Students debate upcoming presidential election

The GW Democrats hosted a debate on Tuesday about the upcoming presidential election. Sam Hardgrove | Assistant Photo Editor
The GW Democrats hosted a debate on Tuesday about the upcoming presidential election. Sam Hardgrove | Assistant Photo Editor

This post was written by Hatchet reporter Elizabeth Konneker.

A member of the College Democrats debated a Republican student in the Marvin Center Amphitheater Tuesday after concerns that the event would not take place.

The event itself was in jeopardy when College Republicans formally withdrew from the debate on Oct. 30, just two days before the event was scheduled to take place. College Democrats responded by calling on other Republicans at GW to come and debate their representative, T.J. Clark.

CRs, who commented on the statement issued by the CDs on Facebook by stating that they encouraged all students to participate in an open dialogue, later posted a message of apology regarding their withdrawal from the debate.

“Unfortunately due to misinformation we were not provided the whole story regarding the debate with GW College Democrats,” the Facebook post read. “We owe College Democrats a full apology and retract our statement made last night.”

The debate featured T.J. Clark, the chair of the debate committee for the CDs, with Republican Alec DiFruscia representing the opposing platform. Andrew Desiderio, the general manager of GW TV, acted as the moderator.

Here are some of the main highlights from the debate:

1. Job Growth and the economy

Both debaters expressed strong opinions about the current level of job growth in the country and the presidential candidate’s ideas on how future economic growth should be handled. DiFruscia said that Republicans have put forward a plan to reform and preserve job programs, while Obamacare is doing the opposite.

“You need to let the private sector run the economy,” DiFruscia said. “Things like Obamacare are bleeding the budget dry. One percent growth isn’t fair to Americans.”

Clark said that when President Barack Obama took office, it was an economic “catastrophe.” He said that recovery will come as there is a shift to a post-industrial economy.

“The reason why we aren’t seeing the recovery that we would like is because we are dealing with a structural change in our economy,” Clark said. “What is right for business is not always right for the worker, but what is right for the worker is always right for the economy.”

2. Foreign policy

T.J. Clark, the chair of the debate committee for GW College Democrats, spoke on behalf of the group at debate Tuesday.  Sam Hardgrove | Assistant Photo Editor
T.J. Clark, the chair of the debate committee for GW College Democrats, spoke on behalf of the group at debate Tuesday. Sam Hardgrove | Assistant Photo Editor

When it came to foreign policy issues, both sides of the debate stage seemed more willing to agree with one another. Each debater expressed similar views on the potentially harmful effects of a no-fly zone in Syria, as well as the damage that could come from enforcing the “red line,” which Obama described as forces being directly involved in Syria if there was proof of chemical weapons being used in the country.

Clark said that if the U.S. is going to get involved in Syria, it would need to be with a coalition because the conflict cannot be solved with just U.S. resources.

“Although we are the world’s greatest superpower, that does not give us super powers,” Clark said regarding the country’s involvement in the Middle East.

DiFruscia said he agreed that the president should not have declared the red line and it’s a “good thing” he didn’t enforce it.

“We can’t involve ourselves in wars we can’t win,” DiFruscia said.

3. Racial tensions

The debate became heated when the topic of the Black Lives Matter movement came to the forefront of the event. Clark said that he was “proud, unafraid, and unashamed” to claim that black lives matter.

“We are dealing with systemic racism,” Clark said. “Until we take it seriously we’re not going to do anything about it.”

DiFruscia echoed what the former Governor of Maryland Martin O’Malley had to say about the movement, saying that the racial divide could be healed with reform.

“Black lives do matter, but so does every other life,” DiFruscia said. “We need criminal justice reform, better schools, and better jobs.”

4. Election hot topics

On top of discussing policy, the debaters also took on some of the major issues that have come up specifically during this presidential election.

Alec DiFrusica, campus Republican, stepped up to represent Republican students at the debate after College Republicans formally withdrew from the event. Sam Hardgrove | Assistant Photo Editor
Alec DiFrusica, campus Republican, stepped up to represent Republican students at the debate after College Republicans formally withdrew from the event. Sam Hardgrove | Assistant Photo Editor

Both agreed that it is up to a candidate to decided whether or not to release their tax returns as Republican nominee Donald Trump has declined to do, and FBI Director James Comey’s decision to reopen the investigation into Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s emails was poorly timed.

However, both debaters argued at length over how a member of the Supreme Court should interpret the constitution and the implications of having a politicized court system.

“Politicizing the Supreme Court is a mistake, and having a litmus test is wrong,” Clark said of the partisan decisions that go into confirming a nonpartisan position. “The law has to be above politics.”

DiFruscia said that he suggests the number of justices be cut down to seven because there is “nothing in the constitution that says we need nine justices.”

“I appreciate T.J.’s high-in-the-sky fantasy land of the supreme court,” DiFruscia said. “As much as we want it to be non-political, it won’t be.”

5. Healing the divide

The last question of the debate, asked the two students how a country so divided could come back together after the results of the election.

DiFruscia said that the first solution to bridge any divide would be to not elect Clinton.

“It will be a train wreck and a constitutional disaster,” DiFruscia said.

Clark said that people need to follow suggestions made by Obama on how to heal the current partisan divide and not make baseless claims about candidates that others disagree with.

“One way is not being so nasty,” Clark said.

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