The Council for Democracy continued its efforts to educate students at the University of Miami about the political world through non-partisan tactics when it hosted the “Choose Your Party” forum last Thursday evening at the Rat.
Roughly 60 students showed up to hear stump speeches from representatives of the Libertarian, Green, Republican and Democratic parties.
Among the speakers was Doug Klippel, chairman of the Florida Libertarian Party; Geoffrey Becker, executive director of the Florida Republican Party; Dan McCrea, a South Miami councilman who represented the Green Party; and Alan Korbin, electoral chair of the Green Party of Florida.
Scott Maddox, chairman of the Democratic Party of Florida, appeared after the official forum had ended and was forced to speak in the Rat’s conference room for about 10 minutes to a smaller crowd due to weather-plagued traffic delays.
The three party representatives spoke about their platforms before answering questions from audience members.
Korbin’s discourse on the Green Party’s progressive ideas was in sharp contrast to Becker’s structured Republican responses. Klippel espoused the Libertarian Party’s extreme laissez-faire beliefs in nearly all matters, from economics to social policy.
“It’s nice to see a public forum where members of third groups speak on the same card as the two major parties,” said John Fahrendorf, a graduate student in the School of Communication. “It’s more representative of a true democracy. The Green Party wants to hear your opinion, and I’m glad that they have an open voice here instead of being silenced by the oppressive Democratic and Republican voices.”
The questions from the audience dealt with issues such as FCC rules for deregulating the media, the cost of war in Iraq and the U.S. deficit.
“We hear so much about the two bigger parties that I wanted to hear the other parties define their stances and what they stand for,” said Amy Stover, a freshman majoring in international studies.
The Council for Democracy provided the Rat’s conference room for each party to display informative materials. Republican “Bush/Cheney ’04” bumper stickers were countered by stickers from the Libertarians that read “I’m Pro-Choice on Everything.”
However, the Libertarian booth boasted the most interactive showcase with a large “Self-Government Compass” which allowed students to position themselves in the political spectrum. Voter registration cards were also in ample supply at a neutral table.
When Council for Democracy Vice President Edward Martos asked for cheers from the audience to gauge whether there were more self-described liberals or conservatives in the room, the reaction was evenly split.
Liberals, however, were more forceful in vocalizing their opposition to the Republican representative’s viewpoints ,as was made evident by a loud booing for his comment on the war in Iraq and an additional comment from an audience member who wanted to say that most people supported the troops but not the war in Iraq.
“I hope this forum allowed students to start thinking about why they haven’t joined a party or why they are in a party,” Martos said. “We want awareness to turn into involvement, and not because of sound bites or because it’s the cool thing to do, but for the right reasons.”
Horacio Sierra can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org