The entire room stood up, eager to show their appreciation for Professors Brat and Trammell from Randolph-Macon, who have given much to the college as faculty and have been participants in the exhausting campaign cycle since June.
For a moment on Oct. 28, time seemed to stand still.
The enthusiastic reaction from the audience expressed an uncommon connection with the candidates: although many political debates end up as stuffy, formal affairs, this one was the culmination of a political shock that threw R-MC into the media’s fishbowl.
Even through the occasional negativity of the campaigns, the hounding of students by reporters, and the jokes about R-MC professors being eager to leave their jobs, the audience made a statement on Oct. 28: the R-MC community has endured the never-ending campaign, and it is as strong as ever.
The debate in the “center of the political universe” featured two moderators, R-MC President Robert Lindgren and NBC12 (WWBT) anchor Heather Sullivan, who guided the candidates through the night with questions submitted on the Internet Editor that covered a wide range of topics.
Brat and Trammell alternated in responding to questions, with Trammell winning a coin toss and selecting both to open first and close last.
In his opening statement, Trammell noted the remarkable turn of events that had taken place in Virginia’s 7th district so far, but recalled Thomas Jefferson’s quote, “I like the dreams of the future better than the history of the past.” He emphasized that we need to take care of our veterans and our schools as a nation through nurturing a healthy democracy and asking ourselves tough questions.
In candidate Brat’s opening statement, he argued that he would be the best candidate to fix what is broken with Washington. Brat said he believes repealing Obamacare, making sure our social safety net is solvent, and creating a better labor market for Americans should be our top priorities.
The debate soon shifted to the candidates’ positions on Obamacare, with Brat quickly mentioning that he would repeal and replace Obamacare as soon as he got to Washington.
“Obamacare is a federal top-down product with a mandate that’s already failing,” Brat said.
After noting that Obamacare insured around 18 million Americans, Brat asserted, “It disrupted the health care for 250 million other Americans.”
Trammell responded that he believes Brat’s depiction of Obamacare is not entirely accurate. For him, the law has “accomplished some of the things it set out to accomplish.”
He told a story about a businessman named Andrew he met on the campaign trail.
Andrew was able to get insurance through the Affordable Care Act whereas before he was unable to afford insurance because of the high overhead associated with his business.
When the candidates were asked about making cuts to the discretionary spending in the U.S. budget, both indicated that they would like to protect Social Security and Medicare.
Trammell noted that it is key for the country to make sure that foreign policy spending is accounted for when balancing the budget.
“We go to Iraq once, we go to Iraq a second time, now we’re about to go to Iraq a third time, and what have we accomplished? Why are we going back again? We’ve spent trillions going there that has not been in the budget.”
In response, candidate Brat offered a statistic that has become a familiar one throughout his primary and general election campaigns: the U.S. stands to face $127 trillion in unfunded liabilities if we don’t alter discretionary spending projections.
Brat chastised Trammell for dishonestly accusing him of wanting to slash social security.
“If I had him in class, I’d give him an ethics paper and send him to the dean,” Brat said.
Trammell had a zinger in return, noting that Brat’s platform might create difficulties in dealing with Social Security.
“Well Dave, fortunately since you term limited yourself to twelve years publicly, you’ll be out of there before the Social Security crisis hits,” Trammell said.
Trammell stated his belief that energy is a shared responsibility.
He shared his experience in putting a fence around his farm and having plants that would reduce erosion in response to a request by his neighbor to try and limit the amount that the waste from his animals polluted a nearby creek.
“Individuals, corporations, the EPA, we all have to bear that burden in a way that doesn’t put people out of business and also looks out for the environment.”
The conclusion of the debate resulted in thunderous applause as loud or louder than the ovation at the beginning.
The two men shook hands and smiled. They knew they had a unique place in R-MC’s finest moment.
-Henry Ashton ’15, Senior Politics/Opinions Editor