George Washington University’s College Democrats and College Republicans squared off Monday evening in WRGW’s “Defending the Platform” political debate. The two-hour long debate, which featured three student representatives from each organization, showcased each party’s’ official stances on key issues facing the country, such as immigration, student debt, and foreign policy.
Structured so that discourse focused purely on party platform rather than espousing the viewpoints of the Presidential nominees, the debate was characterized by mature discourse and forward-thinking outlook from each organization starting from the first topic: the $1.26 trillion in student debt present in the US.
In addressing the issue, the Democrats established a three-pronged platform focused on unprecedented government refinancing of debt, creation of a tiered system for student repayments, and reform to high income tax policy. Republicans countered through affirming the idea that fundamental change is necessary in the culture of education in order to prevent a future student debt crisis.
“We cannot keep putting students into a broken system,” argued Tom Crean, representative for College Republicans, in presenting the Republican strategy towards education focused on vocational programs and privatization of student debt to reduce default rates.
This spirit of fundamental policy change continued into the topic of the economy. While the Democrats argued for the progressive idea of active government involvement focused on improving access to the tools of economic success for all citizens, the Republicans brought forth as a key element of decreased regulation, specific proposals to decrease the economic hardship limiting impoverished communities from enjoying economic prosperity.
Trade was a topic of note though in which both parties appeared to struggle with defining a clear cut policy. “We should be pursuing our allies in critical regions for the future, such as Africa,” said Allison Cunos for the Republicans; otherwise, discourse on the conservative side was limited to the standard calls of this election year for deals which place Americans first. The Democrats did not take a stance on the trade question due to ongoing intra-party debate over free trade deals such as the TPP.
Though the two organizations reaffirmed the expected party stance on the hot-button topics of this election cycle, each showcased unique and modern proposals on how best to address the critical issues facing our nation. In doing so, each organization affirmed the sentiment expressed by Josh Kirmsse of the Democrats: “None of what we are talking about tonight are abstract ideas, they are real, concrete issues.”
In an election year fraught with petty political fighting, the College Democrats and Republicans managed to give hope to the success of mature discourse yet in American politics.