Viewpoints Differ at Election Debate

Photo: Speakers for different presidential campaigns addressed an on-campus forum yesterday, including Chris Young for Obama's campaign, left, and Ann O'Leary for Clinton's, right.
Michael Kang/Photo
Speakers for different presidential campaigns addressed an on-campus forum yesterday, including Chris Young for Obama's campaign, left, and Ann O'Leary for Clinton's, right.

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For most UC Berkeley students, the American presidential race consists of just two colors-red and blue.

But at a forum last night in Dwinelle Hall, nearly 50 students listened to speakers who support a variety of candidates ranging from the Republican Party to the Party for Socialism and Liberation.

"You're young, you're smart ... Imagine what you really want," said Jim Dorenkott, 64, a Bay Area resident supporting independent candidate Ralph Nader. "Don't just accept what the status quo-Democrats and Republicans-are offering. It's really not enough."

The half-dozen speakers debated questions submitted by UC Berkeley students, touching on health care, the environment and the war in Iraq, one of the night's most contentious issues.

"When conventional wisdom aligned behind a war with undetermined length and consequences, (Barack Obama) had the courage, foresight and judgment to oppose that war," said Chris Young, Obama's Northern California deputy finance director.

But UC Berkeley political science professor Sandy Muir, speaking on behalf of Republican candidate John McCain, said the U.S. is obligated to improve conditions in the region.

"We're going to stay there until we succeed-and we are succeeding," he said. "The Democrats are a party that sees no progress, hears no progress and speaks no progress."

The Latino Pre-Law Society organized the forum, along with Cal Berkeley Democrats, Students for Barack Obama, Unity House, Campus Greens and Boalt Hall School of Law. Professor Alan Ross of Political Science 179 served as the moderator.

Senior Paola Valdivia, the pre-law society's alumni chair, said the event came from a belief that the campus' Latino community should be aware of issues in the election.

Nathalie Hrizi, a local teacher supporting the Party for Socialism and Liberation candidate Gloria La Riva, argued that the U.S. prison system discriminates against minorities. La Riva ran for mayor of San Francisco in 1991.

"The majority (of inmates) are people of color, and almost every single person is a working person-the rich do not go to jail for crimes," Hrizi said.

Berkeley resident Ann O'Leary said that of all the candidates, Senator Hillary Clinton is best prepared to face the nation's challenges.

"I saw her first-hand grapple with the issues," said O'Leary, who worked as Clinton's senior policy adviser and legislative director from 1999 to 2003.

Junior Steven Broderick, who is leaning toward the Green Party, said he found the debate informative.

"I usually wouldn't go out of my way to research it otherwise," he said.

Larry Shoup, a local activist backing Green Party candidate Cynthia McKinney, said preserving minority viewpoints is crucial in a democracy.

"Once (Clinton or Obama) are elected, in our view they're going to move to the center," Shoup said. "The only way we can keep them honest and moving toward good positions is if we have an independent movement."


Stephanie M. Lee covers academics and administration. Contact her at [email protected]

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