SG general election debate provides wide variety of viewpoints

Paul Cobler

After Monday night’s presidential debate, UT held its own general election debate, and participants found a lot to agree on.

The debate, hosted by Student Government, brought student and state representatives from University Democrats, the Texas Democratic Party, College Republicans, the Texas Republican Party, Youth for Johnson/Weld, the Texas Libertarian Party, the Texas Green Party and International Socialist Organization together to debate state and national issues observed this presidential election year.

Higher education funding, Texas voter ID laws, police relations, the Syrian refugee crisis and climate change were all discussed, with most representatives agreeing on issues like climate change and components of a solution for improving police relations and the Syrian refugee crisis.

“It’s been amazing here how much stuff we have agreed on,” Texas Libertarian Party chair John Wilford said. “Hold your politicians to the fire because that’s when change is really going to happen. We all agree, it’s the people in Austin and in Washington that are at fault.”

Rather than focusing on the general election candidates, the debate focused on party policies and issues affecting students.

University Democrats president Ashley Alcantara, Plan II and government senior, said the biggest goal of the night was to advocate for voter participation in the election.

“I think the bigger goal of our party right now is to make sure students are registered to vote and actually voting,” Alcantara said. “We’re less concerned that students are supporting the Democratic Party because that’s historically the case on campus. We’re more concerned, that because of Texas voting laws, it’s going to be more difficult to vote, and they’re not going to notice they’re missing an opportunity to vote.”

All the representatives agreed racial income disparity needs to be decreased in order to improve race relations in America, but not everyone agreed on how to regulate police.

“We need to disarm, disband and disfund the police,” said International Socialist Organization representative Elizabeth Dean, a linguistics and Russian studies senior.

Robin Armstrong, Republican Party National Committee member, said there needs to be greater transparency in the investigation of a police shooting, while Clifton Walker, Texas Democratic Party candidate recruitment and campaign services director, advocated for a greater use of police body cameras. 

Wilford said the police department needs to be given a role similar to that of the fire department.

“If I need you, I’ll call you,” Wilford said.

All representatives, except for those from the Texas Republican Party and College Republicans, agreed on the issue of the transgender bathroom debate.

“It’s little boys saying that and using it as an excuse to get into the girls’ restroom,” Armstrong said when discussing why the laws are needed.

Travis County Green Party co-chair Ashley Gordon responded, saying the issue was never a problem before the LGBT movement.

“This has nothing to do with little boys trying to sneak in and see what’s going on in the little girls’ restroom, they’ve been doing that already,” Gordon said. “This is all about legal discrimination of transgender women.”

Santiago Rosales, Student Government speaker of the assembly, said the debate highlighted the importance of this year’s election while also engaging students.

“The youth vote is often characterized as an unimportant vote,” Rosales said. “The influence of the youth vote is continuously growing, and as a result of that, it’s important that students be able to voice concerns they have with the political process, and that officials of the political parties in Texas have an opportunity to talk to students about that.”