They didn’t agree on everything, but they were able to find common ground on a couple issues including debt and a compromise on rises in retirement age and social security tax cap.
College Democrats at IU and College Republicans at IU discussed issues of entitlement reform, job creation, energy security and balancing the budget Monday evening in the Indiana Memorial Union.
“We just want to start a conversation for bipartisan solutions, which we think is lacking right now in the public discussion,” said sophomore Reagan Kurk, chairwoman of College Republicans at IU.
Junior Terry Tossman, president of College Democrats at IU, said the goal of the event was to find common ground.
“With all the gridlock in Washington right now, it’s important to know that we’re not all that far apart on some of these issues,” he said.
Tossman and Kurk stood at the front of the room at the start of the event to introduce themselves and to explain the flow of the discussion.
The panels would have 5 minutes each to talk about a topic before transitioning to questions.
The discussion was moderated by senior lecturer and adjunct associate professor of history Carl Weinberg and Sally M. Reahard professor of history and professor of law Michael Grossberg. They said their job was to watch the clock and make sure the discussion remained civil.
The room was full.
The first topic of the discussion was balancing the budget. Sophomore Javier Fuentes-Rohwer from the Democrats began speaking on the topic. He started to critique what he called a populist budget movement — the “balanced budget amendment.”
When junior Nicole Keesling from the Republicans began her retort, sophomore Sai Shastry, also from the Republicans, interrupted her.
“I’m sorry to cut you off, but I think this is turning into a debate,” he said. “The point of this gathering is to have a conversation. I think what we should focus on is less of the five minute-five minute exchanges and more of a conversation.”
For the rest of the event, the points bounced back and forth between sides more frequently.
Multiple people jumped into the discussion on budget balancing before questions were opened to the audience.
“If we wanted to apply for EU membership, we wouldn’t even be considered,” said sophomore Justin Sexton, a Republican and an opinion columnist for the Indiana Daily Student. “The debt is just too high.”
“We can agree on that,” Fuentes-Rohwer said in return.
Throughout the discussion, people on both sides agreed with one another on small points while occasionally disagreeing on others.
The next talking point was job creation.
Shastry said it was a topic many of the campaigns in the recent United States election were bringing up, specifically in regards to infrastructure.
Tossman responded to him with a critique of Trump’s plan for the construction of the border wall across the southern U.S.
“That’s not helping every state,” he said. “That’s only affecting the ones on the southern border.”.
Before the conclusion of the discussion, Sexton addressed a concern he had regarding infrastructure.
“I’m very skeptical of federal infrastructure projects,” he said. “States can do it much better.”
The two sides disagreed on whether tax reforms were more important than the improvement of infrastructure, with the Republican side tending to favor the former and Democrats the latter.
Without an official announcement for a change in talking points, the conversation shifted to energy use. The Democrats argued for a strong and quick shift to renewable energy. The Republicans agreed with some of their points, but not everything.
“A lot of people are saying they’re bringing coal jobs back, but coal is going away,” said freshman Raegan Davis from the Democrats. “We need to put their skills to something that won’t go away, like wind turbines.”
The discussion also went over entitlement reform, which included Social Security and Medicare, and the two groups found some common ground when discussing tax caps on money and raising the retirement age.
The sides agreed they may be able to compromise on these issues.
Graduate student Paige Settles, with the Democrats said, at the end of the day, they would have to raise the retirement age less than the Republicans would want to and raise the tax cap less than the Democrats want to.
“But it’s a solution,” Keesling said.
“Exactly,” Settles said.
The conversation concluded with a return to energy security. Sophomore Sara Kissel with the Republicans started this discussion by saying both sides could agree that this is something the country needs to move forward with.
The Democrats agreed and said whatever standards they place need to be enforced vigorously.
The discussion remained civil throughout, often with a rebuttal starting with “I agree with what you said there, but.”
The event lasted roughly an hour. Even though serious topics were being discussed, panelists often told jokes that made the room laugh before the discussion resumed.