Six political clubs come together to debate national and global issues

(Andy Milone/GNN)

Toxic masculinity, little rocket man, and natural disasters represented just some of the jargon splitting the mouths of the six on-campus political groups — Gettysburg College Republicans, Gettysburg College Democrats, Gettysburg College Independents, Young Americans for Freedom (YAF), Young Americans for Liberty (YAL), and Gettysburg Anti-Capitalist Collective (ACC) — this past Wednesday, Nov. 15.

The 90-minute Campus-Wide Policy Debate, hosted by the Eisenhower Institute, featured two representatives from each of the groups and the topics ranged from mass shootings to the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

Mass shootings snagged the first spot on the evening’s agenda.

While most of the groups were convinced that mass shootings were a result of weak background checks, a mental health epidemic, and/or the black market, the Gettysburg College Anti-Capitalist Collective had a different response. The response followed an incident where Professor Douglas Page, the moderator of the debate — almost forgot about the existence of the group at the far left end of the table.

Page_Douglas web
Professor Douglas Page – Photo courtesy of the Office of C&M at Gettysburg College

The group proposed that demilitarizing the police would be step one to solving this problem, but they then proposed step two.

“We talk a lot about mental healthcare, but this is not the full story considering that racial minorities, women, and other gender minorities have much higher rates of mental illness, yet most mass shooters are white men, so we need to ask the question regarding what is alienating this population to the point of extreme violence,” said Lars Healy of Anti-Capitalist Collective. “And it comes from toxic masculinity and the way that we conflate toughness and violence and emotional stoicism with manhood and we afford men no healthy, affordable outlets.”

Other groups such as YAF thought that this idea of toxic masculinity was “absurd and overblown.” And the College Republicans countered the demilitarization of police argument with the fact that a police officer killed the Vegas shooter and the death toll would have risen if not for this action by a police firearm.

North Korea was another discussed topic, and the panel represented a split whether to take ‘little rocket man’ —Kim Jung Un — and his threat seriously. There was a commonly agreed upon consensus with China’s role.

“Diplomatic relations are still on the table, but we should encourage China to limit its trade with North Korea and maybe then ‘little rocket man’ will realize that he is forcing his citizens into starvation,” said Abby Hauer of College Republicans.

Kim Jong Un known as ‘little rocket man’ – Photo courtesy of ABC News

North Korea was viewed by a couple of the groups as an empty threat.

“Kim Jong Un plays a game of posturing where he wants something, he wines, he gets it and he shuts up. This is the game that the North Koreans have played since their founding,” said Nick Murphy of College Democrats.

YAL took the reins when they started discussing natural disasters and how disaster relief needs the support of the federal government, private charities and the states. This point sparked College Republicans and College Independents to believe that the federal government is slacking in many instances, and that there is weak infrastructure, specifically relating to dams and levees.

Private organizations like the Red Cross play a huge role in addressing disaster — but there needs to a vigilance from the federal government in order to make sure that private charities are completely honest with where the money is going, Emma Golden of College Democrats said.

The Anti-Capitalist Collective built off this idea by making an accusation.

“Our politics and money are just completely married at this point. I mean you can look straight at the president,” said Lars Healy of Anti-Capitalist Collective, and YAF followed up with a statement of their own.

“With the Fed being $20 trillion in debt, I think it’s safe to say that they are not interested in making money,” said Nick Arbaugh of YAF. “At the same time to go along with that, the federal government isn’t perfect; after Hurricane Katrina, there were reports that up to a billion dollars was defrauded, so I don’t necessarily disagree with what Emma was saying that we need a federal role and a charitable role, but we need to better communicate with charities, NGOs, and faith-based organizations to help these people out.”

And then, there was talk on the role of Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

FEMA has lacked funding, Alex Engelsman of College Independents said.

Nick Arbaugh agreed that FEMA is “complete immorality on behalf of congressman, and this really needs to end.”

YAL did pursue the statement of jointure when stating that it was positive to see all the groups agreeing on one point.

“While we may disagree on the solutions to climate change, I think the first step is to at least admit that it’s real,” said Chris Condon of YAL. “I think the fact that all these political clubs, with such diverse views, all believe in climate change, and they think we actually need to enact a solution is proof that our government should reflect this as well if we can all agreed upon this.”

Another topic of discussion was Iran’s nuclear program, which came up with the discussion of North Korea. Iran’s nuclear program was supposed to be limited as a result of the deal and College Republicans doesn’t believe this to be the case.

There was this discrepancy as to whether this deal is working. But there was compliance that the deal needs to be upheld and made stronger except YAF believed that the US should walk away entirely from the deal with one reason being the state of Iran’s mindset.

“Iran is the number one sponsor of anti-American terrorism in this world, so it’s not a government in which we should be actively cooperating with,” said Alexa Secrest of YAF.

YAL mentioned the US dollar as a potential diplomacy tactic and a mode for a reciprocal bond; College Independents jumped onboard.

“How do you think international diplomacy works? We can’t just go to [Iran] and say we want a tougher deal. They’re going to tell us to go home. This is another sovereign state and just pushing harder and harder isn’t going to do anything,” said Engelsman. “I actually agree with YAL on this and I think that we need to use our economy to beat them, and if I think we broke them into the global economy, it lessens their capacity to go to war.”

And finally, there was discussion of the all-famous topic, the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

College Democrats focused on the ACA as this legislation needing change but not being abolished. Some of the proposed changes were reinsurance programs to lower premiums, open government programs to keep firms in local markets, and the current administration needs to adhere to the subsidies and costs of the ACA. Anti-Capitalist Collective also believed that repeal is not an option.

“Repealing [the ACA] would be nothing short of catastrophic,” said Ian Garbolski of Anti-Capitalist Collective.

One of the big points needing to be addressed was efficiency, and the Anti-Capitalist Collective believed that you can have market functions in a system of universal healthcare, like the UK having hospitals competing against each other for government funding.

YAF whipped out the statistics when talking negative about the ACA and wanting to repeal Obamacare.

“Obamacare is terrible. Over the last five years, 41% of counties in 2018 will have one Obamacare insurer. At least 49% of counties will have no insurers. The price of Obamacare silver plans will increase by 34%. Employer-based plans saw deductibles grow by 63% and premiums increased 19% despite medium wage increases only going up by 11%,” said Arbaugh. “One million people lost their health insurance plans because they didn’t include all ten requirements. The healthcare systems in New York are failing, and the leading pharmaceutical union in France said “that if [the US] doesn’t have a major private overhaul in the next six years, then the system is going to collapse.’ And the wait times are absolutely ridiculous.”

YAL stated its stance on a full repeal and no replacement bill. Government regulations are at the root of the problem with insurers not allowed to operate in more than one state and also international companies being banned from selling pharmaceuticals within the borders of the US.

“We need to allow the free market to do its work. The free market maximizes the quality of a good and minimizes the cost. We need to get the government completely out of the healthcare industry,” said Liam Kerr of YAL.

College Republicans replicated YAL’s stance on a full repeal but diverged from YAL, asking for a full replacement in order to address efficiency. College Independents stated that it was too late to appeal Obamacare.

Fake news and political polarization were discussed briefly at this debate and there were also two audience submitted questions discussed at the debate:

  • What do you see as pros and cons in President Trump’s tax plan? How would you amend it?
  • In light of Australia’s recent legalization of same-sex marriage, how should the US government respond to unresolved issues regarding same-sex marriage such as parental leave and being refused service at private businesses?


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