BYU students watched last Wednesday as the BYU Democrats and BYU Republicans debated Romney and Obama’s differing economic views. This is the beginning of a three-part debate series this semester.
The debate was organized by club presidents of BYU Democrats and BYU Republicans in an effort to better inform students about the presidential candidates’ economic stance. Hannah Wheelwright, co-president of BYU Democrats and political science major, felt that this debate offered an important insight for BYU students to view both ends of the political spectrum.
“Our goal is to increase people’s awareness of how fun, interesting, informative and important politics can be,” Wheelwright said. “We want all political parties to feel like they have a voice at BYU. We use these debates as a way to encourage people to think about how everyone has different opinions and that people aren’t wrong just because the dominant voice is saying one thing.”
Two student debaters were chosen from each club to represent their political party’s presidential candidate. These debaters were given questions beforehand to research and answer in a way that their party’s presidential candidate would respond. Questions were first asked by a moderator and then questions were taken from members of the audience.
Lauren Barton, a political science major and one of the debaters for the BYU Republicans, summed up the core of Romney’s campaign and the conservative viewpoint on government spending:
“Do we just give people aid or do we empower them and teach them to be self-sufficient?” she said. “I think that’s a core conservative principle. We need to empower people, not just give them food and help them to be dependent upon programs.”
In the rebuttal by the BYU Democrats representatives, Andrew Moore, also a political science major, responded with his view of empowerment:
“I don’t think that taking away programs that give access to better education empowers people,” he said. “What would empower people is better job training programs and a better connect to people who are having a hard time trying to find employment. I definitively believe in empowering people, but it is not by taking things away. It’s by giving them literal things to build on.”
Wheelwright said that the purpose of the debate was to show the potential good in both parties and ideologies.
“Debates are such a great opportunity for people to hear the different sides and to consider candidates for themselves,” she said. “They are also a symbol that at BYU it doesn’t matter what your faith is, because there are good on both parties.”
Ben Ader, co-president of BYU Democrats and political science major, has participated in these debates previously. He too expressed the need to hold debates like these, especially before the nearing election.
“All of these three debates are focused on the specific platforms of Obama and Romney to inform the students about who to vote for,” Ader said. “We can address the issues, but we want to focus on the candidates themselves and what they think about the issues.”
The debate series will continue on Oct. 10 with a panel discussion from BYU professors. The final debate will be on Oct. 31 and cover health care.