Forum debate on presidential primaries draws large audience

The presidential primaries led a heated Speak Up Speak Out forum last night in the Charles V. Park Library auditorium. Back-and-fourth discussion of panelists and students debating president candidates led to the audience dwindling down early as people left in frustration.

The panel consisted of students, a political science professor, a political reporter, and people who supported both parties to lead the discussion. The forum addressed views of different candidates, important of millennials voting and different issues candidates had voiced views on. Students were also able to give their opinion during the event. Tuesday, March 8 is when the primaries in Michigan will be held.

One of the main issues discussed was the lack of millennial voters.

Mount Pleasant junior Jamie Watson said she sees a problem with her peers not going out, voting, and implementing impactful change.

“What is the chance that we’re going to see the youth actually rising up, working with a grass roots type of organization, and actually creating some sort of history here,” Watson said.

Volunteers handed out voting information and absentee ballots to their peers moments before the event started, which sought to educate students about the process behind primary elections and its candidates.

Panelist Cherie Strachan said there have been declining turnouts for voters within each following generation.

“No one has been able to challenge baby boomers until now,” Strachan said. “I don’t think millennials feel empowered, but they are.”

Another focus point of discussion was geared toward Bernie Sander’s fight for free university tuition.

Panelist Crystal Pendergrass said she would not want free schooling because she thought it would depreciate the value of a college degree, which elicited a strongly opposing response from the audience.

“I really understand why people my age don’t like politics,” said Watson. “We did see some not-so-pretty deliberation tonight, and people talking over each other; and not even on a partisan basis, but on an opinion basis.”

When facilitator David Jesuit asked for a show of hands of who everyone was voting for, the majority of the audience was leaning toward voting democratic. When asked which candidate they were going to vote for, most vouched for Bernie Sanders, and only one audience member raised their hand in support of Donald Trump.

Rockford graduate student Christopher Willis said he is unsure of whether he is going to vote Republican or Democratic.

In the state of Michigan, primary elections require voters to choose which party they are going to vote for, and to choose a candidate from that party.

“If I had to pick a vote today, I’d pick Bernie Sanders over the other candidates,” Willis said. “I think the Republican candidates in general are troubling. I don’t think more of the more pragmatic candidates will get nominations, which is unfortunate.”

Gladwin junior Brandon Wright said for the most part he enjoyed the event.

“My favorite candidate right now is Marco Rubio,” Wright said. “I’m a very conservative Baptist, but at the same time I’m not so conservative that I’ll vote for [Ted Cruz]. So I feel like Marco Rubio is my candidate that represents and mirrors enough of exactly what I need so that I can stand behind him 100 percent.”

“I think something like this needs to take place because a presidential election year, people have differing opinions and I think that the university state of knowledge where you have some of these deliberate discussions; that’s what really like about SUSO,” Watson said.