F&M Votes, Government Club sponsor campus debate prior to Election Day

BY SHIRA KIPNEES ’15
Staff Writer

The College Republicans and College Democrats took part in a pre-election mock debate sponsored by the Government Club and F&M Votes in the Steinman College Center Monday.

The debate featured three representatives from each side, led by a team captain who answered five pre-planned questions, as well as questions from students in the audience.

Philip Zabriskie ’13, president of the College Republicans, and Wyatt Huppert ’14, president of the College Democrats, led the teams.

To decide who went first, a 10 dollar bill was flipped since nobody from either organization had a coin. Each side had two minutes to respond to the pre-planned questions, followed by 60-second rebuttals for each side, and a final 30 seconds for closing thoughts and final rebuttals on each side.

While the questions ranged from foreign affairs and issues to domestic issues, such as the economy, both sides maintained a light-hearted tone, with mentions of empty chairs, red solo cups, and flag pins.

The Democrats focused on the prior accomplishments of Obama.

“Our goal was to show what President Obama did in his first term, and how would be a great fit for College students and a second term,” Huppert said.

The Republicans also focused on the first term, but saw it from a different perspective.

“President Obama has not been very successful in his first term, especially when [he had] a supermajority in Congress [during his first two years],” Zabriskie said.

Both Huppert and Zabriskie believed the event was successful.

“Both teams enjoyed themselves and most of all enjoyed being friends before, during, and after the debate,” Zabriskie said.

Zabriskie stressed the main goal of the debate was to help inform the F&M student voters of many of the issues surrounding the election. He hoped the debate could extract the policies and philosophies often obscured by campaign advertising and media punditry.

Huppert also echoed Zabriskie’s belief in the importance of clarity, noting the role of simplifying the messages of the parties and candidates for this debate. He believed the information was presented in a manner helpful to all students who attended.

“The level of discourse at the debate was sophisticated without being far removed from the concerns of the average student voter, and I believe it went very well,” Huppert said. “I was very pleased with the attendance but got the feeling that most of the viewers had already made their minds up about the election.”

Although students may have come to the debate knowing who they were planning to vote for, Zabriskie still believed the debate was effective because he felt students were able to come away with a better understanding of the political world.

“At the conclusion of the debate I think students departed with their personal political views either reinforced, challenged, or more informed,” Zabriskie said.

Zabriskie also noted both sides were able to balance each other.

“Now, that is not to say that either side was perfect,” said Zabriskie. “Afterwards, both teams fact-checked each other, both admitting weaknesses and conceding arguments.”

Zabriskie also felt the student questions and opinions were a good addition to the debate.

“The student questions kept both teams on their toes,” Zabriskie said. “Moreover, as advocates and hopefully faithful representations of our party’s platform, it is also fun to be challenged and work through the development of one’s own beliefs. Those debating were listening just as intently as those watching.”

Zabriskie believes an important takeaway for students who watched the debate was anunderstanding of both parties.

“So much demagoguery occurs in the political world, it was nice in this setting to breakdown issues to their core philosophies,” said Zabriskie. “I think everyone left with not only a greater understanding of the sides, but also an appreciation for the value of each other’s arguments.”

Questions? Email Shira at skipnees@fandm.edu.

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