November 29, 2007

Cornell Debate Focuses on Candidate Positions

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With the 2008 election season drawing near, members of Democrat, Republican and Libertarian campus organizations addressed Cornellians from the political podium last night in a debate sponsored by The Sun. Each party presented platforms and opinions on a number of issues from national security to minorities in politics.
Fielding questions from Sun organizers and audience members, the club representatives presented views on important subjects facing the country from the perspectives of presidential candidates running in the primaries and their respective parties.
Spelling out goals for the event, Randy Lariar ’08, president of the Cornell Democrats, said, “In today’s debate, the Dems are just here to explain our stances on the different issues going on and hopefully explain some of the problems and concerns we see with the upcoming election.”
Members from the three parties discussed outlooks on issues in Iraq and the future of healthcare — two of the most important concerns for Americans in the upcoming election according to a recent Washington Post-ABC News poll. Offering different views on these issues, representatives from the three parties progressed into heated debate about opposing proposals.
On the issue of Iraq, both Republicans and Democrats agreed that there is no easy solution to troubles faced in the region. They emphasized that while the U.S. military has a role to play, a strong independent Iraqi government can only be established through long-term diplomatic strategies.
Mike Cretz ’11, representative from College Libertarians, took a different stance.
He said, “I don’t think America belongs in Iraq at all … I think we need to pull out.”
When it came to healthcare, all three parties had their own ideas.
Advocating for a government-facilitated version of healthcare, the Democrats emphasized the need for a more socialized system that would provide coverage for those who cannot afford health insurance now and ensure better coverage for people currently enrolled in private plans.
Arguing against reliance on private companies to handle health issues, Ethan Felder ’09 of the Cornell Democrats said, “Healthcare is a market failure … you can’t have profit when it comes to healthcare because you’re basically denying people coverage in order to increase your profit margin. That’s simply immoral.”
Republicans, on the other hand, argued that this would be an expensive burden on the American people, forcing them to pay taxes to support a healthcare system that would be inefficient and unreliable.
“Those people who you claim couldn’t run Katrina will not be able to run a healthcare system,” said Ahmed Salem ’08, chair of the College Republicans.
Yet another voice at the debate, the Libertarian party, expressed the opinion that the best way to approach the issue is to leave it up to the private sector. Cretz argued that the competitive nature of private enterprise would keep costs affordable as a function of customer demand.
“I think a free market solution is the best thing we can do,” he said.
Although the general election is not until November of next year, the first primaries are coming up with votes scheduled for both Democrats and Republicans on Jan. 8 in New Hampshire. With this and other primaries closing in, debate participants found the forum to be a great opportunity to explain positions of candidates and the parties in general.
Speaking on the value of such debates on college campuses across the country, Salem said, “You definitely see that these debates are very important in terms of raising awareness about political issues, raising awareness about different viewpoints and helping students challenge their own views.”
The debate also provided students an opportunity to hear from the Libertarian party — a rare occasion Cretz believes should be more common in American politics.
“I think it’s important … people would be more open to Libertarian ideas if they really knew what they were,” he said.
Often described as a right-wing party that advocates small government and protection of individual rights, the Libertarian party — the country’s largest third party — has frequently been marginalized in the political realm. Libertarians currently hold no seats in Congress and are eligible for ballot access in only 27 states for the upcoming presidential election.
Prof. Jason Frank, government, emphasized the need for inclusion of alternative views in politics such as the Libertarian party. According to Frank, the current bipartisan structure often leads to a situation which he describes as “the tyranny of evenhandedness.”
He said, “It limits public debate and it ultimately is a constraint on democracy and the free flow of ideas.”