On Oct. 19, 2017, members of the University of Georgia’s Young Democrats and College Republicans entered the South Psychology-Journalism Auditorium dressed in their respective blue and red to face off for the annual Great Debate. The Georgia Political Review and the Georgia Debate Union worked together to coordinate this event to give students the opportunity to come and hear their peers defend their political opinions. When asked what was to be expected from the debate, Ethan Pender, the public relations director for the College Republicans said, “I think it’s going to be a healthy experience for people on both sides of the aisle to come together and just exchange views like adults and say what we believe is best for our country because that’s what it’s about.”
With an expected turnout of around 90 people, the operations director for the Georgia Political Review explained why she thought the event was so popular each year. Simran Modi, a junior psychology student from Lawrenceville, Georgia, said, “What makes this event popular is that we try to focus on recent news issues and events that are really contentious on both sides…. students on both sides are really passionate about what they’re arguing about and they’re really excited to be here.”
Each side had a team of three that alternated answering questions revolving around controversial topics such as immigration, local Athens issues, climate change and foreign policy. The teams had one minute to answer the posed question and two minutes to prepare a rebuttal, then the other team had one minute to share their response. It was obvious that both sides were well-prepared and passionate about these issues. They answered the questions quickly, never needing the full time allotted to compose their thoughts. When asked what went into their preparations for the debate, Max Harris, who represented the Young Democrats described the process, “We prepared for the debate a variety of ways. We had a couple practices leading up to this event, did a lot of research just to make sure that we covered our background and hopefully we’ll know our stuff when we get up there.”
Team members and the audience remained civil throughout the debate, with the audience bursting with applause in support of some of the arguments. The only conflict arose with a question posed for the College Republicans. The moderator asked, “Recent polling conducted by Yale researchers finds that over 70% of Americans believe that global warming is caused by humans and two-thirds believe that that the federal government should establish restrictions on CO2 emissions. However, leaders within the GOP continue to refuse to acknowledge this problem and support dismantling the Clean Power Plan. Why does your party refuse to take action on the issue of climate change?” Pender began his answer by stating, “Well first of all, I don’t really think that question was framed very well. It insinuates that Republicans are a party that does not care about the environment, and we do… At this panel right now we’re part of the 70 percent that say… our climate is changing, humans have something to do with that and we need to do something about it. So first of all I would like to say that it’s an unfair categorization of all Republicans.”
After the debate came to a close, the competing teams shook hands and congratulated one another. The University of Georgia’s Young Democrats and College Republicans stood side-by-side for groups photos and showed their peers that there is only so much division between the two sides of the aisle.