On February 12th, the Georgetown University College Democrats debated with the College Republicans in the GUCD/GUCR Spring Debate, moderated by the Georgetown Bipartisanship Coalition. The two sides tackled a range of issues from the Venezuelan crisis to the Wall, treading carefully between hesitant agreement and clear opposition. Joshua Marín-Mora, Sam Dubke, and Hayley Grande spoke for the Republicans, and AJ Williamson, Bella Ryb, and Derek Tassone spoke for the Democrats.
The first question posed by the moderators was about how the U.S. should respond to the crisis in Venezuela. Joshua Marín-Mora answered for the Republicans, defending Mr. Guaido’s claim to the presidency and noting that “all options [were] on the table” if harm came to American diplomats. The Democrat stance, introduced by AJ Williamson, agreed with the Republicans on the legitimacy of Guaido’s claim but specified that U.S. intervention should be limited to humanitarian aid. The two sides also found common ground on Trump’s plan to remove troops from Syria, recognizing the potential risk in leaving a power vacuum. However, Bella Ryb was clear to emphasize the need for eventual withdraw from the region.
The divide between the two sides grew over the discussion of the Trump administration’s move to relocate the Israeli embassy to Jerusalem. Answering for the Republicans, Joshua defended the administration’s move. Democrat Derek Tassone, meanwhile, denounced the move as making a two-state solution impossible for the foreseeable future. The disagreement continued as the debate moved to domestic issues like immigration. The two sides held to their respective party lines. Sam justified Trump’s border wall as a means to fight the opioid epidemic and wage stagnation and defended the administration’s refusal to take in refugees. AJ and Bella responded by emphasizing the U.S.’s moral responsibility to its legacy as a beacon of hope.
On economic issues, Sam voiced grave concerns over the future of Social Security, recommending that the retirement age be raised and that individuals save independently. Derek quipped back that “it’s great that you’re apologizing to grandma, but I don’t expect any 72 year old women to go back into the workforce,” before recommending Democratic legislation (Social Security 2100) that would fund and expand Social Security. The two sides also sparred on issues such as Trump’s Tax Cuts and Jobs Act and raising the federal minimum wage.
Asked about gender equality in the U.S. government, Bella and Hayley generally agreed on the need to improve the standing of women and the importance of parties self-policing their members. This agreement quickly went away, however, on the issue of gun control, with Democrats emphasizing guns and income inequality as core problems against Republican insistence that mental health played the greater role.
After tackling the social issues, the debate was opened to audience questions. When asked about whether or not it was possible to be both pro-life and a feminist, Hayley surprised the audience with her declaration that “I happen to pro-life and not a feminist,” labeling modern feminism as being “deconstructed into…genitalia and… the right to kill your own child.” In response, Bella pointed out the inconsistency between the typical Republican admiration for small government and having a policy of “interfering with a women and her health.”
In total, however, the debate displayed a strong degree of civility and articulateness for two groups with such diametrically opposed positions. In contrast with our national discourse, it is promising to have respect in any political debate, even if it is limited to the confines of the classroom.