By: Kate Young
On Monday, Oct. 26 the Samford College Democrats and Samford College Republicans hosted a policy and issues debate. Moderated by Anna Claire Noblitt, member of Samford’s American Enterprise Institute Executive Council, the debate covered three main topics: the coronavirus pandemic, Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett and firearms legislation.
Noblitt read a statement prior to the start of the debate on behalf of Samford: “Samford University does not endorse or oppose any candidate or organization in connection with any political campaign or election.”
One debater from each party came forward to discuss one of the three topics. Each debater was given three questions with two minutes to answer and a five minute discussion period. Debaters were reminded to maintain a respectful environment while discussing these controversial topics.
On the topic of the pandemic, Hunter Hines represented the Republicans and Faith Jones represented the Democrats. The first question offered was: If your party is in power, how will you engage with government scientists, public health experts, and researchers in ongoing efforts to address the pandemic?
“I think we should always listen to our scientists,” Jones said.
She also emphasized trusting experts to combat misinformation.
Hines provided a different perspective.
“I think it’s been very hard for this current administration to listen to Dr. (Anthony) Fauci because he’s been misleading everybody, especially with these lockdowns,” Hines said.
He went on to suggest that the lockdowns were ineffective because cases have risen in recent months and the economy has been devastated. Hines also claimed some scientists have been silenced by social media censorship because of the rise of fact checking.
Both debaters agreed that a vaccine, once finalized, should not be made mandatory because Americans should have the right to choose to take it. However, they disagreed about whether equal access to a vaccine could be guaranteed once it becomes available for distribution.
The second debaters were Tristan Mullen for the Democrats and Jackson Howes for the Republicans. The two faced questions about Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett, who at the time was still a nominee, as well as court packing.
While Howes opposed court packing, saying it would threaten the legitimacy of the court, Mullen argued it is time to update the court.
“There is nothing mandated or required in the Constitution for the number of Supreme Court justices,” Mullen said. “The reason why in 1869, nine justices were agreed on as the magic number is because that is the number of federal judicial districts there was in 1969. Now there’s eleven, twelve if you include the one in the District of Columbia, so if anything it’s just updating the Supreme Court.”
Mullen then claimed the Republican party is acting hypocritically in giving Barrett a hearing, after denying Merrick Garland a hearing during the Obama administration.
“It is under their duties under the Constitution to fill that vacancy,” Howes responded.
He argued that it was not hypocritical because in both instances the nominees received a fair hearing. However, Mullen pointed out that Garland was never allowed a hearing.
Howes also said there is no evidence that key cases like Roe v. Wade or Obergefell v. Hodges will be overturned.
The last debaters were Chots Holifield and Cory Jerkins. Holifield, speaking on behalf of the Democrats, advocated for background checks and red flag laws to ensure firearm safety. Jerkins, speaking on behalf of the Republicans, supported background checks on weapon purchases, but no further firearm regulations.
“The Second Amendment is very clear,” Jerkins said. “You have the right to own a weapon. You do. There’s no ifs ands or buts in that statement.”
Jerkins suggested corruption in the enforcement of firearm laws could leave innocent citizens disenfranchised. Jerkins then went on to point out what he perceives as the hypocrisy of Democrats pushing gun legislation while Democratic-led cities have the highest rates of gun violence.
Jerkins went on to say, “violence leads to gun violence,” pointing to Democrat support of Black Lives Matter protests as a cause for an increase in national violence. However, Holifield argued that firearms were not used at these protests.