College Democrats and College Republicans at the University of Michigan squared off last night in a discussion of their presidential candidates' stances. The debate focused on issues of concern to campus multicultural groups.
The event at the Ford School wasa three-on-three, town-hall style debate. Most of the questions were submitted in advanceby campus multicultural organizations like the Black Student Union, Alpha Kappa Alpha, the Indian American Student Association and Relate, a mulitcultural LGBT group. The question topics included workplace wage equality, nuclear technology trading with India and college affordability.
In most of their responses, the College Democrats and Republicans gave their presidential candidates positions.
The purpose of the debate, according to Nathaniel Eli Coats Styer, chair of the College Democrats, was to engage a broader campus that we normally dont get to reach, Styer said. This is a way to engage and allow them to ask questions."
The audience, which filled the 200-seat Anneberg Auditorium, was noticeably polarized between Democratic and Republican supporters, with the Republicans in the minority. Applauses for the Democrats reponses were also considerably louder.
Junior Ashley Schneider, secretary of the College Republicans, acknowledged the difficulty Republicans have in attracting minority voters, but added that A lot of minority groups are actually socially conservative.
College Republicans Chair Brady Smith said he pleased by the diverse turnout at last nights event.
When you look at the folks you have out here, great cross-section of the United States who have the same concerns as the bulk of the population, he said. Were looking forward to reaching out and really demonstrating what the Republican Party is about this evening and what we can do for them.
Though most questions were submitted in advance, a few questions were posed on the spot. One member of a Native American Students Association asked, I just wanted to know your stance on Native-run casinos.
Lauren Lefebvre of the College Republicans responded, John McCain supports, before pausing and drawing laughter from the crowd. Im not sure how to address exactly what you said in that.
McCain has been criticized for his ties to lobbyists for Indian casinos. McCain has served as the chairman of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee and helped craft legislation that has allowed dozens of tribes to open lucrative casinos.
The moderator, John Matlock, director of the Universitys Office of Academic Multicultural Initiatives, also posed a few questions of his own.
If you were advising your respective candidate, what would you say about something you dont like or that the candidate should change? asked Matlock.
For the Democrats, all three stand-ins wanted Senator Obama to fully support gay marriage. Were to the left of Senator Obama on this, public policy junior Sonya Suter said.
For the College Republicans, Lefebvre said she was dissatisifed with both candidates positions on health care coverage. I think that the cost is important along with covering as many people as possible, but I think that both candidates miss the issue, including John McCain, she said.
Kortni Malone, sophomore and member of Black Student Union, said she attended the debate to the Republican positions on the issues.
Myself, Im a Democrat, and I find that you cant just always be biased in your thinking, Malone said. Things need to be bipartisan oftentimes.