In an election year dominated by presidential politics, the mood was set for a different kind of debate Thursday on UNC’s campus.
“We can actually talk about facts tonight, which will be very fun,” said Howard Dean, former Democratic National Committee chairman and 2004 presidential candidate, in his opening statement.
Dean debated John Stossel, host of the Fox Business Network show Stossel,” in the Great Hall of the Student Union about the proper role of the U.S. federal government.
Hosted by the UNC College Republicans in association with the national right-leaning organization Young America’s Foundation, the debate sought to go beyond normal political discourse, said Garrett Jacobs, chairman of the UNC College Republicans.
“It’s a debate on a deeper level of thinking than what’s on the news,” Jacobs said.
Topics included the role of the Constitution in government, health policy and even N.C. Amendment One, which was passed in May and constitutionally banned gay marriage.
Throughout the night, Stossel advocated for a libertarian approach to government’s role in solving problems.
When asked about the optimal role of federal, state and local government in healthcare, Stossel had a simple response: “None, none and none.”
Dean, a former doctor, saw the healthcare debate as a matter of incentives.
“Change the payment system to a pay for patient and away from a pay for procedure.”
Although the speakers disagreed, their views didn’t always align with either of their respective parties.
“I’m a pragmatist, I’m somewhere in the middle,” Dean said in his closing statement.
In an interview after the debate, Dean said people should focus more on issues rather than party.
“The voters in Florida and California took redistricting away from politicians and put it in the hands of non-partisan ordinary citizens,” he said. “And that’s had a big effect in both those states. We need a lot more of that.”
In the debate, Stossel advocated for a free market approach to these policy issues.
Frank Hill, moderator of the debate and director of the Institute for the Public Trust, said points from both speakers will resonate with the increased number of registered independent voters in the state.
“Basically what they are saying is, ‘We don’t like the Democrats because they are spending too much, and we don’t like the Republicans because they are getting in the social issues,’’’ he said.
UNC sophomore Shamira Lukomwa said the debate solidified her moderate views.
“It’s kind of hard for me to understand how people can see themselves fitting into just one party,” she said. “I feel like both sides have negatives and positives, and that was kind of shown tonight.”
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