July 18, 2019 | 78° F

U. shows political engagement at Democratic debate


In one night, Bernie Sanders said the American people were tired of hearing about Hillary Clinton's "damn emails," and Martin O'Malley said his proudest enemy is the National Rifle Association.

For the first three-hour Democratic debate that aired on CNN and was hosted by Anderson Cooper on the evening of Oct. 13, students clustered together at the Eagleton Institute of Politics on Douglass campus to watch the five Democratic candidates — Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton, Jim Webb, Martin O'Malley and Lincoln Chafee – duke it out in Las Vegas, Nevada.

The debate aired the left side of the political spectrum after it aired the right side in September with the GOP debate in Simi Valley, California, featuring Donald Trump, Carly Fiorina, Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush, Scott Walker, John Kasich, Ben Carson, Ted Cruz, Chris Christie, Rand Paul and Mike Huckabee.

Elizabeth Matto, director of the Youth Political Participation Program, said the debate watches are meant to encourage students to pay attention and get involved with politics, according to a previous article in The Daily Targum.

"(We) want students to pay attention to the content," she said. "We want students to listen critically to what the candidates are saying."

While Cooper, host of "Anderson Cooper 360," asked the majority of the questions, video submissions from citizens made up the remainder of the time.

Debate topics included higher education, banking policy, immigration, the #BlackLivesMatter movement, Russian military activity and national security concerns.

Yahoo! Politics Editor-In-Chief Garance Franke-Ruta said in a tweet that candidate views on these topics came after a significant amount of time elapsed after the Republican Primary Debate held on Sept. 16.

The candidates focused on the issues they were most comfortable with, said James Deloughery, a School of Arts and Sciences junior.

For Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.), that issue was college tuition, he said.

A college degree is the equivalent of a high school degree from 20 years ago due to its ubiquity, and as such should be paid for with taxes rather than tuition, Sanders said. He plans to pay for this by imposing a speculation tax on Wall Street.

“I want the millionaire and billionaires of Wall Street to help the middle class pay for students to go to public universities and colleges for free,” Sanders said during the debate. "The middle class bailed out big banks in the financial crisis (in 2008).”

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said she also supported making public colleges tuition free, but did not provide many details on her plan to allow this.

Matthew Moore, a School of Arts and Sciences junior, said he watched the debate to learn more about the different candidates.

Moore said he also attended the Republican debate watch and was interested to see if candidates would interact with frontrunner Clinton the same way GOP candidates interacted with Donald Trump, the current Republican frontrunner.

Other students interested in becoming more politically involved should utilize the Eagleton Institute, said Antoinette Gingerelli, a School of Arts and Sciences junior and student organizer for the Youth Political Participation Program.

Besides its resources, the Institute has a for-credit internship for Rutgers students, she said. It would also help students register to vote for the next possible election.

Students can still join the YPPP, the non-partisan group that organized the debate-watch, the “RU Voting” Campaign and “RU Ready,” a group that promotes civic responsibility.

More people should vote next November than in previous years, Sanders said.

Students at Rutgers are among the top 20 least politically active, according to a study by The Princeton Review and an article in The Daily Targum.

Gingerelli said she has not found evidence that millennials are uninterested in politics during her interactions with University members.

“(Students) show their engagement with different issues in different ways,” she said.

These differences should be taken into account when looking at political involvement, she said.

It is also her belief that many students, specifically millennials, do not believe in the political system anymore and politicians are reluctant to speak to this demographic because of that.

Research has shown that millennials were crucial in President Barack Obama's two presidential victories and they will play another role in this election, she said.

The Institute's Facebook event indicated more than 300 students were interested in watching the debate.

“Millions of people are going to come together and say our government will work for us (and) not just the billionaires,” Sanders said.

Brittany Gibson

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