MSFL Debate Night

Charlie Gers

College Republicans, College Democrats, and College Libertarians faced off in a debate night on December 7 hosted by Minnesota Students For Liberty to discuss current national issues, such as net neutrality, the GOP tax bill, and political division.

Chaz Fenske, former student at the University of Minnesota, moderated the debate, which took place in the President’s Room at Coffman Memorial Union. Approximately 30 students, majority from the College Democrats, attended the event to hear from other students’ opinions and engage in a civil discourse. 

Despite the massive political division that is currently embedded in our society, the three debaters displayed courtesy and respect throughout the debate. In order to avoid interrupting one another mid-sentence, only one microphone was used and the representative could not respond until given authorization from the moderator.

Ben Allard, Vice-President of College Democrats, began by answering the question why he was a Democrat. According to Allard, “America was founded on the principles of equality—social and economic.” Nathan Amundson, member of College Libertarians, responded that his belief in libertarianism is all about personal responsibility and social tolerance, without involving the state. 

The GOP tax bill, currently one of the most prominent topics in politics, just recently passed Congress. The bill would lower corporations’ 35 percent rate to 20 percent, lower taxes for the vast majority of Americans, and would get rid of most deductions; however, analysis shows that the tax plan will add more than $1.4 trillion to deficits over a decade. 

“This tax plan is a game changer for the American people. We overtax our businesses, our people, and that makes us uncompetitive. It prevents investing. It will grow our economy and increase people’s wages, increasing high-paying jobs that the American people have,” said Jacob Strinden, President of College Republicans. 

Strinden did not receive support from either of the two other debaters on this issue. Amundson called the GOP tax plan “blatantly irresponsible from a fiscal and social cohesion point” and “intolerable.” Allard shared similar views with Amundson on this issue, “It’s a massive fiscal irresponsibility. This will not create jobs. This is morally incomprehensible.” Allard’s conclusion claimed that this bill is pernicious to our budget and would only give Republican donors a break.

Minnesota has historically been one of the most progressive states in the nation. Minnesota has voted for Democratic presidential candidates since 1976. As a matter of fact, Minnesota was the only state to vote Democrat in the 1984 election between Ronald Reagan and Walter Mondale. Minnesota is also one of the highest-ranked states for education, infrastructure, and opportunity. Given how lucrative Minnesota is, Fenske asked, “Is Minnesota succeeding because of progressive policies?” 

Without much surprise, Allard concurred that Minnesota is succeeding because of progressive policies. Allard claimed that the government’s investment in its people is what enables the success of a state, not slash cuts in education. Amundson emphasized that progressive policies have benefited the state in certain areas, like farming and grain elevators. However, Strinden completely rejected this notion, “We still have a lot of poverty/homelessness which needs to be addressed. The greater areas of the state have been hit by the environmental regulations.” Strinden finalized by comparing other states’ economies, “Texas has the highest rate of GDP, followed by Florida. Both of those are Republican states, or Republican-leaning.”

Other important topics that arose were the endless sexual harassment allegations that have stirred Capitol Hill, the nationwide legalization of marijuana, claims of Russia’s involvement in the 2016 election, and racial tension. In the end, all three debaters agreed that hyper-partisanship and identitarian politics are catastrophic and the best way to address bigotry is with reconciliatory speech.