Political debate addresses hot-button issues

By Sana Khadilkar, Contributing Writer

The Illini Democrats and Illini Republicans held their annual debate at the Illini Union’s Courtyard Cafe on Tuesday, discussing healthcare, immigration, tax reform and gun control.

The Illini Democrats were represented by Audrey Dombro, president of Illini Democrats and junior in ACES, and Adem Osmani, freshman in LAS.

Jack Johnson, president of Illini Republicans and junior in Engineering, and Jakob Puckett, graduate student in economics, spoke for the Illini Republicans.

The debate was moderated by Fernando Arias, chief justice of the Illinois Student Government, who allowed each side to give an opening statement. The first topic of discussion was healthcare, with the debaters mainly addressing abortion issues and women’s healthcare.

The Illini Republicans argued women should have equal access to healthcare, but taxpayers should not have to pay for services such as mammograms or abortions.

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Countering, Osmani said “But also what happens too often in this country is that we have two white men discussing womens’ rights so I would like to give my colleague a chance to speak.”

A small group of the audience snapped their fingers at Osmani’s comment.

On the topic of immigration, Johnson stated President Donald Trump’s travel ban is a ban on terrorists, not Muslims, and although the ban was hastily implemented, it was crafted based on the President’s concern for his citizens’ safety. He went on to argue immigration was a topic that was largely ignored until Trump brought it into focus, garnering applause from spectators.

Dombro responded, saying citizens must acknowledge the ban is a Muslim ban, which does not make the community safer. She argued the ban is an example of xenophobia, a comment that received cheers from the audience.

The debate then moved onto tax reform, where the Illini Republicans asserted they wanted to put citizens back in charge of their money through tax cuts, create a better environment for small businesses and make America a place to invest in.

In the Illini Democrats’ rebuttal, they stated the recent tax bill created additional loopholes that would allow corporations to avoid paying taxes and the bill was formed behind closed doors without the Democratic Party’s input.

The debate intensified as the speakers began discussing gun control. The Illini Democrats opened with a reminder of the Las Vegas shooting, where 59 people were killed and 100 were injured, attributing the cause to loose gun regulations.

“I am appalled that the gentleman to my most right, so far, has accused us of not caring about gun violence. That is simply the farthest thing from the truth,” Johnson said in response.

As the debate came to a close, the Illini Democrats concluded by encouraging students to vote and the Illini Republicans asserted they wanted to set up people for success, unlike the comments of the Illini Democrats, which focused on negativity.

While many of the Illini Democrats and Republicans’ ideas clashed during the discussion, both sides thought the debate was necessary in the current political climate.

“I think we’ve gotten too polarized in the country. Half the country thinks the other half of the country is evil half the time and I don’t think that’s a good place to be,” Puckett said.

Dombro said there’s a lot of political animosity right now with the current administration and with a lot of college students.

 “I think that really buckling down on issues and getting a deeper understand of how we can work together across the aisle and the particular things that we disagree on is integral,” she said. 

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