Categories
Viewpoint

I was the Republican debater at the midterm debate. Here’s what really happened. 

It has now been over a month since the midterm debate, and I regret to inform you that leftists on campus still have not quite recovered.

Just this week, another opinion piece (if a glorified Reddit rant can be categorized as such) appeared in The Observer making laughably insane claims about my debate rhetoric and about the Republican platform in general. Before that, there was the infamous letter to the editor published by the Notre Dame College Democrats that unsuccessfully attempted to smear my reputation on campus. I wanted to take this opportunity to personally respond to both of these unhinged diatribes and set the record straight about the true motivation behind these baseless attacks. 

The first article, published by the College Democrats, accused me of “racist,” “anti-semitic” and “transphobic” rhetoric — doing so while providing no quotes or even a single timestamp of any of the aforementioned transgressions (one wonders why). When pressed directly by me in-person for evidence, the College Democrats, apparently being fully serious, claimed that my concern about record rates of fatherlessness amounted to a “racist dogwhistle” and opposition to sterilizing children construed “transphobia.” Regarding the claim of “anti-semitism,” they falsely accused me of equating “Judaism’s position on abortion to Aztec child sacrifice” during a discussion on the Dobbs decision. This claim was made despite the fact that, verbatim, I said that I “did not know about Judaism,” and “was not making any kind of claim about Judaism,” before explaining that a hypothetical religious exemption to abortion laws would be invalid due to the limitations of moral relativism, which is a position supported by the Supreme Court’s decision in Employment Division v. Smith

Likewise, the most recent Viewpoint piece (which somehow manages to be even more unhinged than the first), oscillates between blatant lies, such as claiming that I said “immigrants are inherently violent,” and legitimately deranged rhetoric, including allegations that Republicans (who the author refers to as “vexed vermin”) “actively seek to advocate for the death of [the author] or [his] friends for the crime of being born.” These allegations do not genuinely merit a serious response, but the parallels between the two articles did beg the question of why the campus left has chosen to respond to this debate in the most psychotic way imaginable. 

And the answer to that question is one word: fear. It is an overbearing trepidation felt by leftists here and across the nation toward a changing Republican Party that is finally willing to stand up to their cultural agenda. For generations, the small-government dogma that dominated the American right meant that progressives never had to answer for their radical distortions of sexual ethics, national identity and even basic ontological concepts like gender. But those days are over. Witnessing firsthand the damage cultural liberalism has inflicted on American society, the Republican Party is growing more reactionary. It’s becoming more open to using the state to promote civic virtue and in many cases, such as through the Dobbs decision, it is winning. This, the Democrats cannot handle. 

When I directly confronted the left’s evil, unconscionable sterilization of children, destruction of national borders and erosion of sexual morality, they short-circuited. They were unable to even fathom, let alone process, the prospect of genuine resistance to their cultural sacraments. The College Democrats alluded to this when they attacked me for not speaking “on a wide range of legitimate policy positions enumerated in the Republican National Committee’s official platform.” What this comment really meant is that they want Republicans to continue to spew right-liberal platitudes about individualism or capital gains taxes while they impose their morally depraved worldview on the rest of society, and that any real opposition will not be tolerated. And this is the real reason the Democrats did what they did. 

But make no mistake: neither I nor the Notre Dame College Republicans will be intimidated, and we will certainly not retreat from fighting this cultural battle. The stakes for the survival of our nation — and the health of our core institutions — are simply too high. The left can write as many hit pieces as they want and smear me with however many buzzwords they please; I apologize for nothing, and for me, America will always be worth it. 

Shri Thakur

first-year

Dec. 6

Categories
Viewpoint

Hate has no place here

Last Wednesday, BridgeND hosted a debate between the College Democrats and College Republicans. What was intended to be an educational conversation and a model for civil discourse instead spiraled into a display of racist, transphobic and antisemitic rhetoric from the College Republicans’ representative. We believe that the College Republicans must be held accountable for their hateful words, if not by our University’s administration then by concerned students like us. This letter is not about liberals being unable to listen to opposing opinions or being intolerant of different viewpoints. It is about taking a stand against the growth of hateful sentiment on Notre Dame’s campus and holding those who perpetrate it accountable. 

You don’t have to just take our word for it: Listen to what the College Republicans’ representative said during the debate, which you can watch on YouTube.

The Republican debater’s election denial, promotion of QAnon conspiracies about Jan. 6, transphobic characterization of deeply personal experiences for trans children, comparison of Judaism’s position on abortion with Aztec child sacrifice, dogwhistles on race when discussing DEI and promotion of nationalism are not just factually inaccurate and problematic. These statements are unacceptable and harmful to our community at Notre Dame. What was meant to be educational was instead speech based on inflammatory lies and group defamation. For these reasons, we unequivocally condemn his statements. 

It seems that the Republican debater’s intent was to use inflammatory speech to elicit a reaction from the crowd. He could have spoken on a wide range of legitimate policy positions enumerated in the Republican National Committee’s official platform. He could have embraced civil discourse and been respectful toward the College Democrats’ debater. Instead, he drew on conspiracy theories, alt-right rhetoric and dangerous nationalist ideas. The debate could have been an opportunity for educational, civil discourse, but instead it was an event that made students in the audience and those watching the recording feel unsafe and unwelcome at their own university.

Unfortunately, what we witnessed last Wednesday is not an isolated incident of hate speech and political extremism. Rather, it represents the emergence — or rather, the explosion — of antidemocratic and hateful sentiments at Notre Dame. 

Last year, the editor-in-chief of the Irish Rover published a homophobic article, arguing that the affirmation of LGBTQ+ students’ sexuality was inconsistent with the University’s Catholic mission, purposefully timed after National Coming Out Day. Her argument was that truly loving and including queer students unconditionally is un-Catholic. This year, the Rover’s articles included assertions that selling Pride-related products at the bookstore was tantamount to heresy.

We also held our first-ever PrideFest last year, a major milestone for Notre Dame’s LGBTQ+ students. And yet, some students were overheard ridiculing the event, mocking what Notre Dame had become and showing disgust for the celebration. Remarks like these are disheartening. On top of that, the Young Americans for Freedom put up a sign in the Duncan Student Center last year that read “Lia Thomas is not a woman.” This isn’t emblematic of the Notre Dame family that we have touted and embraced.

Last Wednesday, when the College Democrats’ representative Blake Ziegler called out an antisemitic comment made to him during the debate, members of the audience booed him. It is disgusting and highly offensive that an antisemitic comment was made on stage by the College Republicans’ representative, but even more so that students of this university booed someone who was simply holding his opponent accountable for insulting his religion.

{Editor’s note: Blake Ziegler is a Viewpoint columnist for The Observer.}

These actions of hate need to be addressed and need to be condemned.

When students at the University of Notre Dame, a prestigious academic institution, are allowed to make offensive comments in an official, public capacity, they normalize it for extremists everywhere. We may not realize it in the moment, but for people watching this debate with hateful ideologies in their hearts, it is validating. We allow it to become an academically sound argument, when it’s pure lies and hate. Introducing such ideas under the guise of “academic debate” and “intellectual freedom” does not make them legitimate — it just gives them an undeserved place at this university. And, by giving them a place here, we use the power and prestige that comes with the words “University of Notre Dame” to tell the world that hate is acceptable.

We want the Notre Dame administration to formally condemn the dangerous rhetoric promoted by College Republicans at the BridgeND debate and commit to requiring comprehensive anti-bias training for student club officers.

Notre Dame’s motto is to be a force for good, but we can’t do that when we don’t uphold our educational mission of pursuing the truth — rather than promoting conspiracy. We proclaim the promise of the Notre Dame family above all else, but we are not treating all of our members with love and respect. We are the Fighting Irish, but what are we fighting for if not the dignity of our own home?

With love for Notre Dame and hope for its future,

Alexandra Conley

junior

Riya Shah

senior

Anna Guzman

senior

Benjamín Rascon Gracia

junior

Katie Werner

junior

Megan Keenan

junior

Sydney Dittmar

junior

College Democrats board members

Nov. 10

The views expressed in this Letter to the Editor are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

Categories
News

University groups hold student engagement opportunities on Election Day

On Tuesday, Nov. 8, the midterm elections will be held for all 435 seats of the House of Representatives, 35 out of 100 U.S. Senate seats and thousands of local elections in each state. With many students voting for the first time, the midterm elections are an indication of where the nation will head towards. 

However, many students try to avoid political conversations — and those who don’t prefer to engage in political conversations with those from their political preference.

As NDVotes co-chair Grace Scartz wrote via email, “We have seen that ND students often shy away from conversations seen as political, or will only engage with people they know believe the same things as they do.” 

Additionally, Scartz said she believes students feel as though they cannot make a significant impact in the political world and are discouraged from engaging in politics altogether.

“Lots of students also feel that they cannot have an impact on politics and feel disaffected by the acrimonious political environment all around us,” Scartz said. 

Many clubs around campus will host events for students on Nov. 8 regarding the outcome of the midterm elections and to increase political engagement on students. 

NDVotes, in alliance with the Student Latino Association as part of the ‘Nuestro Voto” (our vote) campaign, will host a Pizza, Pop, and Politics in 1050 Nanovic Institute from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. The meeting will host professor Ricardo Ramirez, director of the Hesburgh Program in Public Service, to discuss civic engagement from Latino voters in these midterms. 

The College Democrats will host a meeting in the Montgomery Auditorium at LaFortune at 7 p.m. to discuss any concerns regarding the midterm debate last week. The meeting will be an open forum among club members to discuss any concerns they had over last week’s debate, co-president Anne Guzman said.

“[O]ur club has taken actions to keep our community on campus safe,” Guzman said. “We created a full plan of action to make sure that what was said during this debate doesn’t go unaddressed because of how harmful it is to the campus community at large.” 

The College Republicans will host an Election Night Watch Party in 155 DeBartolo Hall at 7 p.m. The watch party is set to serve Chipotle catering and drinks to its guests, as they watch the results of the midterm elections.

“Tomorrow will mark the beginning of a new day for America,” president PJ Butler wrote in an email. “For two years, the Democratic party has done everything that they can to bleed this country dry. But the bleeding will finally stop when red prevails.”

Students whose permanent address is in St. Joseph County can vote in-person tomorrow. Voting locations can be found on the St. Joseph County website.

Contact Sam at sgodinez@nd.edu.

Categories
News

College Republicans and College Democrats trade jabs over inflation, abortion in midterm debate

College Republicans representative Shri Thakur and College Democrats representative Blake Ziegler sparred over inflation, abortion and crime in a debate hosted by BridgeND ahead of the midterm elections.

(Editor’s note: Ziegler is a Viewpoint columnist for The Observer)

Ziegler spent much of the debate defending President Joe Biden’s presidency and highlighting “one of the most productive legislative sessions in recent history,” while also painting the Republican Party as extremist and lacking a clear vision for the country.

Thakur criticized the Biden administration, especially for its handling of the economy, and focused primarily on cultural issues relating to education, abortion and crime.

“The Democrats have spent the last few years and really the last few decades waging a war on the American way of life and the institutions that once sustained it,” Thakur said.

On the economy, Thakur blasted the Biden administration for the record levels of inflation seen in the past year. 

“Democrats enacted a prolonged lockdown of our economy causing over 200,000 small businesses to close while ballooning total billionaire wealth by $1.7 trillion. And to make matters worse, they then went on to print $6 trillion in two years and declare war on American energy, halting the new drilling of oil and gas blocking permits and sending the price of basically everything skyrocketing,” he said.

Ziegler framed inflation as a worldwide problem not caused by any Democratic policies and highlighted the Inflation Reduction Act as a boost to the American economy. 

“The Inflation Reduction Act will lower healthcare costs and energy prices while raising Social Security payments,” he said.

The debate then turned to crime, a key talking point in the 2022 elections. Thakur blamed Democrat policies for the rise of crime in cities.

“In dozens of Democrat-run cities across the nation homicides have increased by 50%, assault by 36%,” he said. “In New York and San Francisco, Democratic prosecutors are abolishing cash bail, refusing to prosecute theft and defunding the police.”

Ziegler instead focused on root causes of crime. 

“The failures of our economy and social welfare programs have forced millions of Americans, who are disproportionately people of color, to resort to crime,” he said.

While discussion over economic policy and crime remained relatively civil, the debate became more contentious as the questions shifted toward abortion and education.

“We are two men talking about a decision we will never have to make,” Ziegler said. 

Ziegler also condemned Republicans for attacking the right to an abortion that “has been in place for 50 years” and stated that Roe v. Wade should be reinstated.

To begin his segment, Thakur began by declaring that “abortion is murder.” He argued that the unborn are “genetically distinct” human beings worthy of equal consideration and supported a federal ban on abortion justified by the interstate commerce clause of the Constitution.

“Policy making is about pragmatism. It’s about your interests. It’s not about imposing your own personal or religious views on others. I’m Jewish, I shouldn’t have to listen to Christianity to tell me when life begins,” Ziegler rebutted.

“He brought religion into this,” Thakur said in response. “You don’t need to be religious to understand the fact that human life begins at conception and that we should not be killing innocent human beings.”

On education, Thakur criticized Democrat-run states for closing schools during the pandemic and for including transgenderism into school curricula. 

“This is a war on reality and the children are the causality,” Thakur said.

Ziegler touted the Biden administration’s efforts to improve education and blasted Republican rhetoric about education as “homophobic and transphobic.”

The polarization of the debate went on full display when both debaters were asked to recognize something they believed the opposite party had done well in the past two years. Zeigler praised some Republicans for voting for President Biden’s legislation, while Thakur thanked Democrats for ensuring “there will be a Republican majority for the next 10 years.”

Both candidates then gave their concluding remarks and articulated their vision for the country.

Ziegler framed the Republican Party as a threat to democracy and painted the election as a choice between authoritarianism and democracy.

 “This midterm election has a pivotal role in the state of American democracy and whether it will continue for future elections. Election denialism cannot win, hatred cannot win, authoritarianism cannot win. What must win is democracy, equality and freedom,” Ziegler said.

Thakur urged voters to reject Democrats’ vision for the U.S. and to defend American institutions.

“The Democratic Party has waged war on everything good. And the result is a society that is more antagonized, more self-destructive and weaker than ever before,” Thakur said. “We are going to defend our culture and put Americans first in the name of God, family and country and we are going to make America great again.”

Contact Liam Kelly at lkelly8@nd.edu.

Categories
News

Students react to the reversal of Roe v. Wade

On June 24, 2022, Dobbs v. Jackson overturned the precedent set in Roe v. Wade.

In the original Roe v. Wade decision, the U.S. Supreme Court established that women have the right to privacy with their doctor, and therefore states could not interfere with a woman’s choice to get an abortion.

Dobbs v. Jackson ruled that the right to privacy is not explicit within the Constitution, meaning it will now be up to the states to decide if abortions are allowed.

The decision has already had profound impacts across the country, but on a Catholic campus with a number of progressive students, the controversy is even more pronounced.

Campus groups against abortion have signaled their approval of overturning Roe.

One club that has actively spoken about its positive opinion on the decision is Notre Dame Right To Life. Their formal statement on Dobbs can be read on their website. 

Merlot Fogarty, president of Right To Life, said she feels the Supreme Court has now made the right decision.

“I definitely think that Roe was wrongly decided at the very beginning. If you do read the Dobbs decision, the right to privacy really isn’t mentioned,” Fogarty said. 

She said the reversal was important as an admission of mistakes made by past courts. 

“I think this decision definitely opened people up to the awareness that there can be wrongly-decided cases, and there can be mistakes made by the Supreme Court,” Fogarty said. 

Fogarty was in Indianapolis when a new abortion bill for the state of Indiana was debated. It will soon become Indiana law that women cannot get abortions with few exceptions, such as rape, incest, health of the mother and fatal fetal abnormalities, according to reporting by the Indianapolis Star.

Fogarty said she was glad Indiana called a special session to pass this bill. She only wishes the bill were stricter. 

For instance, Fogarty said she feels that rape is “not the fault of the baby” and that abortion punishes the fetus for its father’s crime.

“We’re able to work on getting rid of these exceptions and valuing life, regardless of the circumstances of the conception,” Fogarty said. 

But there is also a side to the debate unhappy with the decision. Irish 4 Reproductive Health, a leading group in support of reproductive health access, declined The Observer’s request to speak in an interview.

“Given the work that we do as an organization and the contentious nature of the political landscape on these issues right now, we would rather not have our positions beyond that up for interpretation,” the group said in an email.

Katie Werner, communications director of College Democrats and vice president of Jewish Club, spoke for the opposing side. She said she is not representing the clubs she is a member of in this interview. 

[Editor’s note: Werner is a former news writer for The Observer.]

Having lived in the southern United States for the past six years, Werner said the Dobbs decision will lead to a harsh reality for her and her friends back home. 

“I’m very concerned, because I think that the nearest abortion clinic, like even Planned Parenthood for cheaper healthcare, is like six to eight hours away,” she said.

Beyond concerns for her female friends, Werner said the decision in the Dobbs case has religious implications. She is involved in her Jewish faith and said she follows certain expectations that her religious texts place on her that do not follow the Dobbs decision. 

“The reformed Jewish sect is pro-choice,” Werner said.

Now that the Supreme Court has ruled that there is no mention of privacy in the Constitution, Werner worries it will affect LBGTQ+ rights, contraceptive rights and more.

“It’s super dangerous because they’re gonna start taking so many progressive rights,” she said. 

Werner said she and many of her friends share the same view on the situation but are unsure how to move forward because the campus atmosphere are making it hard for people with her views to take a stand. 

“I’m kind of at a loss, and there’s a lot of silence, which is awful. It’s only coming from pro-choicers, obviously, so it’s just so unfair,” Werner said.

The new Indiana abortion bill will take effect on Sept. 15.

Emma Duffy

Contact Emma at eduffy5@nd.edu.