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At a debate on Monday, Cornell Republicans and Democrats both tried to convince the audience to vote for their parties in the midterms.

October 23, 2018

Cornell Republicans, Democrats Clash on Economy, Foreign Policy as Midterms Approach

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Leaders of Cornell Democrats and Republicans debated policy issues Monday, both sides trying to convince the audience to vote for their respective parties in the midterm elections.

Parties started out with eight-minute PowerPoint presentations laying out their core platforms followed by two rounds of rebuttal, conclusion arguments and questions submitted by the audience.

The Cornell Republicans framed their platform as a way to continue economic growth, referencing the current economic strength under the Trump administration. They argued that the tax cut was growing the economy. Citing a Congressional Budget Office report, they mentioned that revenue since the tax cut is up $26 billion, largely due to increases in wages.

The Republicans repeatedly compared policies under the Obama administration with the current administration’s policies, claiming the latter achieved more growth and enhanced national security.

“Do you vote to … derail this successful platform in favor of a party which had its chance and failed on every one of these issues, or do you choose to return to Republican legislative majorities that figured out how to work productively with this admittedly unusual president?” said Michael Johns ’20, president of Cornell Republicans and columnist for The Sun.

Cornell Democrats challenged the Republican depiction of the economy, referencing another Congressional Budget Office report, which states that the tax cut was estimated to increase the deficit an additional $1.6 trillion from 2018 to 2027.

The Democrats argued that the difference in numbers between the Obama and Trump administration economies was due to context. Obama, they argued, faced slower economic growth because he entered office during the Great Recession.

“To attribute this [economic growth] to the Trump administration is a willful disregard of simple macroeconomic fact,” said Jack Ross-Pilkington ’21, Cornell Democrats communications director.

Beyond economic growth, the two parties disagreed on the effectiveness of current foreign policy. Republicans mentioned the current sanctions against Russia and the closing of a Russian consulate as effective policy measures while Democrats discussed the impact tariffs placed on China has had on American soybean farmers.

“Republicans are willing to go a few rounds with China,” Johns said.

Social issues, however, went largely undebated. The initial Democratic presentation briefly covered issues such as LGBTQ rights, immigration and women’s rights. The initial Republican presentation made no reference to these topics. Later rebuttals focused on economic and foreign policy.

“America is a lot more than taxes and China,” said Isabelle De Brabanter ’19, president of Cornell Democrats.

Even with these differences, both sides agreed on some issues, such as the pitfalls of voting for a third party. Both parties believed that while there was nothing inherently wrong with it, voting for a third party is not an effective means to consider changing America’s two party system.

“The truth of the matter is that America has a two-party system that is not kind to third party candidates,” De Brabanter said. “That [third party] vote gets lost in the sauce.”

The Republican side agreed.

“If you want to vote for a third party candidate, go ahead, great for you,” said Brendan Dodd ’21, vice president of external operations for Cornell Republicans. “I don’t think the vote will really do much.”

Central to Cornell Democrats’ message was voter participation. De Brabanter made repeated comments about millenial voting and told audience members about the Cornell Democrats’ providing shuttles to voting stations on Election Day.

“We hope our argument has persuaded you to vote Democratic,” she said. “But even more important, we hope our argument has persuaded you to vote, period.”

Debates between Cornell Democrats and Republicans are held every semester, with different topics. The organizations aim to facilitate productive discourse about politics. Both presidents told The Sun they hoped they changed some minds over the hour long debate.

“Obviously we have different perspectives, but if we sincerely all want what’s best for the country and we’re just different on how we get there, then I think the audience leaves this room with a lot of things to think about that they might not have before,” Johns told The Sun.