Saturday, Nov. 3, two representatives each from the College of William and Mary Young Democrats, Young Democratic Socialists, College Libertarians and College Republicans gathered in Commonwealth Auditorium in the Sadler Center to debate issues relevant to the races in Virginia for United States Senate and House of Representatives Tuesday, Nov. 6.
The moderator Oliver Gainer ’20 gave each organization two minutes to comment on an overarching issue related to the election. Issues included prison labor, federal funding of Planned Parenthood, climate change, immigration, transgender rights and national healthcare.
Throughout the debate, representatives from the College Libertarians and College Republicans emphasized states’ rights and government overreach. Young Democrats representatives drew attention to congressional candidate Elaine Luria and her views on the issues discussed, while the Young Democratic Socialists representatives called for more radical change and pointed to systemic issues of capitalism and ethnocentrism.
During the discussion about prison labor, College Republicans representative Celine Zalamea ’22 said that the institution of prison exists to discourage unlawfulness.
“Prison is here to deter crime and violence in the community,” Zalamea said. “Although I’m sure someone might bring up that they’re not paid minimum wage, they’re being given, food, board, a house, a a place to sleep in, and I think that their situation and considering that they are in prison.”
Young Democratic Socialists representative Reid Nagurka ’20 did not agree, referencing the overrepresentation of minorities in the prison system.
“The Young Democratic Socialists of America seek a complete upturn of the prison system in America,” Nagurka said.
“The Young Democratic Socialists of America seek a complete upturn of the prison system in America,” Nagurka said. “We must recognize that the prison system is fundamentally racist.”
When discussing federal funding of gender confirmation studies, Zalamea said that the process could be better utilized at a state level, where services could be privatized.
“It comes to the point where it could be taken to a state level or just not on a federal level,” Zalamea said. “It could be way more efficient to privatize these services, these gender confirmation studies, it would be economically beneficial and it would just be beneficial overall regarding not [being on] a federal level.”
College Libertarians representative Grant Barnsback ’20 questioned government control of healthcare.
“Our party does not believe that healthcare is a right and believes that healthcare should be freed from government control,” Barnsback said.
Following formal debate time, representatives answered audience questions submitted anonymously on issues like birthright citizenship, the conflict in Palestine and campaign finance reform.
Gainer read an audience question directed at the Young Democratic Socialists and Young Democrats which discussed fetal personhood.
When discussing the issue of campaign finance reform, College Libertarians representative Grant Barnsback ’20 said that reforms would not change the problem.
“You need to be more active in your political community, you need to spread awareness and you need to raise an intelligent and educated political citizenry,” Barnsback said.
Young Democrats representative Barrett Fife ’22 said that she found Barnsback’s answer disappointing because he believes that Citizens United should be overturned.
“We stand strongly against the ruling of Citizens United and we very clearly do not think that generation of money is equivalent to freedom of speech,” Fife said.
“Moving back to the answer of the College Libertarians, we would find it additionally disappointing because it’s just incredibly complacent,” Fife said. “We stand strongly against the ruling of Citizens United and we very clearly do not think that generation of money is equivalent to freedom of speech.”
In his closing statement, Barnsback said he did not agree with Fife’s approach in addressing other parties.
After the debate, while Barnsback said some representatives used their time to criticize others, he said he felt it was a civil discussion. Fife said that she appreciated the civility of the event.
“I thought that there was an opportunity for rebuttals but also it was structured in a way that prevented people from getting too heated, so I really loved this event going into Tuesday’s election,” Fife said.