A selected panel of four students discussed gun control and environmental policy issues in a political debate co-hosted by the Guardian and the California Review.
From small policy disagreements to large political controversies, there is no shortage of issues to debate when it comes to today’s politics. Viewpoints from both progressives and conservatives remain incredibly polarized, leavings people in the middle to either decide between extremes or back moderate ideas that would help ease the polarity. This polarization often prevents compromise on problems such as gun control and climate change. Although debating on these topics and ideas can be tedious, discussion is often the best way to facilitate compromise and possibly lead to the implementation of laws with partisan support. There is room for discussion on these topics not only in Capitol Hill but also in our everyday lives by those who care about the future of America and the plant as a whole.
College students and young voters are typically the most interested in today’s politics due to their potential to enact change for their own futures. The UCSD Guardian collaborated with The California Review, a newspaper based in California, to host a debate with this in mind. The debate featured writers from both newspapers who discussed what kind of gun policy would be adequate to pass and economic and cultural solutions to climate change.
Two writers from the Guardian, Eleanor Roosevelt College senior Christopher Robertson, a democrat, and Thurgood Marshall College senior Jacob Sutherland, a democractic socialist, represented the more liberal side of the political spectrum. Austin Katz, a conversative, and Christian Carvajal, a liberaterian, represented the more conservative side of the political spectrum on behalf of The California Review’s staff. This panel was intended to have ideological balance as there were people on both sides of the issues presenting ideas from various parts of the political spectrum. The presenters were all male due to the lack of female applicants.
Their views did not speak for everyone affected by these issues, but all of the participants were aware of this lack of representation and attempted to educate themselves through extensive research on how the issues affect everyone.
The debate was structured to promote fairness. First, the moderators posed a question, and the debaters made their way down the table as each student provided a statement in response. Another round of statements followed, and then a few rounds of rebuttals. All of the speakers were timed by two moderators, Eleanor Roosevelt College senior Chloe Esser of the Guardian and Aaron Genin of The California Review, so that they could respond without dragging on too long or getting off track from their main points. After the first round, adjustments were made to this structure so the rebuttal was an open discussion, giving anyone the opportunity to speak instead of following a certain order.
After a 15-minute delay and a lot of audible whispering from the debaters, the debate began with the question: What role should firearms have in the U.S. and to what extent should the government manage the sale and usage of them? Sutherland and Robertson began by arguing for solutions to avoid gun violence as a whole through the reconstruction of the system that permits a high wealth gap in conjunction with incidents of violence against marginalized minorities in urban areas. The introduction of gun licensing — a system that requires a variety of tests and requirements in order to legally get a gun — was another concept brought up by the progressives. Katz responded by arguing that the problem is typically misperceived: the guns themselves aren’t the problem. They can be used to fight for democratic values.
“The problem with gun violence and of itself is a cultural misunderstanding and deviation away from the values that made this country great.”
On top of what Katz had to say, Carvajal reiterated the importance of an American citizen being able to protect themselves. And in the end, he elaborated, any kind of gun restriction will be moot.
“Criminals don’t follow the law,” he said. “So when you point the gun-buying policies for removing firearms from the dangerous individuals, the fact of the matter is the criminals do not follow.”
There would continue to be arguing on both sides about how to proceed with any sort of policy action. The firm stances of all the participants allowed for a compromise to be realized and it was left with little progress on the issue. As it is the case with many political conversations, compromises are hard to be realized every time that people sit down and sort out all of the ideas. The attempt to solve this complex issue should be celebrated as with more attempts, there should be more progress made on a topic that is currently in deadlock.
Before moving onto the environmental portion of the debate, Domino’s Pizza was supplied to those that were in attendance. The intermission allowed for time to digest the arguments and information while the debaters strategize for the next topic.
The debate resumed with the issue of climate change, but prior to the the opening statements being presented, the moderators informed the candidates that the debate would not be about whether climate change is occurring or not. The participants agreed to assume that climate change is real and happening, and that they would discuss the best measures to prevent it from getting worse. Robertson began the conversation by saying that he was “going to agree with a good amount of what they’re saying and just disagreeing with a lot of other stuff.” His opening statement set the tone from the entire debate since most of the ideas would be into specifics on the basis that the general idea of climate change is agreed upon. Sutherland addressed the conservatives’ desire to focus all resources on America with technological advancements and an international agreement that, unlike the Paris Agreement, holds developing nations accountable.
“I think if we set the standard at a certain level, we would be able to invest some of that money not only in our own economy, but towards clean energy in the economies of other developing countries,” Sutherland said. “We could ask other first world nations who are doing the same to push forward so that way we can prop up the other countries who may not have the expenses to be aware as well. And there, of course, would be a place that accountability for whether you can receive these funds or not, but I think that would be one solution to ensure that every country is playing their part.”
The question on how to handle the resources that are going to be invested into the issue of climate change received pushback from both sides as both Katz and Carvajal agreed that America must do something to help the environment, but that it should not invest in third world countries. Katz also bluntly stated that larger nations have to be held to a higher standard.
“My friends champion China as one of the major pollution reducers in the world. I’m sorry, but that’s putting lipstick on a pig there,” he said, referring to China. “It’s still one of the biggest polluters there. It’s still a pig.”
They both argued that America should invest into technology created in the states and that it would trickle down into the hands of other countries who don’t have the resources or funds. The tax proposed by Carvajal, and supported by everyone on the stage, would lead to companies who have high emissions to pay a high tax to incentivize a move to cleaner energy.
The debate moved to how to handle the profit and Robertson acknowledged that there has to be some kind of cost for the greater good.
“We’re just going to have to, at some point, accept that we are part of a global economy as it is,” Robertson said, “And if we want to expect any kind of change, we can’t just focus on ourselves. We have to invest a little bit of time, effort, and money into other economies.”
In the end, the consensus from the participants appeared to feature a more aggressive approach that still kept the other countries in check and cooperating with certain restrictions. The remaining portion of the debate was a Q&A section which had the audience and people online ask questions from a Google form link for the debaters to answer. Some questions like “How do we solve this plague of incels and sweeping our country?” led to more serious conversations that developed some of the ideas that weren’t fully developed in the debate.
However, one of the better questions was not serious at all. The speakers, specifically the progressives, were asked about their thoughts on Democratic primary candidate Tulsi Gabbard. Robertson answered first by airing some displeasures with her candidacy.
“She’s just a lackluster democratic militarist for boring people, but also she is just terrible on her foreign policy,” Robertson said. “I disagree with pulling troops out of Syria, which is a weird thing for me. But yeah, we don’t stan.”
Sutherland, a known Tulsi Gabbard supporter, did not take kindly to these remarks and sparked some division between the same side.
“I have been following her for a number of years. Now. I really appreciated what she did during the 2016 election and after that just following her social media accounts and the kind of the policies and bills that she has advocated for in the Senate. She’s in the house. Not the Senate. I agree with her 95 percent of the time. So yeah, I’m just on board for that. Aloha!”
The following question kept the humor rolling with a conspiracy-themed question addressing the theory that Jeffrey Epstein did not commit sucide and die from another way. Katz answered the question with the seriousness that it truly deserved.
“It was all one needs to know is there’s literally a painting of Bill Clinton in a blue dress and red heels in Jeffrey Epstein’s apartment,” he said. “I think that’s enough.”
This section did provide some of the more philosophical and thought-provoking portions of the debate as there was a question about the impact that the roles of society have on gun violence and the culture of America as a whole. The answer that received the most finger-snapping all night was given by Robertson as he pushed back on the importance of gender norms and masculinity.
“I think that we can have particular moral and social norms without them being necessarily normative and without people feeling pressure to conform to them,” Robertson said. “So it’s not necessarily that we need to abolish the idea of roles. Although, I think that would do a lot of people a lot of good. It’s more abolishing the social pressure around them in creating contacts for people that can adapt and be flexible to their conditions. We don’t necessarily need to have a strict morality about behavior because a lot of people just either aren’t to be able to meet them or just won’t and so like these these kind of traditional normative roles are kind of pigeon holes for a lot of people who just won’t be able to meet them.”
The aftermath of the debate was a rush to get the last few slices of pizza that were left and taking the closing picture. It must have been a challenge and at least a little bit uncomfortable for the debaters to have a debate with people who disagree and will come prepared for the topics. It may have been new to others, but Sutherland has done it before in his hometown in Illinois.
“I didn’t find it challenging to prepare since I come from a super conservative part of the midwest. I have never debated before, but I have interacted with people who disagree with me.”
The experience of watching this two-hour spectacle was proof that there can be civilized discourse from people that are still young in their political thoughts. From the laughter to the high tempo finger-snapping, the theme of civility took over the ballroom as everyone made their arguments without making it personal or being offensive due to one’s position. Every claim made had some sort of supporting evidence whether board or specific incidents. Nobody in the room appeared to have their preconceived notions changed, but the balanced conversation did accomplish demonstrating how hard it is for politicians to compromise and meet in the middle. Even in a time with intense polarity, the fact that the Clintons killed Epstein remains a partisan agreement.
Photo by Daisy Scott.