The Student Newspaper of DePaul University

The DePaulia

The Student Newspaper of DePaul University

The DePaulia

The Student Newspaper of DePaul University

The DePaulia

DePaul Democrats and Republicans host debate

After a five-year hiatus, the DePaul Democratic and Republican Student Clubs reunited Thursday, Feb. 20 for the first debate since 2009, hoping to reignite the spirit of political debate on campus.

Few of the 87 people there attended DePaul the last time the two clubs came together for a debate.

Gabie Hart, member of the Executive Board for DePaul Democrats, the group that arranged the event, said the debate was a success considering it’s their first since 2009.

“We are all excited to bring the debate back to DePaul,” Hart said. “They’re debating on the issues of gun control, the economy and Obamacare.”

DePaul senior Eddie Lawando said he came to hear what proclaimed political pundits had to say about the issues since he is unsure.

“I don’t know what I am politically, I guess you could say more Republican,” Lawando said. “I’m really excited to see what they said about gun control.”

Considering Chicago’s recent rampant gun violence, cheers from the audience erupted on both sides of the gun control debate, even though the moderator had to remind the audience not to cheer.

The Republican panel said President Obama refuses to execute already implemented gun control laws and the solution doesn’t lie in taking guns off the street. The solution lies in keeping already convicted criminals off the street.

“There will be a permanent black market for guns if you take guns away,” the Republicans said. “Guns prevent crime, criminals break the laws. There is nothing more frightening to a criminal or a rapist than an armed victim.”

The Democrats fired back, saying we need a weapons ban like we had in the ’90s.

Michael Rance delivered another crowd rouser when he closed the Democrats gun control argument.

“We need stricter gun laws,” Rance said. “Purchasing a gun is ridiculously easy. I bought a gun at a gun show and it was a joke. And besides, you don’t need an AK-47 or and AR-15 Assault rifle with 20-round clips to hunt. Those weapons need to be banned.”

Sofia Fernandez, a sophomore majoring in finance and vice-chair of the Republican club, said the debate was as good-natured as she thought possible.

“It went really well and we were all very happy about it,” Fernandez said. “The clubs come from different sides but we really got along.”

While political rhetoric can turn bar room banter bloody, the Democrat and Republican clubs put aside vitriol for a crash course in etiquette and aplomb.

Fernandez said the Republican club’s plan was to not play dirty.

“We wanted to remain collected and substantive in our arguments,” Fernandez said. “It’s respectful and better for the audience especially since we know [Republicans] are unpopular at DePaul.”

Coming from Texas, Fernandez said she was surprised at how liberal a big city like Chicago could be, especially the DePaul campus.

“It’s hard coming in as a Republican,” Fernandez said. “We know we’re the underdogs so we want to provide the audience with a clear-cut understanding of the issues.”

Fernandez said that winning the debate was secondary. The Republicans’ primary goal was to appeal to an audience they anticipated to be heavily democratic and provide them with facts so they could make educated decisions.

“We weren’t going to fight a battle we knew we would lose and it’s pointless to shove opinions on the audience,” Fernandez said. “This is going to be a lost battle but we’re focused on winning the war. You have to win over the audience before you can win the war.”

Kevin Brooks, a junior political science major and the membership director for the Democratic Students Club, said the respect between both parties during the debate was outstanding.

“We like them [the Republicans] and we respect them,” Brooks said. “Both clubs wanted the debate to be about the ideas, not just us attacking each other.” Brooks said the Democrats wrote the questions for the Republicans and vice versa.

“I think we all did well, both sides,” Brooks said. “I hope we do it again next quarter. If that doesn’t work out then at least I hope we do it annually.”

Michael Rance said it was a victory for both sides, even though the Democrats won a whopping 73-13 vote (including votes cast from the panels) from the audience.

“Aside from the rhetoric and differentiating stances on policy, our ultimate goal was to get DePaul students more involved in politics,” Rance said. “I’m proud of both sides for getting this event together.”

Though the Republicans lost handily, Alvar Calderon, a senior and president of the DePaul Republicans, who climbed up on stage on crutches because he slipped on ice and broke his ankle, said he was proud of his team.

“I enjoyed the bravery of all of them being up on stage,” Calderon said. “It was most important that we got the facts to the audience. They are here to learn from us.”

When asked about the heavily tilted Democratic victory, Calderon said he thought the Democrats’ strategy was better.

“I was proud of my team,” Calderon said. “I take responsibility for this loss.”

Ben Epstein, a professor of political science at DePaul, moderated the debate by weaving both sides through three controversial topics with two questions each.

Both sides were given alternating opportunities to open arguments and provide rebuttals on economic policy, Obamacare and gun policy.

“First of all, I thought it was a fantastic show from both clubs,” Epstein said. “I was incredibly impressed with how respectful the debate was.”

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