Although the major presidential candidates bypassed Northwestern as a site for one of their three debates, there was no shortage of political sparring in Fisk 217 on Monday night.
In an event sponsored by College Democrats, College Republicans and Students for Nader, representatives from the Gore, Bush and Nader campaigns advocated their candidate’s position on issues before about 100 students.
Unlike the televised presidential debates, a third party representative was allowed to participate in the campus event.
Originally scheduled as a debate between David Wilhelm, representing Democrat Al Gore, and Pat Daly, speaking for Republican George W. Bush, organizers two weeks ago added Green Party candidate Ralph Nader’s representative, Dan Johnson-Weinberger.
“Both the College Democrats and Republicans thought that allowing Nader’s views to be heard would add extra energy to the debate,” said Weinberg sophomore Tom Sherman, president of College Republicans. “Everyone has a right to be heard. Things around campus have been pretty apathetic, but I was happy with the energy in the room tonight.”
Throughout the debate, Johnson-Weinberger accused the major parties of conspiring against independent candidates.
“Tuesday night’s debate will not be democratic because all of the candidates will not be heard,” he said. “I’m glad there wasn’t a commission deciding who was allowed to speak at NU.”
The debate, which lasted a little more than an hour, featured a format similar to Tuesday’s presidential encounter. The representatives each were asked questions and given two minutes to answer. Then, each was able to make a one-minute rebuttal to the others’ comments.
The most heated exchange of the night came when Wilhelm, the national campaign manager in 1992 for the Clinton-Gore campaign, questioned whether voting for Nader was a choice worth making.
A progressive candidate, Nader is expected to draw support from citizens who normally would vote Democratic.
“The only person who will benefit from a vote for Nader is George W. Bush,” Wilhelm said.
In response, Johnson-Weinberger urged students to vote for what they believe in.
“If you don’t vote for what you want, you’ll never get it,” he said, immediately prompting loud applause from the crowd.
Daly, a third-year law student at NU coordinating Bush’s youth campaign in northern Illinois, used the debate as an opportunity to clearly explain how his candidate’s proposals would affect college students.
“It was a great experience being able to talk to students about the issues that affect them,” he said. “Bush is the best candidate for young people because he wants to bring a new tone to Washington D.C. and revamp social security.”
Students who attended the debate said they appreciated the different views expressed.
“I like how they brought in all three representatives to speak,” said Weinberg sophomore Preet Bagi. “I didn’t know a lot about Nader beforehand. I’m still going to vote Democratic, so my opinions weren’t changed, but maybe someone else’s were.”