Members of the University of Georgia Chapters of Academic Republicans and Young Democrats spoke at the UGA Chapel for their big debate Wednesday night. The two groups discussed various political issues, as polls close in less than two weeks.
This year’s debate was organized by Georgia Political Review, with Matthew Li, GPR’s chief operating officer, and Daniel Klein, editor-in-chief, as moderators.
University Republicans at UGA were represented by Gideon Fernald, Noah Ring and Julianna Jurkiewicz. The UGA Young Democrats were represented by Lola Murti, Dylan Woolsey and Zach Livsey.
Before the debate, GPR editor Caroline Schneider explained the rules of the event.
Schneider asked that there be no name-calling, inappropriate language, interruptions or aggressive behavior from debaters. Audiences were asked to avoid applause and cheering except after debater introductions and not before closing statements or intermission.
The debate covered seven topics, including foreign policy, the economy, education, reproductive justice, public health and healthcare, the environment and social policy.
Both sides had two minutes for opening and closing statements and time to respond to general and specific questions on each topic. The opposing party has one minute to rebut.
In the College Republicans opening statement, Noah Ring criticized President Biden, spoke of high inflation and bureaucrats in Washington.
“The divide between our two sides is very clear: who’s smarter, who can make a better choice about how you live your life,” Ring said. “As Republicans who believe in limited government, in personal responsibility, believe that when you reduce the role of the federal government in your life, your life will improve.”
Young Democrats then began their discussion by accusing Republicans of passing laws that hurt racial minorities, the working class and women.
“We stand for equality. We stand for racial justice, educational opportunity, the right to health care and compassion,” Murti said. “We support politicians who agree with these values and show it through concrete policies.”
College Republicans and Young Democrats both said they supported Taiwan’s defense, access to contraceptives and the severity of the opioid epidemic, but disagreed on all elements of the issues. . There has also been much debate about inflation and access to abortion.
Academic Republicans supported a pro-life stance and Julianna Jurkiewicz said the biggest victory was the Dobbs v. Jackson decision (debate 0:21) returning power to the states, as opposed to the federal government. Jurkiewicz also said the organization supports a six-week abortion ban with exceptions.
Young Democrat Lola Murti disagreed and said 61% of Americans think abortion should be legal because most of the country is pro-choice. Murti also said 25% of women have to travel more than 250 miles to get to the nearest abortion clinic.
“That doesn’t mean equal access for women across the country,” Murti said. “We have a right to privacy, which means that our transportation and our means of getting to an abortion clinic should not be tracked and the lack of bodily autonomy in that choice is not something that we support at all.”
On the subject of inflation, academic Republicans have disapproved of Biden’s efforts, calling the Inflation Reduction Act “the Expanding Inflation Act.” They focused on raising taxes as Americans live paycheck to paycheck.
Young Democrats have criticized big business. Dylan Woolsey quoted the Economic Policy Institute and said that since COVID-19, 54% of price increases go to corporate profits.
When asked how to convince voters ahead of the upcoming Nov. 8 election that Georgia’s economy would be better off under Stacey Abrams, the Young Democrats said that if Stacey Abrams is elected, the $6.5 billion budget surplus dollars would be used to increase economic development.
“What Brian Kemp and the Republics do is just leave things as they are,” Woolsey said. “I don’t know if you know that with inflation, if you just keep your money and don’t spend it, it’s actually going to decrease its value.”
The debate ended with closing remarks, with each side encouraging the audience to vote.
“Debate is the catalyst that drives change in our beloved nation and the foundation upon which political progress is built,” said College Republican Gideon Fernald. “Participating in this process is a privilege that we have shared with all of you here tonight.”