Debate Participants Shouldn’t Choose the Participants

Aaron Reuben, Contributing Writer

On Monday, March 28, the College Democrats went against the College Republicans in a debate hosted by the NYU Politics Society. Third party groups were excluded from the debate, much to the dismay of the NYU College Libertarians. One can’t blame the NYU Democrats and Republicans for wanting to follow the format of televised presidential debates. Despite being the hosts, it seems that NYU Politics Society did not have say in who would be chosen to debate. The organizers of the debate certainly have the right to choose who participates, but ultimately the issue of who gets to decide also needs to be discussed.

The NYU College Libertarians meet every Monday to discuss solutions to a wide range of policy issues through a lens of a society led by a low-involvement government. The group also hosts visiting speakers and events. Since the College Libertarians are well-established on campus, it makes little sense to exclude them from one of the most important debates of the year.

In a joint statement, the College Democrats and Republicans claimed that the exclusion was more of a matter of logistics: “Three party debates proceed very differently than two party debates and in our planning process, we had no intentions to exclude anyone.”

In response, College Libertarians expressed a willingness to help out with the logistics which adding a third party would cause. However, they worry that the underlying sentiment was the desire to limit political discourse. The College Libertarians responded to their fellow political clubs in a written statement: These actions are inexcusable and cowardly. It is obvious there are many who wish to perpetuate the two-party system.”

This controversy is important considering the our nation’s current political climate. College debates don’t face the same time constraints of the national stage and therefore do not need to strictly follow the form of national debate model, which doesn’t produce high quality, issue-driven debates. Exit polls from primary states show that if Trump and Clinton are nominated, over a third of voters “would seriously consider voting for a third party candidate.” Candidates of all parties need chances to articulate their positions, and respect for third party opinions need to be built from the ground up, especially on college campuses.

Whether or not the Libertarians are at fault for failing to contact the debate organizers — or that the two major political groups decided to not include a faction — college groups should continue to try and get their voices heard to change people’s mindset and include views that challenge their own. If alternative ideologies aren’t represented on campus, there is even lesser hope they will be represented in mainstream discussion and politics. To avoid further incidents like this one, debates should be hosted by neutral, third-party groups who will equally weigh each group’s contributions to healthy political discourse at this university.

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Email Aaron Reuben at [email protected].

CORRECTION: Wrongly reported the date of the debate as February 28. It was held on March 28.