Debate shows two-party system is 'alive and well' in Kentucky

July 16, 2004|TIM WISEMAN

It wasn't a debate, but it sounded like one.

Bill Garmer, the chairman of the Kentucky Democratic Party, and John McCarthy, the chairman of the Kentucky Republican Party, came to Centre College Thursday night to field questions about local and national politics submitted by high school students in the Governor's Scholars Program.

This discussion of the state of the two-party system was the first event of the new "Centre Stage for Public Policy" series which seeks to bring more political forums to the campus.

"When serious discussions go on in the Commonwealth, we want them to occur here," said Centre President John Rousch.

Students from the Centre campus of the Governor's Scholars Program attended the event and their questions to Garmer and McCarthy, a Centre alumnus, focused on differences between the two parties and why each man chose his political affiliation.


The two pointed to positions on economic policy and the scope of the role of government as main differences between the parties. Garmer said Democrats believe "government can be a force for good," while McCarthy said Republicans have a "faith in personal responsibility."

As the discussion shifted to more controversial topics such as the war in Iraq, the Kentucky budget stand-off and same-sex marriage, the talk between Garmer and McCarthy grew more heated. The two bickered about job statistics and started to take on each other more directly.

Garmer said recent reports show no connection between terrorists and Iraq, and McCarthy answered that President George W. Bush committed to "taking the fight to the terrorists" and has done that by toppling a violent regime in Iraq and promoting democracy.

While Garmer answered a question about preventing future budget problems in Kentucky, McCarthy leaned over asked the moderator Clarence Wyatt, "Can I have a rebuttal?"

Wyatt kept the format the same, and so the two chairmen continued to take turns answering questions until time cut the discussion short.

Students say debators often drifted from original issues

But some students said that Garmer and McCarthy often drifted from the original issues at hand when answering those questions.

"I think they kind of steered off from the questions," said Charles Pan, a student from Lexington's Lafayette High School, who had his question selected to be answered. "I learned a little, but most of it has been said before."

Fred Henderson, a student at Lexington's Bryan Station High School, agreed and wished a time limit had been created to keep Garmer and McCarthy on topic and save time for student involvement.

"They started talking about one thing and then started going on and on about something else," Henderson said. "Students should have asked follow-up questions because it's better to get responses under pressure."

Brittany Hazelwood of DuPont Manual High School in Louisville said the talk was about "the same old stuff," but it just showed how the two parties have clear differences.

That disagreement means Kentucky's two parties are alive and well, and that's just fine, Garmer said.

"We disagree heartily, but that's good for our country," he said. "It is American to disagree."

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