The “Great Debate” Between College Democrats, Republicans, and Libertarians Marks a New Era of Cross-aisle Collaboration at BU

By Ashley Pickus
Photo: The presidents of (left to right) College Democrats, College Libertarians, and College Republicans

A debate between Binghamton University’s political organizations sparked discussions about some of the most hot-button issues of the midterm elections. 

On November 2, BU’s College Democrats, College Libertarians, and College Republicans hosted a debate on campus where conversations were raised regarding issues such as gun control, immigration, education, abortion, economic policy, and the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The debate format allowed a speaker from each club to take the floor for three minutes, with an additional one minute for rebuttals and questions and another minute for a closing statement. 

Gun control was the first topic to be discussed. The question posed to the club representatives regarded the Supreme Court case New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen, which resulted in a 6-3 ruling that struck down a New York law that required those seeking to carry a concealed handgun to show proper cause. College Republicans Vice President Logan Blakeslee affirmed the ruling, stating that the law was an infringement on New Yorkers’ second amendment rights.

“I do believe that the fundamental right of all Americans is to own a firearm and especially for self-defense,” Blakeslee said. “I don’t think anyone needs a reason beyond self-defense to own a gun. I don’t think people should have to go above and beyond to assert their rights before the state.”

The College Libertarians also spoke in support of the Supreme Court decision, while College Democrats President Chance Fiorisi shifted the focus away from the court case.

“The issue is not the fact that the right is absolute, the issue is that we’re not focusing on the real concern,” Fiorisi said. “Weapons are evolving, but the regulations are not evolving. The thing is that this case is essentially allowing for the regulations to stay consistent.”

Another topic debated was education, particularly regarding new policies that have been enacted in states such as Florida and Virginia that placed restrictions on teaching controversial topics, including gender, sexual orientation, and the Critical Race Theory. Siddharth Gundapaneni of the College Libertarians argued that it’s impossible to objectively teach education.

“We have to give people options,” Gundapaneni said. “We have to allow people to do what’s best for themselves. The way to do that is by not forcing every single person to go to a one size fits all public school.”

The College Republicans referred to Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill, which forbids discussions about gender identity and sexual orientation in elementary schools. In support of the bill, Arthur O’Sullivan said that its main purpose is to provide insight to parents as to what their child is learning.

“Parents have the right to know what goes on at their child’s school,” said O’Sullivan. “Once they know what’s going on, they should be allowed to decide, at least, whether or not their child should go to that school and be given that moral and historical education.”

The College Democrats rebutted that Republican politicians such as Ron DeSantis and Glenn Youngkin, the governors of Florida and Virginia, respectively, are misrepresenting Democrats’ positions on these issues.

“This is a concept that is taught in law school and classes in college,” Ryan Gaire said. “It is not a concept that is being taught in elementary, middle or high school.”

With respect to the topic of abortion, most of the discussion revolved around the Constitution. 

“There is nothing within the Constitution that says that abortion should be permitted across all 50 states at all times,” O’Sullivan said.

The College Libertarians argued that the Constitution gives the right to self-ownership, and they proposed the question of whether the mother’s right to self-ownership or the life of the fetus should be prioritized. 

“When we think about abortion, there are really two steps to it,” said College Libertarians President Shayne O’Loughlin. “There’s the termination of the fetus, and then there’s the eviction of the fetus. Libertarians are against termination, particularly against killing. So the answer that libertarians would go for, and the ethical answer, is that we believe that you should be able to evict the baby, but you shouldn’t be allowed to kill the baby, because otherwise, we have blood on our hands.”

Celia Holden of the College Democrats began by responding to the argument that abortion is not mentioned in the Constitution.

“There are many controversies surrounding the fact that the word ‘abortion’ is not included in the Constitution, but neither is the right to privacy, electoral college, congressional districts, freedom of expression, or women, in general, reason being that not many of these things existed or were debated when the Constitution was first written,” Holden said. “Given the vagueness of the Constitution, we don’t have the luxury to have most of our Constitutional rights filled out.”

She also argued that a child is not always a blessing.

“It is not a blessing for a woman to be forced to co-parent with her assaulter and endure years and years of more abuse,” said Holden. “Furthermore, it is not a blessing for a woman with a serious medical condition to have to choose an unborn baby over her own life. With abortion outlawed many will suffer. We cannot trust the government to have a blanket best interests in mind for all citizens. That liberty belongs to the people. Times have changed and I think that we can now make the Constitution catch up.”

A First of Many 

The College Republicans and College Libertarians started up again this year after falling dormant during the COVID-19 pandemic. Both clubs are now experiencing steady membership growth. This event was the first of its kind in several years, marking the start of a new era of collaboration between the partisan clubs on campus. 

Happy Medium asked organization leadership to comment on this new collaborative spirit and any plans for the future. 

I would say the collaborative energy is very strong. Regardless of politics, club members have been extremely kind to one another. I predict that our future plans may include more debates/discussions, but also uniting students for the sake of public engagement. 

Logan Blakeslee, Vice President of College Republicans

Since College Republicans are back in full swing, I have been super excited to begin collaborating with more political orgs on campus. We actually have the ability to hold formal conversations now and I want to take every opportunity for our clubs to engage in those discussions. Our future is one of collaboration and partnership, even when our congressional counterparts may not be so cooperative.

Chance Fiorisi, President of College Democrats
Delegates from the three organizations pose for a photo during an intermission.

Ashley Pickus is a junior from Plainview, New York. She is double-majoring in political science and English rhetoric and minoring in writing studies. Ashley spends most of her free time following the current pop culture trends, watching television shows, or listening to music. If asked, she can explain the meaning of any Taylor Swift song and its significance. After graduation, Ashley hopes to find a job in the media industry.