Fordham Democrats and Republicans Debate Key 2020 Issues

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Jennifer Hoang/The Fordham Ram

College Democrats and Republicans went head-to-head in a debate.

Julia Agos, Contributing Writer

While the rest of the world has their eyes glued to cable news coverage of impeachment proceedings, the Fordham College Democrats and Republicans managed to steer clear of the topic during their twice-annual debate. Instead, they swapped ideas on issues like climate change, Brexit, immigration and the Senate filibuster.

The last 20 minutes of the debate were dedicated to a “bipartisan issue”: the filibusters allowed on the Senate floor. Debaters took their places, one member from the College Republicans and one member from College Democrats on either side of the stage.

Fordham College Democrat President Michael Fissinger, FCRH ’21, said the groups decided to address the fillibuster in an effort to debate a traditionally bipartisan issue.

“Bipartisan debates are hard to come by. But we thought a more institutional issue might be an area with more wiggle room,” he said.
“We knew we would tackle issues like climate change and immigration, but we wanted to try to juxtapose that with something that was not as expected,” said College Democrats Vice President Samantha Hardy, FCRH ’21.

But the bipartisan spirit was not carried through the entire debate.

Participants tackled the question of whether or not the United States should remain in the Paris Climate Accords.

“Climate change is a real threat that demands immediate action, but solid domestic policy is the real way to change this, not through a toothless international agreement that ultimately has no real power to keep its provisions implemented,” said Dane Salmon, FCRH ’21, of the College Republicans.

But Chantz Kouveras, FCRH ’22, argued the United States has a duty to the international community.

“Accountability to the international community is a large part of what makes the climate accords successful … Inevitably we are connected to every other country on the planet,” he said.

When pressed by an audience member about the Trump administration’s loosening of greenhouse gas regulations, Salmon said the United States could do more at home.

“I don’t think President Trump is necessarily the best when it comes to climate policy,” he said. “I’d very much like to see the Trump administration step up.”

The debate turned to immigration, a contentious point for Republican and Democrats nationally. The debate was over whether or not migrants who are detained at the border should be granted refugee status.

Anthony Nunez, FCRH ’20, a member of the audience, challenged Mikael Zarett, FCRH ’23, from the College Republicans over the United States’ policy on weapons trade in Central America. Nunez argued that the U.S. gun makers are sending weapons to Central American countries, making the refugee crisis worse.

Zarrett turned to the moderator for clarification on the question. Professor Boris Heersink, Ph.D., explained, if people are fleeing violence that the United States is making worse, should they not be receiving asylum?

Zarett said he did not disagree that some migrants should receive refugee status, but he said American interest should be first.

“I think we both agree that we should increase spending on regulating the ports of entry,” he said.

When asked about the issue of guns moving outside the United States, Zarett had no response.

Nunez and Zarett caught up with each other after the debate concluded. Nunez said he wanted to bring attention to issues that the media does not always bring forward.

“I feel like most of the debates on immigration are just surface level,” he said. “And the more controversial things like gun control that affects immigration are things that are not really spoken about.”

“I think if [Nunez] hadn’t raised this question, no one would have,” Zarett said. “I didn’t even know that was a problem.”

He agreed that by the end of the debate they both had learned something from each other.

“I think debates often highlight the fact that there is much more that binds us together than what divides us,” Fissinger said. “I hope that not only the debaters but also the audience members will be able to leave the debate feeling like they learned something and realize that there are points of agreement between the two sides.”

As for impeachment, Fissinger said, “it is just too divisive.”

“There wouldn’t be much space to find common ground,” he said.