Speakers representing liberal, conservative and libertarian viewpoints focused on national economic issues and avoided topics that directly impact students during a debate on the Tempe campus Wednesday night.
Young Americans for Liberty at ASU Secretary Jacob Pritchett, a marketing freshman, said the debate was intended to shake the pre-election political dialogue on campus.
“The purpose of the debate is having people walk away with a better idea of where they lie politically,” Prithcett said.
The College Republicans at ASU, Young Americans for Liberty at ASU, ASU Young Democrats, ASU Students for Liberty and the ASU Green Party hosted the debate, moderated by journalism professor Craig Allen, in the Memorial Union Ventana Ballroom.
Ana Kasparian, co-host of online news show “The Young Turks,” represented the liberal view, J.P. Freire from the monthly magazine American Spectator represented the conservative perspective and Austin Petersen from advocacy group FreedomWorks represented Libertarian ideals.
Most of the debate’s questions dealt with how to improve the economy, including what the best solution to the national debt would be.
Kasparian said corporations take advantage of ordinary people, while Freire and Petersen supported a freer market.
“Free markets create a system where people have an opportunity to rise out of their classes,” Petersen said. “Free market capitalism is an efficient and moral system.”
Freire and Petersen also supported lowering tax rates for corporations that Kasparian said would add to the national debt.
“Our corporate tax rate is incredibly high and should be lowered to be comparative with other countries,” Freire said.
Other questions focused on the military, war, foreign policy and the legalization of drugs like marijuana.
Petersen supported the use of military drones and Freire said it should be up to the president, but Kasparian was opposed.
“If we’re trying to spread democracy and end terror we can’t be terrorists ourselves,” she said.
The debate reached a high point when the trio discussed drugs and the war on drugs.
Freire pulled out a bottle of what appeared to be alcohol and drank a shot while discussing the legality of alcohol compared to other drugs.
He then poured a shot for his two companions. Petersen, Freire and Kasparian refused to drink their shots.
Alumnus Ryan Burkhart said the debate surprised him.
“I came in thinking this debate would have less fluff than the presidential debate but they were more geared toward ideology than practical applications,” he said. “In some instances, I found them to be just as vague as the candidates we have today.”
ASU Students for Liberty Co-President Tyler Roberts said he believed the debate would show three different perspectives.
“Most debates are liberal versus conservative, and in this you have the libertarian perspective also,” he said. ”Most people don’t realize that that’s a viable option within the political spectrum.”
However, the debate failed to address many social topics or real-world applications of the parties’ stances.
Nanoscience graduate student Jeff Burkhartsmeyer said the debate lacked both audience participation and varied discussion.
“They could have included more social issues because I think the liberal and libertarian might have agreed more,” he said.
Correction: An earlier version of this article misspelled Jacob Pritchett’s name on one reference. It has been updated to reflect the correct information.
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