Political Clubs Consider the Issues at Eisenhower Institute Campus-Wide Policy Debate
By Jamie Welch, Editor-in-Chief
On Tuesday night, the Eisenhower Institute held a campus-wide debate in a mostly-filled Mara Auditorium covering a variety of topics including foreign policy, climate change, immigration and gun control. The debate was moderated by Dr. Scott Boddery, Assistant Professor of Political Science and included representatives from six political organizations on campus: Gettysburg Anti-Capitalist Collective (GACC). College Democrats, College Independents, the College Republicans, Young Americans for Liberty (YAL) and the Young Americans for Freedom (YAF).
Debate participants were:
- GACC: Randy Feeley and Ryan Sipple
- College Democrats: Nadine Snyder and August Umholtz
- College Independents: Danielle Jones and Alexander Engelsman
- College Republicans: Wellington Baumann and Zachary Sobeck
- Young Americans for Liberty: Christopher Condon and Liam Kerr
- Young Americans for Freedom: Nicholas DiGiulio and Joshua Gonzalez
On Infrastructure: President Trump unveiled an infrastructure plan roughly two weeks ago that would potentially invest 1.5 trillion dollars into our nation’s infrastructure networks that relies heavily on public-private partnerships and leveraging state and local investment. Is this the best strategy moving forward to invest in our ailing transportation networks or should the government look to pursue other options?
- GACC: The federal government should be investing more in infrastructure. You can’t trust corporations to make the best decisions for the American people because they are concerned about their bottom line.
- College Democrats: Tolls and fees will hit the poor, so we don’t support private investment. Federal government should control infrastructure development. We should model after Europe, not go with the Trump plan.
- College Independents: It’s important to come to compromise; Trump’s plan is not great but it’s a start. “Our roads suck,” so we need to do better.
- College Republicans: We support the plan. Local governments are best equipped to handle the specific infrastructure needs in their area, and they receive a lot of the money. Raising the gas tax would more than cover the federal government’s end of the bargain for this plan.
- YAL: We need to challenge the notion that our infrastructure is crumbling. The number of bridges requiring attention has dropped over the past 10 years. Typical government solution to a problem that doesn’t exist. State roadways are called state roadways for a reason, the federal government shouldn’t be involved.
- YAF: We support the Trump proposal. Money is much better spent on bridges than creating parks and bike paths that go unused.
On Sexual Harassment: Recently, the #MeToo movement has swept across the psyche of our country. What role, if any, does the government have in implementing reforms in both the public and private sector?
- GACC: Government must take action to ensure that people of all genders feel safe in their community. If one person comes forward, more will come after.
- College Democrats: The government should take a role in assuring that women are safe in the workplace. Independent contractors should be covered under Title IX. The Civil Rights Act should be expanded to protect the LGBTQ community. We need to stop labeling the #MeToo movement as a witch hunt. It doesn’t help that we have an accused sexual harasser as president.
- College Independents: We should be putting more into reforms so no one is afraid to stand up. It’s an everyone issue. No one should be afraid for their jobs or their lives to stand up and say something. Things aren’t being done even when people do report.
- College Republicans: Hollywood hypocrites flex their powers while sexually assaulting others. The best way to combat sexual assault is to encourage victims to come forward so we can enforce the laws on the book. We have to remember that people are innocent until proven guilty. Every accusation needs to be taken seriously, but we cannot assume they are guilty simply because they are accused.
- YAL: The federal government has to implement strict policies banning any form of sexual harassment. We all need to come together and support those who come out and report that something has happened to them.
- YAF: The best solution to this problem is reforming the criminal justice system to ensure that every case is adjudicated fairly. Government should crack down on HR departments to ensure that they are taking action.
On Foreign Policy: The Trump Administration has taken an extremely hawkish stance towards North Korea. Despite fiery statements from the President, what measures, if any, should the State Department take regarding North Korea?
- GACC: North Korea is a pissing contest. We need to denuclearize the world and feed and house the poor.
- College Democrats: Trump has been far too bombastic on this issue, and has set us back years. The president needs to pick an ambassador to South Korea. We need to work with China on this issue, and Trump has shown no interest or capability to do that. Any military option would be completely disastrous, it would be along the lines of World War II in terms of number of dead.
- College Independents: China is not going to give up, they don’t want a unified Korea on their border. This entire thing is posturing, North Korea isn’t going to do anything. They’ll get blown off the earth if they try.
- College Republicans: We do support Trump’s foreign policy. A military option may be needed to solve the problem in North Korea. United States needs to stop it’s global stance of regime change wars as it ultimately hurts us. It is a Clown World notion that Trump wants to nuke North Korea.
- YAL: Keep this within the purview of the State Department, not the Department of Defense. We need to strengthen our relationship with China; I don’t think they are a lost cause on this issue.
- YAF: It is vital to build up our regional partnerships to control this threat. We should realize that North Korea is a rouge state that will not act rationally. China is the only nation that can put enough pressure on North Korea to bring them to the negotiating table. North Korea’s economy is a joke, they won’t be able to compete with us in the future.
On Environmental Crises: The world is experiencing increasingly extreme weather and temperatures. With this in mind, what environmental policy strategies, if any, should the United States Administration pursue?
- GACC: We need to re-enter Paris Climate Accords and invest in green and renewable energy through subsidies. The free market alone won’t solve this problem as it is tied into fossil fuel interests, so we need government to get invovled.
- College Democrats: The Trump administration has a horrible record on the environment. We should reaffirm the Paris Climate Accords. We should halt all plans to restart offshore drilling as coastal ecosystems are very valuable. We should invest in solar and wind power. We need to act now to protect our environment for future generations.
- College Independents: Climate is an issue, and people need to recognize that. We need to take the gag order off the EPA and reaffirm the Paris Climate Accords. We can’t return the issue to the states, since the states have a track record of failing at this.
- College Republicans: Private ownership is the best guarantee of stewardship. Property owners and states are more knowledgeable about local conditions. Transfer power from EPA to the states. End all federal subsidies for energy sources and technologies, including for fossil fuels. Get the federal government out and the free market will solve the issue. Trump was right to remove us from the Paris Climate Accords.
- YAL: Climate change is the biggest threat we are facing. Must end tariffs on renewable energies. End illegal wars abroad to cut down military carbon footprint. We need to do the opposite of what Trump is advocating. We need to cut support for fossil fuels and stop trade barriers for renewable energy.
- YAF: We should not take part in international accords, we should return environmental control to the states to let them set their own laws based on their local problems. Solar panel manufacturers are heavily subsidized by Chinese government, so we shouldn’t support them. We should expand nuclear power as it is safe when done right.
On DACA: DACA was an executive order issued by Obama that was never codified by Congress. Trump is set to rescind the program on March 5th. Should Congressional Democrats make a deal with Congressional Republicans and Trump Administration in order to prevent the deportations of the DREAMers- even if such a deal could include money for a border wall or reducing overall levels of legal immigration?
- GACC: It hasn’t been passed because they want to tie it to the fundamentally racist border wall. Make it easier to get visas and stay when they need to so we can be a nation of immigrants like our country was meant to be.
- College Democrats: We agree with GACC. Republicans caused this problem; they should solve it. Deporting Dreamers would cause our country to lose $400 billion in GDP. The fear of Dreamers is irrational, these are normal people who are coming into our country.
- College Independents: Republicans should make deals with Republicans because that’s how governments work in a democracy. You’re for a Dictatorship Lite if you think you should get everything you want. We would like to point out that in 1914 if you joined the Army you were given citizenship. Technically that was a merit based system.
- College Republicans: We need to implement a comprehensive visa exit tracking system, and allow DACA to expire and prevent unlawful aliens receiving permanent protected status. Don’t trade DACA for a border wall. Immigration policy should benefit our country. In a serious country you have people making laws that benefit that country, not the entire globe.
- YAL: We are all immigrants, and it’s a beautiful thing to say that we are a diverse country. It is shameful that Congress hasn’t acted in six months. A border wall would have literally no impact on illegal immigration. We are a nation of immigrants, and it’s racist to suggest otherwise.
- YAF: We have the right and the duty to limit the number of immigrants that enter our country every year. We need to reform our visa system to make sure that people leave when their visas expire. Amnesty is not an option for anyone except for DACA individuals, and we must eliminate the diversity lottery and implement a meritocracy. We should know who is coming into our country, so that’s why the border wall is necessary.
On Israel: Was moving the United States embassy to Jerusalem a good decision?
- GACC: This is a terrible idea; all it’s going to do is raise tensions. If we remain a mediator, we should be a mediator, not an instigator.
- College Democrats: This is another example of Trump’s bombastic diplomacy. It’s poor statesmanship and is creating violence in the region. He acts first, doesn’t check with his advisers. He wakes up, does what he wants, and then finishes watching “Fox and Friends.” The Palestinians are real people who suffer just like us.
- College Independents: Moving the embassy to Jerusalem kind of makes sense, but in total it was a bad idea. It was a huge middle finger to every other ally we have in the Middle East. This wasn’t for the Israelis; this was for the Zionists in the United States.
- College Republicans: The president is within his rights and should continue to support Israel against Hamas.
- YAL: Why did the president decide to randomly make an issue of this? I don’t understand it; this move is creating enemies as we face more pressing domestic issues. Only reason Palestine isn’t a serious country is because of our support of Israel.
- YAF: It was a good move that Trump is finally carrying out the promises of every president for 50 years. We shouldn’t be worried about offending Saudi Arabia with their human rights record.
On Gun Control: What actions should the government take to keep its citizens safe, particularly in schools?
- GACC: Ban all semi-automatic weapons and limit the amount of ammo that can be purchased at once. Also, we should separate ammo storage and gun storage in homes.
- College Democrats: We shouldn’t be living in a world run by fear. There is a problem with semi-automatic weapons and they need to be banned. The CDC needs to be able to research gun violence. We need increased background checks, and Trump won’t do it — he’s dropped the ball yet again. It’s not a mental health issue, but we would sign a comprehensive mental health care coverage bill.
- College Independents: We need better gun control, we need better background checks, and we need to ban bump stocks. Also, this is also a mental health issue and we need to address that. We should look at Australia as a model of what to do about gun violence. Mental health might be a problem, but the gun kind of helps. We have a history of limiting constitutional rights when they pose a public safety issue (an example is freedom of speech).
- College Republicans: The notion that we are suffering from a gun epidemic is false. Background checks are already required. The system does not always work, but this does not mean that our second amendment rights should be infringed upon. AR does not stand for Assault Rifle like some people think.
- YAL: We can’t disregard the second amendment here. The fervor around guns right now is a distraction from the need to increase security in schools as well, and we need to have some perspective on the issue. The terror watch list (which could be used to stop people from purchasing firearms) needs to have due process and court proceedings or we will have an erosion of our constitutional rights.
- YAF: Trump has said that he is open to keeping guns out of the hands of the mentally ill, criminals, or people on the terror watch list. However, we need to change the process that creates the list as right now you have no recourse if you are placed on it and there is no due process. Also, the FBI dropped the ball here, and did nothing despite getting reports about the Parkland shooter. If law enforcement agencies don’t update databases and follow up, then the expanded background checks will be useless.