A Synopsis of the Massachusetts Senate Debate and Why it Should Matter to You

The Presidential Election is getting most of the focus this time of year on college campuses, and rightfully so- the elected President will have an immeasurable political impact on collegiates. But did you know there is another political race happening now that could influence you just as much? This is a particularly important year for senatorial elections, and this time, Massachusetts plays an unusually important role. The voters of The Commonwealth, a state that traditionally runs deep blue, is going to be one of the key players in deciding whether the Democrats or the Republicans have control of the Senate. If there are more Republican Senators elected on November 6th, the Republican Party will have control of both the Senate, and the House of Representatives for the first time since 2003- during the George W. Bush Administration. What does this mean? Every issue Congress votes on will have more Republican voices than Democratic voices. This could potentially result in our government leaning towards the right, no matter what political party the elected president is from. Depending on your political views, this could be great news- or it could be very, very scary.

Republican Senator Scott Brown and challenger Elizabeth Warren engaged in what has been compared to a cage match on Monday night. At the time of the debate, Warren was ahead in the polls but still within the margin of error. David Gregory moderated a Meet the Press style debate, meaning the candidates were seated at a table and there were no time limits on answers. The difference between the laid-back television show and the debate were the 5,000 audience members, many of whom were students, cheering their candidate on.

Gregory began the debate on a personal note; unsurprising considering this is what has gained so much national attention. Gregory questioned Warren’s controversial claim that she is a minority of Native American decent. Warren stuck by her claim that her mother had told her their family was of Native American decent. Gregory then questioned Brown about his perhaps more controversial handling of Warren’s alleged lie. Senator Brown has run full ad campaigns accusing Warren of lying about her minority status to increase her likelihood of being selected to certain schools or for certain job opportunities. Members of Brown’s campaign staff and other Brown supporters have also been caught on film performing racist gestures and yelling chants offensive to Native Americans, including what is known as the ‘Tomahawk Chop.’ Both candidates have been under scrutiny from the media about this issue and neither candidate handled this topic particularly gracefully during the debate. Many viewers and reporters agree that wasting close to twenty minutes out of a sixty-minute debate on issues of personal nature was a waste of time.

The rest of the debate was largely focused on job creation and the economy. A Umass Lowell student asked each candidate what specific policies they would support in order to help ensure she would have a job when she graduated this May. Warren offered a lengthy but clear answer. In the short term, Warren would support proposals such as Obama’s Jobs Act, and in the long term, she would advocate to invest recourses in education and research here in Massachusetts. Brown’s answer focused on tax cuts, ensuring that if small business owners were secure their taxes wouldn’t be raised, that they would be more willing to hire more employees. Warren’s answer probably won over more students, while Brown’s answer appealed to a more mature audience who have a deeper and more personal understanding of taxation.

The second and final student question raised a topic rarely discussed between these two candidates. A student originally from the Dominican Republic asked the candidates to state their opinions on immigration, particularly if they supported the DREAM Act. The DREAM Act would allow children of illegal immigrants, who arrived in the United States as minors and have lived here at least five years, graduated from high school here, and are in good moral standing, to apply for temporary citizenship in this country. After either serving for two years in the Armed Forces, or completing two years at a higher learning institution, they may qualify for permanent residency. This time, Senator Brown answered first, saying he was opposed to the DREAM Act, calling it a “form of backdoor amnesty.” This comment received both cheers and boos from the crowd. Warren responded that she would be in full support of the DREAM act, which also got mixed reviews from the audience.

Both candidates certainly suffered through some awkward moments during the debate. Warren, when asked which Republican in the Senate she thought she could work well with, named a Senator who lost his race and would not be there. Senator Brown, when asked who his model Supreme Court judge is, answered with Antonin Scalia, a very unpopular and extremely conservative choice here in Massachusetts. Furthermore, hearing from the crowd that this was a poor choice, he followed up with Sonia Sotomayor, who is the liberal opposite of Scalia. Each of these comments made the candidates appear uneducated and frankly, a little silly.

Other memorable quotes from the night include Senator Brown scolding Warren for interrupting, saying, “I’m not a student in your classroom, please let me respond.” When Gregory asked Warren why she thought Massachusetts had never elected a female Senator or Governor, she replied with, “I don’t know…well right now I’m trying to do something about that!”

Entirely missing from this debate were some of the most important topics to the collegiate- social issues. There was zero talk about abortion, planned parenthood, and birth control, and considering this debate took place on a college campus, it was expected there would be more conversation about these issues that are so important to college women and men.

Overall, Monday night’s debate started with familiar issues to these candidates, and didn’t waver much. Brown was more aggressive, while Warren was less so. Chances are, the debate didn’t sway any decided voters one way or the other, but the most important reason candidates debate is so voters can make and informed decision. We all need to educate ourselves, and remember that the Presidential Candidate is not the only candidate you need to pick. On voting day, remember to select either Republican Scott Brown or Democrat Elizabeth Warren- this decision could mean more politically than you think.

10/02/12 at 11:46pm
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  1. laurajennie posted this