Republican vice presidential candidate Mike Pence, who supported laws that allowed businesses to refuse service to people based on sexual orientation and identity.
“Republican ideology at its core is about personal freedom. It’s about the personal freedom to do as you want and not feel persecuted for doing it,” said College Republican Brendan Ferguson, MCAS ‘20. “I understand that Republicans in recent memory and even today aren’t very friendly to the LGBTQ community. I think that Republicans will shift that policy.”
During the closing remarks, both parties emphasized the shared values of the American people and hope that the civic engagement of this generation of students will create a less divisive and more effective political system in the future.
“We need to work together and respectfully challenge each other to build a better campus, nation, and world. That can only happen if people come together and take the time to have genuine debates and conversations about what matters to them and what’s happening around them,” said Fazzolari. “I really admired how the College Democrats and College Republicans compromised during the debate — both sides emphasized how politics should be about people and everyone working together, and not just about a single candidate.”