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Contact CU Independent Opinion Writer Trinity Clark at firstname.lastname@example.org
Let’s be honest: the purpose of presidential debates isn’t for candidates to take a stance on the issues. It’s to find out if fantasy football should be considered gambling, if Donald Trump truly is the epitome of the iconic mustachioed, beady-eyed comic-book villain, and in the case of the undercard debate, what the candidates’ favorite smartphone app is. We didn’t learn much about their economic policies.
Presidential debates have gradually become spectacles for candidates to perform in. The Republican debate on campus Wednesday night was less about educating students and more about public recognition for the university. But in the face of these administrative issues, we still had a unique chance to foster ourselves as students.
We were challenged to step outside our primarily liberal comfort zones in exchange for some Republican perspectives. From my spot at the UMC watch party, the debate at least proved to be a great catalyst for dialogue between students of all political beliefs.
I found myself personally engaged when I saw a few students sporting a tea party “Don’t Tread on Me” flag and one wearing a Ben Carson t-shirt at the watch party. After leaving conservative safe haven Colorado Springs for prominently liberal Boulder, I never imagined the prospect of meeting very many Republicans.
Although they’re the minority of the CU population, with just 17 percent of students identifying with the Republican Party, students Jake Pauly, Chris Kohl and Jacob Anderson used the items as conversation starters.
Pauly, a junior studying accounting and finance, welcomed friendly discussion between peers.
“Being a Republican at a really liberal university has its ups and downs,” he explained. “Sometimes it can be a blast, sometimes you can get bogged down. A bunch of people are very opinionated at this school. It has definitely helped me defend my political beliefs, and I think it has made me a stronger conservative, just by talking.”
Perhaps inadvertently, the university offered us an unparalleled learning experience. We may not have had tickets, but the location of the event certainly played a part in our participation. The number of Coloradans who watched the debate in their homes and the 1,000-plus students who took part in the watch party might not have watched the debate otherwise.
The debate was still successful in offering perspective for Democrats and inclusion for Republican students. Tom Tancredo, a former Republican U.S. House Representative who spoke at the watch party’s post-debate panel, didn’t agree with me.
“There is usually, for things like this, a relatively small percentage of not just the student population, but of the general population, that actually care,” Trancredo argued. “I’m sorry to say it. And again, I think the people that come to these things come generally with a point of view already established, and they’re looking for it to be reinforced.”
If that was the case, shouldn’t liberal students have shot down the Republicans last night? I didn’t hear a single boo at the watch party. Instead, I heard appropriate cheers, clapping and entranced silence.
As we shape our adult identities, that exposure to dissimilar viewpoints is instrumental in building our moral foundation and understanding of who we really are. The Republican debate was a bipartisan opportunity for students to enrich their own personal views, regardless of political party affiliation.