By Alissa Scott
Students from The James Sherman Society of Utica College went head to head in a mock presidential debate in Strebel Student Center on Wednesday, Oct. 24.
Joshua Turner, senior, played the role of President Barack Obama, the democratic candidate. Adam Brooks, sophomore, portrayed Governor Mitt Romney, the republican candidate. Associate professor of government Luke Perry, adviser of the Sherman Society, was the debate’s moderator.
The candidates delivered an opening statement and answered seven questions about domestic issues without prior knowledge of the issues or topics. Then, they answered three questions submitted by audience members and finished with a two-minute closing statement. They had two minutes to comment and one minute to respond to the opposing candidate’s answer.
Perry treated the event as an authentic presidential debate and also requested the audience of nearly 30 students and faculty members to follow with professionalism.
“I encourage you to be engaged, but be respectful and polite as these gentlemen are speaking today,” Perry said. “…I’m going to refer to each of our students by their professional titles and the roles they are fulfilling in this debate.”
For the purposed of this article, Turner and Brooks will also be referred to as Obama and Romney, respectively.
The first question, given to Romney, asked what each candidate would do as president to promote economic growth.
Romney said that the way to do so is to cut taxes.
“First thing I would do is put in place a five-point plan, which my opponent likes to characterize as something that does not do anything, but it does do something,” Romney said. “It cuts taxes for everyone, not just the rich. [It cuts taxes from] the middle class, the lower class, everyone. Cutting taxes creates jobs. We don’t want to keep taxes high when the economy is hurting the way it is.”
Obama responded, disagreeing with the validity of Romney’s five-point plan.
“He talks about a five-point plan, but he doesn’t really tell us what that is. He says he’s going to cut taxes for everyone, but we’ve seen these policies before. Look at George W. Bush’s policies. He cut taxes and it led to a huge recession. We had a surplus coming in to 2000 and he squandered it… I believe the way forward is to invest in the future.”
Romney and Obama briefly argued about whether Obama has fulfilled all of his promises he made before he took office in 2008 before continuing to the next topic: unemployment.
“The recession was much worse than anyone could have anticipated,” Obama said. “We passed a stimulus to try and control that a little bit and it did. Republicans like to talk about how, ‘oh, the stimulus didn’t work, it was a waste of money.’ Plenty of republicans wrote to our administration funds because they said it would create jobs.”
Romney’s rebuttal received hoots and hollers from the audience as he explained his ideas.
“Cutting taxes will create more jobs because all the money we take from these businesses is money they could be putting back into their businesses to create more jobs. This is common sense, but my opponent likes to discard this common sense.”
Romney and Obama then debated health care, immigration and reproductive rights. Romney said that he wants to defund Planned Parenthood and leave abortion decisions up to the states. Obama said he thinks reproductive decisions are the woman’s decision and should be left up to her.
The candidates spoke about gay marriage, gas prices, education and women’s equality in the workplace, then closed with an audience question: Why do you want to be president of the United States of America?
“I have a clear vision for the future,” Obama said. “…I am very fearful for what will happen if Republican policies of the past become active again. We will see a return to 2008 when we had the Great Recession. We will see a return to 1980 foreign policy. We’ll see a return to 1950 social policy. We’ll see a return to 1920 economic policy. These are all recycled failed ideas from the past.”
Romney countered Obama’s suggestion that Republican policies had failed.
“The president just gave us some examples of failed Republican policies,” Romney said. “[He mentioned] policies in the 1920s, the 1980s, the 1950s. Those were periods of prosperity with strong Republican leadership…The president promises you all these things. He promises you economic growth. He promises you that we’re going to move forward. But all these policies that have failed– his stimulus package failed, Obamacare failed, he failed to employ more people–and his solution to the problem is to do more of the same.”
Perry said he was impressed with how the debate turned out.
“It’s very difficult to be in front of an audience and be asked questions on any national issue,” Perry said. “Both gentlemen today really were prepared and they demonstrated their knowledge on policy specifics and I think hopefully gave students a spirited debate to get them thinking more about the issues and hopefully learned a little bit more in preparation for the election.”
The Sherman Society is a nonpartisan organization on campus that meets Wednesdays at 12:30 p.m. All students are welcome to attend.