As the eyes of the nation start to focus on the 2016 presidential election, the biggest issues of the day are being hotly debated on both sides of the campaign trail.
The conversations are happening all around the nation, in the middle of cities, towns and college campuses.
ASU is home to both the Young Democrats and the College Republicans, respectively presided over by Zachary Josephson and Richard Moorhead. Both seniors, the two have interacted little during their time as presidents over the last few months, so we decided to change that.
What happens when they come together for drinks and a little political banter? College Times got the two staunch supporters from both sides of the aisle together to see if they’d find common ground—or tell each other to get off their lawn.
MEET THE CANDIDATES
Zachary Josephson arrived early at the Tempe Cartel Coffee meeting point wearing a green polo and khaki shorts. He ordered an amber ale at the counter and sat down, leaning his body back in a relaxed form on the couch.
“I’m a computer science major,” he explains. “But I’ve always been interested in politics.”
The ultimate goal of the Young Democrats, in his view, is to engage people in politics and urge them to vote by discussing issues and finding compromises.
Richard Moorhead came around a short time later, adjusting his straw cowboy hat while ordering an iced tea. He maintained a focused expression throughout the night, keeping his body forward like a linebacker.
“I’ve always been a conservative,” he says. “It was a natural gravitation.”
Moorhead is studying History and Criminal Justice alongside his involvement as the College Republicans president. He explained that he enjoyed politics because he is “driven to the competition, to the fight of it. It’s an exciting kind of politics.”
Settled into their positions, it was time to get the conversation started.
THE DEFINITION OF LIFE
Abortion might be the most divisive issue of today, with people falling into two very different categories with little grey area: pro-choice or pro-life. (Or “anti-choice” or “anti-life,” depending who you ask.)
Josephson started the conversation by discussing the differences between the parties, bringing up the Republican attack on Planned Parenthood and abortion services.
“I don’t think abortion is healthcare,” Moorhead says. “But what if the mother’s life is in danger? Isn’t that healthcare?” Josephson responds defensively.
Moorhead considered this scenario too rare to add legitimacy to the conversation. He went on to bring up the alleged Planned Parenthood footage that showed the sale of fetal tissue, calling it “ghoulish.”
“If they did something illegal, than it’s an issue for the legal system to handle,” Josephson says.
He stresses that Planned Parenthood provides many services such as STD checks and contraception, which would suffer if they were defunded. According to statistics he cites from NPR, abortions only make up 3 percent of the organization’s services, and government funds only pay for the other percentages.
“I think it’s important to not attack everything that they do because they do very important work,” he says.
Moorhead, sticking to his convictions, questions the validity of the statistics, since they came from Planned Parenthood.
“I don’t see how it benefits them to lie about the statistics,” Josephson says, becoming agitated. “It’s becoming more clear that you’re just not willing to listen to any statistics if it doesn’t help the argument that you’re making.”
Moorhead explains his position.
“No matter what their stated mission could be, when you look at these ghoulish violations committed by Planned Parenthood employees, it’s hard for me to look at anything they provide that would legitimize this horrible crime,” Moorhead says.
Josephson says, once again, if they did something illegal, then it’s a matter for the legal system. But he wants to avoid a world where women have to find dangerous means to receive an abortion.
“I think a woman should have the right to make that decision for herself as opposed to the government making that decision,” he says.
“I see where you’re coming from,” Moorhead says, agreeing with Josephson’s position on government involvement. “But I think we should have a consensus on, at the very least, at the very minimum, that this isn’t something that the US government should be sanctioning under the name of ‘We the People.’”
Moorhead calmly explains that he didn’t oppose funding Planned Parenthood’s other services after being questioned by his Democratic counterpart. Josephson concludes that this issue wouldn’t be resolved. They have different views on when life began, and therefore they wouldn’t find a consensus.
Josephson requests that we move on to a new topic, frustrated that there wasn’t going to be a compromise.
ON THE FENCE
The next topic was immigration, a discussion that has haunted Arizona for decades and a topic both presidents were eager to discuss.
“What they really want is that they want to achieve the ‘American Dream’—the same as we do,” Josephson says with passion. “I don’t think it’s practical to think that we can deport the millions who have immigrated here illegally.”
“I think we need a solution to overhaul our immigration system while upholding the rule of law,” Moorhead says. “We’re not going to deport millions of people. It’s not something we can realistically do.”
The tone of the conversation becomes more relaxed at this point when the two began finding common ground.
Moorhead wants to increase security along the border, implementing more troops as well as flying drones, in order to make it harder for immigrants to pass into the country. Josephson says there is a potential for human rights violations and that we don’t have the resources to fully protect the border. Instead, he’d like to see the country invest more in local law enforcement.
“Illegally crossing the border is against the law,” Moorhead says. “Breaking the law should not be optional.”
He cites the recent San Francisco murder by an illegal immigrant as an example of why “sanctuary cities” are a bad idea.
“We have a history of being a nation of immigrants, but we also have a history of having issues with other immigrants,” says Josephson, still aggressive about his humanitarian position.
In the end, both agree that people who commit serious crimes should be deported and that there is a general problem with our immigration system that lets good people fall through the cracks.
GUNNING FOR VICTORY
Talk of violent crime naturally led to gun regulation, another topic that resonates with “red” Arizona.
“I think we are guaranteed by the Second Amendment the right to bear arms,” Josephson begins. “That said, I think there are reasonable and common sense solutions that we can implement.”
Moorhead believes that current gun laws do not seem effective, citing Chicago’s high gun violence rate despite strict laws on obtaining a weapon.
“We’re not trying to take away people’s guns,” Josephson says. “I think we have to balance the Constitution and the rights that we’ve established with the safety of our citizens.”
“Unlike other countries, America has a tradition of gun ownership,” Moorhead says.
The conversation becomes heated again and it appears both individuals were going to stay solid in their stances.
“Yeah, we have a big tradition of it, but that doesn’t inherently mean that it’s something we should universally be able to do,” Josephson responds.
“We want to make life safe for citizens who don’t want to carry guns.”
He goes on to say that America is the leader in gun violence compared to other developed countries and Europe and Asia.
“And that’s not a category I like to pride myself on as an American,” he says.
While removing his hat, Moorhead says his main issue is with the idea of a Federal registry.
“I think it takes away power from citizens and puts it in the hands of the Federal government,” he says.
While he does not personally believe that restrictions are required or useful, he accepts that states can create their own gun laws.
“Background checks should be common sense,” says Josephson, arguing in favor of federal involvement.
“Suppose you have an individual who wants to commit a violent crime. Wouldn’t it be common sense that they would commit that crime with other means?” Moorhead asks.
“It seems that there have to be reasonable things that we can do other than accept that we will have guns and that kids can die in our schools,” Josephson says. “I think it says something about us as a country where we have debates over the effective ways we have come to kill each other.”
Moorhead explains that buying guns from friends and buying from gun enthusiast conventions were reasons that regulation would be futile.
“So the cost of protecting the life of one of our citizens is too high to attempt to enforce that law?” Josephson responds, taken aback by Moorhead’s opinion.
After more rehashing from both sides, the parties conclude that our criminal justice system and medical system allow too many people with psychological illnesses to go unnoticed, leading to potentially deadly situations.
The topic of education arose in an attempt to find a lighter discussion to end the evening. Josephson is at his most passionate at this point, clearly well versed in this issue.
“It’s something very important that we have an educated work force,” Josephson says. “But we’ve cut more than any other state in the country on higher education.”
Moorhead admitted that he was not as well versed on this topic, but he did like Governor Doug Ducey’s budget.
Josephson was concerned that too much state money was going to prisons rather than education. He cited personal stories about attending state council meetings where they pushed budget talks to the very end of the session, at a point when everyone had left.
“They have shown time and time again that they do not want to be accountable to the people,” he says vehemently.
Moorhead thought the new general budget made “government more accountable to the taxpayers.” Giving them more control over where the money went.
“In some classrooms, teachers are paying out of their own pocket for school supplies and that’s completely unsustainable,” says Josephson.
The topic ended somewhat unresolved since Moorhead remained neutral on the matter and both participants had to leave.
Both Josephson and Moorhead enjoyed the discussion and noted that they would be open to meeting again to debate other topics.
In a two-party system like ours, these types of open discussions are necessary to live amicably side-by-side. Just as men and women from both parties have been doing for years, the two parted ways on cordial terms as they firmly shook hands before making their separate ways home.