It was All Hallow’s Eve—or rather, Mischief Night as we New Jerseyans call it—when the Society once again gathered to debate a terribly scary topic: Congress. Attempting to maintain a quasi-tradition through debating who should control the Congress during election periods, while additionally reviving the tradition of “whether” debates, the Philodemic debated Whether the Democrats or the Republicans Should Control the 114th Congress. For the Democrats was Mr. Matthew Harden (SFS ’17) of North Carolina and the brave soul for the Republicans was Mr. Jeff Naft (COL ’17) of New York.
Mr. Harden welcomed the Philodemic to the debate that is about “the essence of life for many Georgetown students: politics.” A few reminders for this debate in particular included to remember that there is no true affirmation or negation, and that this debate was not about President Obama and his policies; whether or not anyone agreed with them does not determine which party should control Congress, since this was a normative debate. Finally, there were four policy focuses: economics, healthcare, abortion, and immigration. On the first, Mr. Harden boldly asserted that the Republicans started the recession and that the Democrats are only doing their best to help the US through it now. In fact, they want to address structural inequality and raise the minimum wage to make people less reliant on the government and increase spending, while also addressing structural unemployment through various programs. On healthcare, the Democrats covered millions of formerly uninsured people with the Affordable Healthcare Act and Mr. Harden claimed that the Act even helped hospitals and insurance companies too. On abortion, he noted that the Democrats don’t even need a defense: it’s clear that the Republicans will do anything to limit and restrict the ability to have an abortion and that the Democrats are the only pro-choice party. Finally, on immigration, the Democratic platform can be summed up with the Dream Act, keeping rigorous regulation on who can acquire citizenship while still making it somewhat accessible to those who are willing to put in the effort—generally the people the United States should want to keep.
Mr. Jeff Naft invoked his induction night by thanking all of the people around him for this fantastic opportunity to speak. He himself again reminded us that this debate was espousing the official views of the party, not personal views, and that it should focus on the “the legislative branch, not the executive branch.” However, he then noted that most politicians vote along party lines and proceeded to talk about Obama. Mr. Naft observed that the President did not successfully take any action even when he first came into power in 2008 with a unified government. In fact, the stock market dropped 530 points on the day he was re-elected: so little is the economic faith in our President. Furthermore, it has been incredible to see how many bills the Republic House has passed (over 400!) in comparison with how many have made it out of the Senate. Now on the issues… First, in the case of immigration, Mr. Naft agreed that America is a “beacon of hope” for many undocumented immigrants but further noted that there was a bipartisan bill proposed by Senator Rubio that was voted down. Even then though, on the immigration issue voters must remember that undocumented immigrants have broken the law—they are illegal! Next, on Obamacare, Mr. Naft said that such intense intrusion on healthcare, 1/6 of our economy, just cannot help us economically. Indeed, it is awful to force everyone to buy healthcare—even the website was an absolute failure. Next, on abortion, Mr. Naft clarified for the audience that Roe v. Wade is the law of the land and that Republicans could not make a life amendment and take away anyone’s right to an abortion. He shamed all of the fear-mongers in the audience! And, to top it all off, Mr. Naft continued on to announce that the economy is a solidly Republican issue. Support for the Keystone Pipeline and funding for any government mandate are some of the economic pillars of the Republican platform. And to end it all (or at least to almost end it), Mr. Naft declared that President Clinton was a great because he was a centrist—not a Democrat of today—and that minimum wage jobs are clearly not meant for sustenance. Furthermore, in an economist’s view, raising the minimum wage only decreases the demand for jobs and forces layoffs or raises prices. He advocated for tax cuts. Then, in a pitch to 3rd party voters and Independents, Mr. Naft paraphrased former NY Mayor Ed Koch, who stated that if you are with a politician on 8/12 of the issues, vote for them—naturally, it would be insanity to agree with 100% of what he said. Lastly, he implored the floor to be truly eloquent in the defense of liberty tonight.
Mr. Perez-Reyes began the floor portion of the debate by taking a few deep inhales and then truly once more asking the floor not to make this a pro or anti-Obama debate. Then he asked a series of questions getting down to the point of what the debate is about and why the Democrats should control Congress: what is it like for single-moms in minimum wage jobs? Or being deported from the country of your birth? VP Wilson then jumped in unusually soon, positing that there’s only one reason to vote for the Democrats and many to vote for the Republicans: inspiring reform, receiving an increased voice for the moderates from deadlock and making life easier for Democrats in 2016. Yet Ms. Hernick suggested that the Republicans need to lose the election because they’re having an identity crisis and need a severe loss to redefine themselves. On the other hand, Mr. Rosenberger called the Democrats “a band of misfits” and said that until the Republicans control Congress, we won’t be able to identify who is responsible for our dysfunctional government.
Mr. Whelan then took the opportunity to respond to VP Wilson: since when does a divided Congress inspire reform? His focus issue was infrastructure—what creates jobs—and said that Obama had proposed a bill for it and was shut down by the Republicans. Yet Mr. Musgrave chided Mr. Whelan, reminding him of the greatest infrastructure project ever undertaken (a Republican’s), and noting that the Democrats of today are much too changed—they are no longer the great party they were under JFK. Mr. Willis then in turn corrected Mr. Musgrave—neither are the Republicans of today the Republicans of Eisenhower (in fact, the Democrats align more with him!)—and declared that cutting taxes does not work, because “companies don’t hire people they don’t need.”
The non-member speaking time then began with Mr. Philip Ma (SFS ’17) pointing out that an immigration bill to recruit students and professionals actually hurts developing countries by robbing them of their “agents of change.” Ms. Xinlan Hu (COL ’18), an immigrant herself, completely disagreed though, testifying that it is too difficult to come here and then work—America must do more to keep their students! Then Mr. Connor Sakati (SFS ’18) changed the issue, focusing on our $150,000 debt per taxpayer and how the Republicans, by cutting down spending long-term, are the best party for the US. However, Ms. Mattie Haag (COL ’18) begged us to vote for a united government—one that can actually take action on issues. On the flip side, Mr. Jawad Pullin (COL ’18), despite being a registered Democrat, said that the Republicans deserved Congress because they were more effective at getting out the vote. Lastly, Mr. Daniel Ernst (COL ’18) posited that Congress is meant to represent the people, not just pass bills, and so we must vote for the party that will “ensure [our] interests are brought to the floor.”
Mr. Kleinman segued from one abstention speech to another by proposing that there’s no reason to have to choose one party—it’s like forcing someone to choose between vanilla and chocolate when you could just as easily have swirl. Mr. Fletcher finally argued for a party though, contending that the Democrats are the party that’s most willing to compromise and that although they may not always adhere to free market tenets, we must accept some inefficiency for more equality. Mr. Young nearly had “no speech to give”, but fortunately recovered his Republican sensibilities in time to specify that the resolution gives the Congress in its entirety to one party—anyone who wants a divided government must abstain. Sgt. Edgar then refocused the debate with the idea that the Democratic Party of today is too moderate and needs a push to revert back to the left while Mr. Mouch subsequently asked if we could truly affirm either party if the Society is meant to defend liberty—neither side protested the Patriot Act or the NSA’s intrusions on our privacy. Both parties are too concerned about winning.
Ms. Coccia again followed the tradition of asking the floor to consider the issues. She considered that the Democrats have been the voice of the oppressed and that we can’t “ignore the blatant reality” of people living on the minimum wage. Mr. Schafer, instead of addressing Ms. Coccia, jumped back a few speeches to Sgt. Edgar, saying that the Democrats will only fix their party if the Republicans “make the Democrats angry.” Ms. Grace was already angry though, and asserted that we have the duty to affirm policies that we believe in, not be strategic—naturally the pro-choice issue was on top of her list. Mr. Mazzara gave us a rundown of the debate, describing it as a “clustercuss of a debate” in which we debated Congress—a group with “a lower approval rating than Nickelback.” Mr. Mazzara also noted that we have been debating about two awful groups, neither of which are capable of making chance and we are asking them to represent the people—the ones that “don’t know what they want.” Mr. Wang closed the floor on a more serious note, however, entreating us to stop talking the politics and start talking about the issues—and only the Democrats can be agents of change for the underrepresented.
Mr. Naft then began his extremely short keynote (timed to 5 minutes, ladies and gentlemen). He wished that there were more actual pro-Republican speeches and fewer abstentions or pro-Democrat speeches in disguise. He defended his party on the basis that the religious right is not defining of the Republicans because most of them are moderates. Mr. Naft hypothesized that to have a unified Congress means that if the Democrats win the presidency there will have to be compromise. Finally, he brought up the 14th Amendment and proclaimed that a fetus is a person and, as such, needs to be protected.
Mr. Harden followed Mr. Naft’s very…loud speech with a few quieter words. He called the Republican’s version of compromise the Budget Crisis of 2013 and declared that the Republican Party is undergoing a Civil War, noting that “establishment Republicans have been hijacked.” Finally, Mr. Harden suggested that a divided Congress is like a game of Chicken, where “both sides will shoot.” To vote for the Republicans is to vote for extremists he explained—the Democrats are the only coherent and cohesive party.
And, after quite a rousing debate, the floor divided in favor of the Democrats, with a vote of 23-8-28.