November 6, 2000

Where Do They Stand?

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As the nation has counted down to Election Day over the past month, campus activists from the Republican, Democratic, Green and Reform parties have discussed their personal takes on the parties’ platforms in The Sun.

Students from all points on the political spectrum as well as Cornell professors and issue experts sounded off about Social Security, abortion, environmental policy and foreign policy in an effort to inform Cornell voters about where the parties’ policies really lie and what changes would result depending on who is chosen as the next president.

Social Security

When it comes to the Social Security debate, opinions clash as to what would be the best course to take both to insure the program’s future as well as reform its structure. Debate has raged over the possibility of partial privatization of the program.

Prof. Walter Mebane, government, said that Social Security is a “program to provide a floor of income for everyone who has reached retirement age.” He said that Texas Gov. George W. Bush wants to cut taxes and encourage individual investments to stimulate economic growth.

“Bush’s stance on Social Security, like his stance on every other issue, comes back to one of the fundamental beliefs of the Republican Party: individuals know how to spend their own money,” said Leaders for Lazio chair Amy Gershkoff ’02.

Summing up Gore’s plan, Mebane said that Gore “focuses on paying down the national debt and trying to boost long-run economic growth by means of targeted spending.”

Cornell Democrats President Michael Moschella ’02 said that “the Gore-Lieberman formula promotes private retirement savings” and “invests wisely, and as a result is able to preserve and even enhance benefits.”

Representatives for third-party candidates Ralph Nader and Pat Buchanan saw problems with both of the major party candidate’s ideas.

The Green Party believes that keeping Social Security public will not, as some fear, lead to the program’s bankruptcy when the Baby Boomers retire. Rather, Sean Carver grad explained, “[The Green Party] opposes the privatization of Social Security since such a system would cost the American public more.”

Reform Party activist Marshall Montgomery ’04 said an administration led by his candidate, Patrick Buchanan, “would guarantee today’s recipients all the money granted under the current system” serving the system’s original purpose yet allowing people to spend their own money at their own discretion.


On the controversial and emotional topic of abortion, the parties take opposite sides of the political spectrum.

“Gore will continue to be a staunch champion for a woman’s right to choose. … Bush wishes to make abortion illegal through appointing Supreme Court justices who would completely overturn the Roe v. Wade decision,” said Cornell Democrats Treasurer Alexandra Sanchez ’02.

Responding to the fears that if elected, Bush would pack the Supreme Court with pro-life justices who would overturn the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, College Republican Brian Fiske ’02 said that “Bush would probably not appoint judges who would overturn Roe v. Wade … even if [this decision] were overturned, abortion would not be made illegal. Rather, it would just be up to the people of each state [to decide].”

Montgomery said that while Gore’s stance on abortion was too liberal, Bush had betrayed right-to-life activists and was not conservative enough. Buchanan “will fight the status quo with courage to stand where the GOP has stumbled,” he said.

Cornell Green Party member Antonella Romano grad said, “I think the one thing we can agree on is that no one ever wants to have an abortion … However, what we, as a society, often overlook are the social and economic pressures women face when dealing with an unwanted pregnancy.”

The Green Party is the only party to adequately address issues like the lack of affordable day care, living wages and educational opportunities that often times leave women feeling as if they have no choice at all, she said.

Environmental Policy

On the issue of environmental policy, both major party candidates as well as their third party counterparts agree that some measures should be taken to protect the environment. But debate still continues over which plan will best address environmental concerns.

“For over 30 years, the federal government has focused on mandates and regulation to achieve its environmental goals; Bush understands that a new, more economically efficient solution is needed,” said Joe Sabia grad, chancellor of the College Republicans Board of Directors.

However, Bush’s environmental record in Texas has been criticized because Texas has one of the worst industrial pollution levels in the nation, pointed out Cornell Democrats Treasurer Scott Beemer ’03.

“As the League of Conservation Voters states, there is ‘no comparison’ between Gore and Bush,” Beemer said. “In a Gore administration, we would see the ratification of the Kyoto Protocol, an international climate change treaty, stronger standards to reduce pollution levels and to protect the ozone layer, and research into new, environmentally friendly technologies.”

Carver said that true to its name, the Green Party was the most environmentally conscious choice with plans to “push for higher fuel efficiency standards for automobiles, invest in public transportation, step up prosecution of environmental crimes and cease logging on federal land.”

Montgomery said that “radical environmentalists” had gone too far in trying to protect the land and had in turned harmed individual’s livelihoods and property rights. He said that a Buchanan administration “will introduce a common sense, incentive-driven plan that is pro-environment, yet will not abridge the rights of American citizens.”

Foreign Policy

Finally, on foreign policy, debate arose over how involved the United States should become in international conflicts and exactly what role it should play in global affairs.

“Bush says we are not the policeman of the world,” said Prof. Peter Katzenstein, government, reflecting the Governor’s cautious stance on American intervention in world conflicts. “Gore says we should not be too cautious because other things [besides overt military threats] can be threats to our values.”

Sabia felt that with Bush as president, “Americans can rest assured that the aimless Clinton-Gore foreign policy will be abandoned in favor of true vision” because Bush believes that “the U.S. should only intervene in areas of the world that are in our national strategic interest.”

Cornell Democrats Publicity Director Josh Roth ’03 said that in contrast to Bush’s more cautious domestically-centered ideas, Gore “believes that America’s peace and security depend on our unflagging leadership and engagement in global affairs, and that ‘forward engagement’ is the strategy that must guide us.”

Montgomery took the Republican’s idea one step further, saying that a Buchanan administration “will only sacrifice the blood of our young when we are attacked, when our national interests are at stake or our honor is impugned.”

Romano said the Green Party looked at the question of international involvement from a different angle and was opposed to what she saw as a trend of thinking of foreign policy as military policy.

“The Green Party believes that only by reducing militarism and our reliance on arms policies can we move towards collective security,” she said.

“Rather than basing our foreign
policy on arms sales, economic coercion and third world exploitation, we seek to shift the focus towards supporting democracy, human rights and a respect for international law,” Romano said. “We see this as the only way to achieve peace and stability, both at home and abroad.”

Archived article by Katherine Davis