By AMY HAN
For The News-Letter
IDEAL, a nonpartisan student organization that promotes discussion among students with contrasting political views, held a viewing of the first Democratic debate of the 2016 presidential race in Hodson Hall on Tuesday night. Around 100 students of varying political affiliations attended the event.
Junior Liam Haviv, president and founder of IDEAL, outlined the club’s purpose and the aim of the Democratic debate viewing event.
“IDEAL stands for Inform, Discuss, Enlighten, Acknowledge and Learn and our mission is to change the way we think, feel and interact with politics and with each other. We want people to say, ‘Maybe I’m not so sure’ or ‘Maybe I’m not going to be identified by a candidate or a party, but an opinion on something.’ We’re really trying to get as much information to people as possible, and giving them many outlets,” Haviv said.
The Democratic presidential candidates participating were former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Senator Bernie Sanders (Vt.), former Maryland Governor and Mayor of Baltimore Martin O’Malley, former Sen. Jim Webb (Va.) and former Gov. Lincoln Chafee (R.I.). They discussed a variety of issues, including gun control, foreign policy, climate change, the criminal justice system, college affordability and illegal immigration.
IDEAL provided iClickers for live polling, allowing students to react to the candidates’ ideas in real time. Students also laughed frequently throughout the night particularly when Sanders responded to Clinton’s email scandal saying, “American people are sick and tired of hearing about your damn emails.”
Students attending the event shared IDEAL’s desire for a nonpartisan, interactive viewing.
“I came to see the reactions of the students,” senior Guillermo Herrera said. “It’s a nicer environment to gauge how people respond to the candidates and compare my own thoughts to the thoughts of others.”
Freshman Madhura Shah agreed and said the live fact-checking website that IDEAL projected in addition to the debate was also a plus.
“I think it’s fun to watch with other people… And since I don’t know that much about politics personally, I thought [the fact-checking] would be nice to have so that I can use that to form my own opinion,” freshman Madhura Shah said. “I chose the IDEAL screening because I’m not Republican, but I also thought it would be nice to have both sides here.”
Following the debate, IDEAL held a discussion, which largely focused on who the students thought won the debate and why.
Clinton was a popular choice, as students noted her extensive political experience on the federal level alongside both Democrats and Republicans.
“The reason that I like Hillary more than Bernie is because I feel that she has more experience and because, given that it’s a two-party system in America and obviously you’re going to have to have some compromise, he just seems so rigid and doesn’t have as much experience as Hillary with actually running the whole country,” freshman Jeremy Mazumder said.
Other students supported Sanders, noting his detailed platform and specific goals in comparison to the other candidates.
“I thought Bernie did really well because I felt like he gave a lot more specific proposals. For his economics plans, he talked specifically about taxing and speculating,” freshman Rishi Shah said. “Whereas Hillary I felt was a lot vaguer about details. She talked about a five-point economic plan but never gave out those points.”
Freshman Vrshank Ravi also appreciated specificity of Sanders’ responses.
“When [Juan Carlos Lopez] was asking about the Latino vote, he gave the exact reason as to why he voted against the proposal, the reason being a specific clause, which more progressives were against,” Ravi said.
Ravi noted the interest in socialism due to Sanders’ political affiliation.
“Right now Merriam-Webster is having an overload of people searching the word “socialism” so that they’re not confusing it and really know what he is about,” he said. “If anything, that is actually the biggest victory for Sanders, because people really want to know what socialism is.”
Students also discussed O’Malley’s performance in comparison to those of Webb and Chafee, all the candidates’s gun control stances, Sanders’s lack of Super PAC funding, Clinton’s flip-flopping on issues and the contrast between the Democratic and Republican debates.
IDEAL’s Secretary of Education, sophomore Sarah Harrison, spoke about what makes IDEAL’s viewing event different.
“I know for a fact that there was a Democrat viewing and a Bernie Sanders viewing specifically, but our ideology and our mission statement and our goal is to have non-partisan, open and free space for political discussion,” she said. “We had people in the discussion just now from both parties talking and expressing their ideas in a civil manner and that’s our main goal.”