November 2, 2000

C.U. Professors Debate Merits of Presidential Candidates

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In the wake of Election Day, the Cornell Pre-Law Society hosted its first electoral debate of the year, featuring University professors Theodore Lowi, goverment, Jeremy Rabkin, american studies, and Gary Simson, law, yesterday afternoon in Uris Auditorium.

The debate was also co-sponsored by Cornell Democrats, Golden Key National Honor Society, Cornell Republicans and the Cornell Israel Public Affairs Committee.

Debate moderator Aaron Page ’02, a Pre-Law Society member, questioned the three professors on the possibility of future Supreme Court appointees. However, conversation soon strayed to touch on each professor’s opinion on state’s rights, school vouchers, prayer in the classroom, federalism and affirmative action. Lowi remarked in his introduction that he wished to keep the debate’s atmosphere agreeable, yet had to argue certain issues with his colleagues.

“I think Rabkin is very much trying to reassure us about how little there is to worry about, how little conflict there is in society because that’s what George W. Bush is doing,” said Lowi, a Ralph Nader supporter, responding to comments by Rabkin.

Lowi added, “I urge you in the audience even as you gain information and … enlightenment from my colleague Rabkin — do not accept his suggestions that these issues are not serious.”

Rabkin stressed the winner of the upcoming election will have little effect on the Supreme Court and its policies, including any attempt to overturn the controversial 1973 Roe vs. Wade decision.

“It is unlikely that Roe vs. Wade is going to be overturned,” Rabkin said.

Each panelist agreed that the addition of new judges would not impact the court greatly, but they continued to speculate on the type of judge each candidate would appoint.

“Bush … is trying to pick out the most conservative members of the court [system],” Prof. Simson, law, said in support of Gore.

Lowi added, “They’ll be … nominees we’ll know nothing about … and they’ll pretty much be like the true candidates themselves. That’s one scenario.”

Each panelist concluded what Rabkin later noted: “The Supreme Court should be on people’s minds.”

Though the Supreme Court was the central issue, the professors did focus on other important election topics, including the importance of the Senate elections and the character of the Presidential candidates The debate grew heated as each invoked prejudices against the candidates.

“People say Bush doesn’t have enough experience. He was the governor of Texas … for six years. Abraham Lincoln … only served one term in Congress before he became president,” Rabkin said.

Simson quickly added, “The governorship of Texas is probably the least experienced of any governor you could find. The executive power is really very weak in Texas.”

One topic the three panelists did agree on was their prediction for the election victor. Each believed George W. Bush would most likely defeat Al Gore. But Democratic audience members disputed this conclusion.

“We were disappointed with the underrepresentation of support for Gore [in the debate],” said Jason B. Conn ’03, a representative from Students for Gore.

“Especially in this election … there’s a lot of issues. It is definitely a great opportunity for people to see a different facet of the elections,” remarked Lee S. Schaffler ’01, President of the Pre-Law Society.

Archived article by Carlos Perkins