Campus debate grows animated on 'Obamacare,' economy
Four teams took turns Oct. 25 defending positions on economic growth, healthcare and same-sex marriage while dismantling opponents’ views.
With less than two weeks until the 2012 U.S. presidential election, Elon University students, faculty and staff took part Thursday night in a campus debate on some of the top public policy issues that have been at the center of both major candidates' campaigns for more than a year.
The Oct. 25 debate in Whitley Auditorium was moderated by WUNC's Dick Gordon of “The Story," a nationally syndicated radio program distributed by American Public Media to more than 100 stations. Gordon emphasized to the audience how crucial it is to hear opposing views on political issues when taking part in the democratic process.
“The campaigns we’re watching right now are a direct result of what we saw in the debates,” Gordon said in his welcoming remarks. “This isn’t play. Not here. Most of you get to vote, and most of you will have the chance to listen to perspectives you may not have heard. The election is going to be so close, this much we know. I say this to you and the debaters: minds will be changed tonight.”
Issues for the evening program were selected by a campus vote during a September College Coffee, where the community was invited to place chips into empty fishbowls labeled with a variety of public policy topics. Primary topics were the economy, healthcare and same-sex marriage.
In addition to traditional Democratic and Republican teams, Independents and International perspectives were also invited to take part in the forum, with teammates who took to task both major American political parties.
“The American people, especially those who are voting, need to realizes there’s an entire world out there – not just the middle East and China,” said Nicole Payne ‘15, speaking for the international team. “At a time when globalization, technology and international trade are rapidly making the word smaller and smaller, it is no longer acceptable to adopt policies of isolationism.”
“Our two party system is destroying this country by producing candidates who seem to care less and less about the liberty of the people,” said Austin Pederson ‘16, who gave an opening statement for the Independents. “It keeps the American people focused on a senseless battle between two increasingly identical ideologies.”
The following is a selection of viewpoints espoused by teams on the three biggest topics of the night.
ON THE ECONOMY:
“The Democrats do not reject capitalism. We believe in the idea of free enterprise … and deficit reduction,” said John Cameron Crowder ‘16, who spoke on behalf of Democrats. “We do not believe the government is the center of everything. What we do reject is the assumption that the government cannot fix an economy that is shattered.”
“One believes all Americans should share in everything,” said Joseph Perron ‘14, a speaking on behalf of Republicans. “The other believes all Americans should share in the opportunity to prosper.”
“It is very important to understand that what is happening in the U.S. economy is affecting other economies in the world,” said Ala Eddine Maaref ‘14, a member of the International team. “The world is watching the American economy closely, and America should be doing the same.”
“We don’t need a new government Band-Aid for healthcare, not pun intended,” said Wesley Rose ‘14, speaking for the Independents. “When we have more government, industrialists take it over, and that’s been the case with medicine.”
“The AHCA, known as Obamacare, is one of the few things Obama was able to get through during his time as president,” said Republican team member Mark Rehbein ‘13, noting how a relative who practices medicine has indicated possible job cuts in his practice because of the law. “President Obama says he wants to create jobs, but if he really wants to create jobs, why does he cut jobs from what we already have?”
“Healthcare costs more right now than it ever has. Regardless of what you think about the size and role of government, something must be done to control the cost of healthcare in this country,” said Ben Waldon ‘13, speaking for the Democrats. “Unfortunately, I don’t think I’ve ever heard of a more misunderstood piece of legislation.”
ON SAME-SEX MARRIAGE:
“The opinion of most Republicans is that marriage should be left up to the state and should be made by individual states,” said D. Patrick Brown ‘14, a member of the Republican team. “The most effective means of government is when it’s closest to the people.”
“For Mitt Romney and Republicans who do not believe in marriage equality. … If you are simply trying to preserve the sanctity of marriage, then I suggest you attempt to outlaw divorce, and not outlaw love,” said Carly Ledbetter '13. speaking for the Democrats.
“For the most part same sex marriage is banned in dozens of countries around the world,” said Ameya Benegal ‘16, representing the International team. She said that some countries such as Norway, Denmark and Canada are an exception and do recognize gay and lesbian married couples. “As an international student and supporter of same-sex marriage, I want to ask, will America's policy on same sex marriage shift, or will it maintain the status quo (like other countries)?”
Following the prepared remarks, team fielded questions submitted by the audience on additional topics that included student loan policies, climate change - and even the role students should have in determining the presence of vendors on campus, a question that Gordon asked in light of recent discussions about Chick-fil-A at Elon University.
The forum was organized by the EU Debate Committee and sponsored by the College Democrats, the College Republicans, Diversity Emerging Education Program, Instructional and Campus Technologies, Office of Student Development, Office of Student Life, the Periclean Scholars program, the Political Science Honor Society, the Provost's Office and the Student Government Association.