Reagan Debate

Weekly Debates

The Society gathered to debate “Resolved: The Presidency of Ronald Reagan did more harm than good.”

On the affirmation, Mr. William Downes (COL ’11) and, making his induction, Mr. Peter Prindiville (SFS ’14) pointed to misguided foreign policy from the Nicaraguan contras to American withdrawal from Lebanon. They also attributed many of his so-called successes in the Cold War to the internal failures of communism rather than policymaking; and overcoming stagflation to Fed Chairman Paul Volcker.

On the negation, Mr. Jacob Arber (SFS ’14) and, making his induction, Mr. Gavin Bade (SFS ’14) emphasized President Reagan’s ability to build relationships on the international stage, with Gorbachev to bring down communism and institute arms control regimes and in forming a multinational approach to the PLO in Lebanon. On the economic front, they argued his fiscal policies instilled confidence in the business community, encouraged growth, and lowered taxes for the American public.

Vice President Dulik delivered the first floor speech of the night in which he fervently criticized using a utilitarian framework. Reagan’s reckless distribution of arms and finance cost innocent lives—something which cannot be evaluated against objective American interests. To which Mr. Askonas responded that the Cold War was about more than the individual—it was about human freedom and the value of life. This theme of protecting life persisted throughout the debate. Mr. Rinaldi argued that he failed to stand up for the voiceless in America; while Mr. Paul Napolitono (SFS ’14) countered that he did just that for the oppressed and voiceless in the Soviet Union.

Concurrently, there was disagreement on how much President Reagan contributed to the events of the 1980s. Mr. Cantirino argued that Reagan’s ability to understand people reenergized and re-moralized U.S. society. Similarly, Mr. Robert Wood (Graduate Student ’12) outlined how Reagan’s support of insurgencies helped bring democracy to Latin America and defeat communism. On the side of the argument, Ms. Green insisted communism imploded from within after decades of decline and that Reagan’s only economic legacies were budget deficits.

In closing remarks, Mr. Bade and Mr. Arber accredited President Reagan with the ideological triumph of democracy in Latin America and Eastern Europe and with rebuilding confidence in the U.S. economy. The affirmation was less generous. What little economic progress was made during his presidency, Mr. Prindiville argued, was not Reagan’s doing. On the international stage, Mr. Downes put it simply: words cannot tear down walls.

In an extraordinarily close vote of 23-21-3, the Society failed to reach the required majority to affirm and, with abstentions, negated.

The following outstanding speakers were awarded Merrick points:

  • Mr. Downes: 5
  • Ms. Green: 4
  • Mr. Walker: 3
  • Mr. Henderson: 2
  • Mr. Desnick: 1

This brings the total Merrick points to:

  • Mr. Cantirino: 15
  • Mr. Walker: 10
  • Mr. Downes: 10
  • Mr. Henderson: 7
  • Ms. Green: 7
  • Chancellor Wager: 4
  • Ms. Wood: 4
  • Mr. Desnick: 3
  • Mr. Sassoon: 1
  • Mr. Spagnuolo: 1

Please join us next week to debate “Resolved: Facebook has changed our concept of identity.”


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