Story by Mitchell Brown , for The Muleskinner—
How often are young Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians, along with independent and undecided voters, gathered in the same room and involved in the same activity?
That’s what happened Oct. 16 on campus during the presidential debate watch party put on by the Student Government Association of UCM in conjunction with the American Democracy Project.
About 120 people attended the event, which was in the Elliott Union. It was not a completely pedestrian event; many of the students were vocally responsive to comments made by Mitt Romney and Barack Obama.
The participatory nature of the event also included giving away raffle prizes, and students engaged in conversation on political issues before and after the debate.
Joe Volz, vice president of the recently revived UCM College Libertarians, said much of the conversation between students at the first debate watch party centered on whether Obama deserves to be re-elected, along with criticism of Romney for not giving more details concerning the specifics of proposed cuts. Volz said that his swing towards Libertarianism was influenced by Ron Paul.
“I almost joined the UCM College Republicans,” Volz said. He also said collaborative meetings between the UCM Libertarians and the UCM Republicans are possibly on the horizon.
“I think it was mostly Democrats who were here tonight,” said freshman Cody Baughman, member of the UCM College Republicans.
Baughman said he reached his conclusion based on the audience reaction. He said he felt more students cheered for Obama.
A common audience reaction was one of occasional laughter, which came in response to quips made by both candidates. Obama’s repeated response to Romney of “that’s just not true” was met with the most laughter.
The structure of this most recent debate differed from the presidential debate earlier this month, in that it was done in the town hall format.
Questions were taken from audience members at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y.
The first question was from a 20-year-old first time voter and college student identified as Jeremy Epstein.
“All I hear from my professors, neighbors and others is that when I graduate I will have little chance to get employment,” he said. “What can you do to reassure me and, more importantly, my parents that I will be able to sufficiently support myself after I graduate?”
Romney replied with, “I’m going to make sure you get a job,” and that he would bring back jobs to the U.S. But Romney didn’t go into detail about specific policy concerning job creation in his answer to Epstein.
Obama’s answer to Epstein’s question was a proposal to create manufacturing jobs, to continue the availability of student loans, and an investment in alternative energy sources.
Although the debate was billed as being on both domestic and foreign policy, the bulk of the debate centered on domestic policy, ranging from economic issues, immigration and gun control.
Sarah Ramlal, president of SGA, said she thinks domestic issues rank higher in importance in the minds’ of students because of the economy.
“It deals with student loans,” Ramlal said. “It deals with the budget.” She said she has talked to a lot of people who’ve made the claim that the debates do not greatly affect the outcome of the presidential election. In response to such a claim she said, “I beg to differ.”
Ramlal said that students talking about the events of the debate or quoting what the candidates said is proof of an influence and impact.
The next UCM Debate Watch Party is set to take place during the last presidential debate of this election season on Oct. 22.