The atmosphere in Andrews Hall last Thursday was both jovial and thick with frustration as the two sides, clad in suits, prepared to brawl. As the contenders walked on stage, the crowd prepared itself for an unforgettable show.
After all, the Facebook page for the event described it as a debate that would be a better fight than “that time Rocky knocked out Apollo Creed in the 15th round.”
In anticipation of today’s midterm elections, the Young Democrats and the College Republicans participated in their first debate this year in an event sponsored by Americans for Informed Democracy. AID, a non-partisan, non-profit organization, provides young Americans with a forum they can use to learn how to become informed global citizens. AID’s purpose in hosting the debate was to inform students at the College of the views of the two main political parties in the United States, and to urge students to get out and vote.
Before the debate, government professor Clay Clemens ’80 talked about the purpose of the day’s political event. The two sides were to redeem their parent parties in a civilized exchange. Clemens also recalled when a debate between U.S. Presidents Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter was held in Phi Beta Kappa Hall during his freshman year at the College.
The debate, moderated by Clemens, covered many topics including illegal immigration, energy, the economy, foreign policy and education. The format for the debate included an opening statement about each topic from both sides, a question and answer period, and audience participation. Democrats and Republicans made their arguments for illegal immigration, cap and trade policies, offshore drilling, the Bush tax cuts, relations in the Middle East, and the United States’s future relationship with China.
Bipartisan camaraderie was not long lived, as the College Republicans opened up the debate by bashing President Barack Obama and the rest of the Democratic Party. The Democrats responded by pointing out a lack of action by the Republicans. The two parties presented arguments both against each other and in favor of themselves throughout the debate. There was plenty of mudslinging, but the debaters were able to present their arguments in a clean, organized way. Both sides respected time limits and each other.
Although the event covered serious topics in this serious time, it was not without some fun. At several points throughout the debate, a clever argument or response poked fun at the other side for a slip of the tongue. Laughter followed from the audience.
“Both sides did an incredible job of representing their respective parties,” Clemens said. “The debate was informed and civil, and I think the audience got a lot out of it. I definitely enjoyed [moderating]. It’s more fun than talking about what I normally have to talk about; being involved in something different for a change is a lot of fun.”
The Virginia elections taking place today will determine who will represent Virginia in the U.S. House of Representatives for the next two years. The Young Democrats and College Republicans each gave their bits urging those in attendance to vote for their respective parties.
“I thought it was a great way for students to hear about the issues from both sides of the aisle,” Chandler Crenshaw ’14 said. “Hopefully, the students who came out tonight are more informed on the stances of each party. It’s going to be an interesting election. Two years ago the Democrats crippled the conservative opposition in both the congressional elections and presidential race; now, the Republicans look poised to win big this Tuesday.”