Republicans, Democrats square off

by Christine Huggins | 3/2/06 6:00am

The Young Democrats and College Republicans clashed last night in a debate over issues such as tax cuts, energy policy and the role of the United Nations.

Approximately 50 students attended the debate, which was moderated by government professor Ronald Shaiko. Each group had one of its members debate each topic posed by Shaiko.

The first topic of the evening centered around President Bush's proposed tax cuts.

"The tax cuts have spurred and rejuvenated the economy," Matthew Alexander '06, former president of the College Republicans, said.

Michael Sloan-Rossiter '08, a member of the Young Democrats, countered that Alexander's statement might be misleading.

"The structural change in taxes does not necessarily grow the economy but just redistributes wealth," Sloan-Rossiter said.

The next topic covered the oil crisis and the prospect of renewable energy resources. Andy Reynolds '09, a member of the Young Democrats, argued that politicians' vested interests in oil were detrimental to creating an efficient policy that could implement new energy resources, including ethanol, hydrogen and nuclear power.

College Republicans member Michael Russell '09 argued that the government alone could not fund the switch from oil to other resources.

"The only people who can enact these energy changes are the big businesses who can pull the capital together," Russell said.

The debate became more heated as the topic switched from the environment to the role of the United Nations. The arguments led to discussions of the U.S. presence in Iraq, the International Criminal Court, Guantanamo Bay and interrogation methods.

Aindriu Colgan '08, a College Republican, noted that the UN was important for promoting democracy, peace and human rights, but its role in bringing about these positive changes fell short of U.S. expectations. Colgan cited the most recent UN failure to stop genocide in the Sudan as just one example of incompetence.

"When Zimbabwe and Cuba are on the human rights committee, something is dreadfully wrong," Colgan said.

Colgan also noted that 22 percent of all UN funding comes from the United States, with the next highest contributor being France at 6 percent.

"The United States has a vested interest to see that the UN is reformed," Colgan said.

Andrew Lebovich '09, a Young Democrat, argued that the United States had to foster a partnership with the UN rather than "bullying" the international community into reform.

"There has to be an even- handed U.S. policy," Lebovich said. "By our standards Russia is fighting terrorism in Chechnya, but China is violating human rights."

Lebovich noted that our own violations of human rights at Guantanamo Bay left little room for indignation at UN failures.

"We are not saints," Lebovich said. "We are not the model."

Responses to the debate were varied. Alexandra Lippman '08, a College Republican, noted that Republicans "are definitely the minority," but she felt confident that the debate went well.

"I think we got our points out and were well spoken," Lippman said.

Laura Rodriguez '08, Treasurer of Young Democrats, thought that the debates were informative and the Democratic side performed well.

"I feel the Democratic debaters did very well of covering a range of issues that affect us," Rodriguez said.

Rahul Sangwan '07, President of College Republicans, said that he thought "the debate went well" and was particularly happy with the large turnout.

Sangwan was upset, however, at the failure of some debaters to discuss the pre-determined topics.

"My biggest concern was straying off topic," Sangwan said, "especially since we agreed on the topics beforehand."

At the end of the debate, Lippman was critical of the tactics used by the Young Democrats.

"It is very common for Democrats to criticize Bush but not propose any solution of their own," Lippman said.