AU College Democrats hosts Sanders vs. Clinton debate
Representatives of AU Students for Bernie and AU Students for Hillary ironed out their candidate's stances on the issues and educated the audience as a result
The AU College Democrats, AU Students for Bernie and AU Students for Hillary hosted a town hall debate on Feb. 23 in an effort to identify the most important issues for students in the 2016 election. The debate also addressed how the similarities and difference between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders’ platforms.
AUSFB was represented by Zoey Salsbury, a sophomore in the School of Communication, and AUSFH was represented by Sam Phelan, a freshman also in SOC. The debate was moderated by Kate Magill, Managing Editor of the Eagle and a junior in SOC and SPA.
Magill asked both debaters 10 questions, and for each one, the debaters had two minutes to respond. Then, each debater would have the opportunity to deliver a two minute rebuttal. Later on, the audience had the opportunity to ask questions, and this structure was still used.
During the debate, Magill asked questions on topics such as healthcare reform, which showcased the differences between Sanders’ proposal for universal healthcare and Clinton’s enlargement of the Affordable Care Act, Sander’s free public and community college stance versus Clinton’s debt free college initiative and Sander’s pacifist foreign policy ideas versus Clinton’s experience as Secretary of State.
Phelan spoke first, talking about Clinton’s history as Secretary of State and arguing that Clinton held “unprecedented foreign policy experience” compared to other candidates.
“She traveled almost a million miles and 112 countries as Secretary of State, more than any other secretary, proving her devotion to her country,” Phelan said.
Salsbury followed, emphasizing that she sees Sanders as a strong representative of the American people because he understands the concerns of the nation and built his platform around solving specific social and economic issues.
“Americans understand that our country faces an unprecedented number of crises, they understand that virtually all new income and wealth have gone to the top percent, they understand the middle class is working for lower wages, they understand we have more people in jail than any other country on earth, they understand a high school diploma is now equivalent of a college diploma, they understand that we have a corrupt campaign finance system and they understand that we need to find ways to move toward sustainable energy. Bernie Sanders understand these crises as well,” Salsbury said.
The debate highlighted controversial and divisive issues between the two candidates, such as Sanders’s middle-ground views on gun rights. Sanders’ political record indicates that he voted against the Brady Bill, and his view contradicts Clinton’s stance, which calls for stricter control.
“That, to me, is crucial; gun rights, he has a terrible, terrible record on it, and if we’re going to talk about it... let’s talk about the fact some of his earliest elections were helped by the NRA,” Phelan said.
Another topic was Clinton’s changing position on gay rights from her previous stance that marriage is between a man and a woman to now supporting the LGBTQ+ community. Sanders, in contrast, has shown long-term support of the group.
“He has been there for the LGBT community forever,” Salsbury said. “He has never said marriage is between a man and a woman, like Clinton did and, as someone who is part of the LGBT community, I think he absolutely defends and stands for the community far more than potential president Clinton ever has.”
However, the debate also highlighted some of the issues that Sanders and Clinton agree on, such as the need to take steps to stop climate change.
The debate was held to educate students on the candidates on the issues they stand for, according to Salsbury.
“Especially on AU’s campus, it’s very popular the idea that everyone’s decided for who they’re voting for five years before the election and so I think it’s important that undecided voters and people who aren’t totally sure have a space to come and learn more about the candidates.” Salsbury said.
Phelan agreed, and said that since AU has so many supporters for Sanders, it’s crucial to shed light on what Clinton stands for.
“There’s obviously a lot of Bernie people at the school but I think it’s super important to show people that there’s another progressive out there that’s wanting to fight for them and so whoever the Democratic nominee is, people know what they both stand for and how to get involved.” Phelan said.
The moderator of the debate, Kate Magill, is the Managing Editor of News at The Eagle.