College GOP Debates Itself. Sorta.

Last night, the Political Science Association held its first debate in ten months. These debates are typically a trivial affair. The Political Science Association invites several campus political organizations–definitely more than are needed–to debate a topic that one of the groups had selected. To herald in the return of political discourse on campus, Thursday night’s debate was on entitlements, a subject selected by the College Republicans.

But while the Republicans arrived ready to handle the attacks from three other parties, their preparation was for naught. The three other political organizations did not attend.

In the HUB, hanging by Alumni Hall, photographs of political activism demonstrate how Penn State students were involved in various movements throughout its history. If these activists were around today, they would be ashamed to see that the College Democrats and the Leftist Symposium failed to make an appearance to debate a topic that has been accused of burdening our economy. The College Libertarians sent a note saying that they would be unable to make it last night. While I’m surprised not one member could show, their absence is excused.

Had Jason Cohen, the debate chair for PSA, decided not to participate as an “independent,” the event would have been cancelled or the Republicans would have been left to debate themselves. The Democrats and Socialists failed to stand up for a policy that has been the bedrock of their platforms for decades.

In the fall, I became anxious when I noticed that the Political Science Association failed to hold a debate by October. I was afraid that its members had lost interest in promoting political dialogue among competing groups. When the NAACP held a debate on voter ID, I thought that this marked the end of the Political Science Association. However, in December, the previous president graduated, and took his ineptitude with him. The current leader, Michael Mahon, and debate chair, Jason Cohen, hope to hold several more debates this semester, and said they would like to see the Democrats, Leftists and Libertarians join them.

So do I.

As for the “debate,” I assume that if you have been following politics anytime since the Reagan Administration, you would know the position of the Republican Party on welfare. They stated that they supported safety nets for individuals and families who had fallen on hard times, but feared that these nets would become traps. They said the number of Americans who accept entitlements is at its highest number in history, and people in welfare generally stay there. The crux of their argument was that the government ought to incentivize citizens to regain their independence. Currently, the American public welfare system costs the government nearly one trillion dollars per year, and Americans should be wary that the country could turn into the next Italy or Greece.

Cohen did a remarkable job setting up his positions on the fly. Although he described himself as a neoliberal, he stated that he would advocate the independent’s view on entitlements. He acknowledged that the system was not perfect and in need of reform. Cohen advocated public works programs as means that the federal government could use to put Americans to work again. The government should give affordable housing, scholarships and health insurance to citizens who are unemployed and living below the poverty line. He also scoffed at the comparison of American and Greek economies, addressing that Greece’s debt problem is one hundred times greater than that of the United States.

While I appreciate that I was able to listen to discourse on entitlements, I am dismayed at how I had to hear it. There should have been four political parties in attendance, but the only one to show up was the Grand Old Party. Franklin Roosevelt and Ted Kennedy would be upset to see that the future torchbearers of their party failed to fend off conservative criticism of the welfare state. I had sent emails to the presidents of the College Democrats, College Libertarians and the Leftist Symposium to see why they did not show up, but they did not respond as of early Friday morning.

I hope to see more debates this semester, debates where one party is not faced with the option of debating itself.

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About the Author

Doug Dooling, Jr.

I am a staff writer for Onward State. I graduated as a Nittany Lion with Honors in 2013. Now, I am back in Happy Valley to earn a degree at the Penn State Law. Outside of politics and government, my interests include college football, soccer, Irish history, and astronomy.

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