The College Republicans and College Democrats met Oct. 19 in the Allen Drawing Room to debate state and national political issues. The debate mirrored the national and state debates between the parties and drew an enthusiastic, even raucous, crowd.
For Matt Civiletti, chairman of the College Democrats, the debate was one about America’s moral values.
“This fight is really about what we stand for as Americans,” Civiletti said. He highlighted in his opening statement what he thinks Republicans stand for, including a two-day federal response to Katrina, cronyism and $200 billion wasted in Iraq.
Matt Esposito, chairman of the College Republicans, opted to focus on the state gubernatorial race and the problems in New Jersey.
“We need a candidate to solve the important dilemmas that New Jersey faces,” he said in his opening statement. “The answer to problems is not big government, but smaller, more efficient government.”
In representing the College Republicans, Esposito said the Democrats have been dwelling on President George Bush’s administration rather than focusing on the future, but since Bush is not up for election again, he feels the Democrats should change their focus.
The debate format allowed each side to ask the other a question in alternating fashion. This led to largely loaded questions that advanced each side’s position more than it actually elicited information.
The debate split equally between state and national issues. For state issues, the two parties sparred over reductions in property taxes, corruption in government and the state’s growing deficit.
The College Democrats defended Republican charges that the plan of Democratic candidate Sen. Jon Corzine would not provide real relief to homeowners and blasted Republican candidate Doug Forrester’s tax plan as blowing a $9 billion hole in the state budget.
“Five hundred dollars after four years is real relief for working middle-class families,” Dan Beckelman, College Democrat vice president for publicity, said.
Republicans said that Forrester would pay for his 30 percent reduction in three years by cutting corruption, and would, in fact, only spend $3.9 billion.
“By cutting out corruption, we can save the people of this state money,” Tom Sales, College Republicans treasurer, said.
The College Republicans also said that Corzine would be a tax-and-spend governor not committed to real fiscal responsibility in the state. They said that his large bond initiatives to fund public education would just be another form of debt to pass down to future generations.
“He can’t pay for it,” Esposito said of Corzine’s plans.
The College Democrats said the plan would be funded through cleaning up corruption in the New Jersey Schools Construction Corporation, and by implementing less sweeping tax cuts than Forrester has proposed.
Both sides agreed that corruption is a widespread problem on both sides of the political spectrum in New Jersey, and has to be stopped.
National issues ranged from securing the borders to which party is a party of “ideas” for the future.
“The Republican party doesn’t have a plan,” Civiletti said. The Democrats, he said, stand for tolerance, responsibility, sensible foreign policy and establishing a timetable for getting out of Iraq.
Esposito said the only real Democrat idea is Bush-bashing, and that Democrats are “re-fighting” the 2000 and 2004 elections.
Civiletti also criticized the lack of national health care and the 50 million Americans, including 10 million children, who go without medical insurance.
“We need to make sure we have good health care for everyone,” Civiletti said.
The debate also included a brief presentation by the still-forming College Libertarian party.
“We’re a party of individual choice,” Sam Taylor, co-chairman of the College Libertarians, said. Taylor said the party stands for freedom in both personal and professional lives.
In the end, all parties encouraged students to go to the polls Nov. 8 to have their voices heard in state politics.