College Democrats and College Republicans debate immigration, free speech on campus, and the Israel-Hamas War

and | Staff Writers

Washington University College Republicans and College Democrats held the Campus Crossfire debate in Tisch Commons on Nov. 14. (Alan Knight|Student Life)

WashU College Republicans (WUCR) and WashU College Democrats co-hosted their Campus Crossfire Debate in Tisch Commons, which led to discussion over immigration, free speech, the economy, and the ongoing war between Israel and Hamas, Tuesday, Nov. 14. 

Both sides had the opportunity to present an opening and closing argument. Aside from those speeches, the debate consisted of questions from both the moderators and the audience. The audience’s questions sparked discussion about the ongoing war between Israel and Hamas and whether the U.S. should continue to financially support Israel. 

Abby McGowan and Graham Taggart were the representatives for WUCR, while Gus Gerlach and Naren Chittem represented the College Democrats.

Representing the Democrats, Chittem called for the U.S. to withdraw financial and military support from Israel. 

“It’s literally a genocide campaign,” Chittem said. “We’re not seeing dead Hamas soldiers — we’re seeing dead civilians.”

In the WUCR response, Taggart insisted that America must provide financial support to Israel.

“The people that they’re using as security testing targets leaves the U.S. with no other alternative than to invest, unfortunately,” Taggart said.

Immigration was also a topic of discussion at the debate. The representatives discussed the need for a physical barrier at the Mexican border, as well as whether quotas should be used to limit the number of immigrants entering the country.   

“[Being] a human being does not guarantee you the right to American taxpayer dollars. People coming into this country should have to be American citizens before they receive those benefits,” Taggart said in his response.

The College Democrats voiced the need to streamline the process to make legal immigration easier. 

“Immigration [needs to be reformed] because currently, the pathways towards citizenship are completely convoluted and difficult to understand, especially for asylum seekers without a higher education, and because it’s a very expensive process,” Chittem said. 

Both sides had the opportunity to speak about their views on the economy.

“On the economic front, we stand for policies that help all Americans. We believe that a strong economy is built on fairness, opportunity, [and] strong social safety, and we support policies that strengthen unions, reduce the burden of student loans, and reduce poverty,” Gerlach said of the College Democrats’ stance.

“We would contend that the economy is [better] under conservative leadership, and we see a number of benchmarks that are better under conservative leadership — such as higher wages for the individual, lower taxes for the individual across all tax brackets, and better long-term outcomes and securities in the retirement savings,” McGowan said in response. 

Each side voiced that they enjoyed the opportunity to discuss their ideas in a respectful manner and were excited about the large audience turnout. There were approximately 40 audience members on the first floor, and other students watched from the balcony above Tisch Commons. 

First-year Emma Feldmeier came to support the College Democrats. She said she appreciated hearing the Republican side, even though there were many moments where she disagreed with them.

“One silver lining in all of this is how respectful the language [of the debate] was, and I feel like this [debate] is a really healthy avenue to explore political differences,” Feldmeier said.  

McGowan expressed that she was glad that the debate occurred and that she hopes to participate in similar events in the future.  

“People should be able to engage heavily in weighty matters that have the potential for people to get mad, and feel big feelings, and still be able to have civil discourse,” McGowan said. “It’s really important, especially on college campuses, that we address issues as they happen and not shy away from debate.”

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