In keeping with the mission of the Institute of Politics’ Politics for Dummies series, which sponsored the event, the debate aimed to help students decide their own political leanings, according to the group’s leader Sandhya Ramadas ’03.
Each side received four minutes for opening statements on each of the four topics, followed by heated questions from the audience.
The debate, which attracted an audience of around 50 students, quickly intensified during the opening topic—the possible war on Iraq. Ramadas, the moderator for the first half of the program, struck health care from the agenda in order to make time for more questions on Iraq and the war on terrorism.
While the Republicans spoke in support of war on Iraq, the Democrats broke from their party’s congressional leadership by strongly opposing the possibility of war.
The Democrats claimed the possible war is motivated in part by oil prices, not terrorism.
The Republicans responded quickly to the suggestion.
“If we wanted to get a larger piece of the Iraqi petrol pie, we would simply sit down with Saddam Hussein and ask him. He wants to sell it,” said Brian C. Grech ’03, president of the Harvard Republican Club.
During discussion of controversial topics such as school vouchers and whether to drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve, the debaters interrupted each other and the audience asked pointed questions.
Audience members said they enjoyed the debate, in which both sides tried to woo supporters by explaining their ideology.
“It was a very effective way of describing to students who don’t know much about politics where the parties stand,” said Dan A. Dunay ’06.
Grech told the audience, “Republicans like to think that the individual knows what’s best for that individual and the government really doesn’t.”
In contrast, “Democrats want to create an even playing field,” said Stephen W. Stromberg ’05, a debater for the Democrats and a Crimson editor. “Big government can do wonderful things.”