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Debaters Address "A Conflict of Visions"

| October 26, 2012

Debaters take the stage for Clash of the Titans
Photo by Alex Perry

With an election just days away, the heat has been turned up between liberals and conservatives on issues of policy, justice, law and government. Is political division destroying our country from the inside out? What will it take for Americans to stand united?

Those were the questions addressed in Regent University's 10th annual Clash of the TitansĀ® on Friday, Oct. 26. The theme, "A Conflict of Visions," came from the classic work of economist and author Thomas Sowell. His book presents a provocative analysis of the "constrained" vision, which sees human nature as unchanging and self-interested, and the "unconstrained" vision, in which humans are capable of sacrificing and adapting for the good of others.

In the context of these competing visions, four esteemed representatives from both sides of the political aisle explored America's growing chasm. Representing the left were Dee Dee Myers, White House press secretary during the first two years of the Clinton administration, and Edward Rendell, former governor of Pennsylvania. On the right were Haley Barbour, former governor of Mississippi, and Rick Santorum, former senator and 2012 candidate for the Republican presidential nomination. Steve Kroft, award-winning 60 Minutes correspondent, moderated this battle of political heavyweights.

During opening statements, Rendell noted the need for both parties to work together, saying, "Seventy percent of voters want their elected officials to compromise and get things done. It's going to take strong leadership and putting aside differences to get things done. We're going to have to have the courage to tell people that they're going to accept change. We're going to have to find the strength and the courage to accept change, put aside our differences and help this country get back on track. We've got to act as Americans."

Echoing the debate theme, Santorum addressed the differences head-on. "I think there is a fundamental clash of visions in America. There are leaders of this culture that have two very different visions for this country. Our founder's vision is unique in human history. We're all hyphenated Americans. America is not a heritage, and it's not a race; it's an ideal."

During a spirited roundtable discussion, the debaters touched on several issues that are foremost on the minds of voters in the current election season, including tax reform, debt reduction, health care, national security and more. Both sides sparred over raising taxes versus cutting the federal budget. The defense budget and entitlement spending for Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid all garnered attention during the discussion.

"Spending cuts have to come from across the board," Myers said. "You can't take anything off the table. The idea that cutting taxes is going to just create revenue is a fallacy."

Foreign policy was another weighty subject, as the speakers talked about fighting terrorism and using diplomacy. On the issue of the threat of a nuclear Iran, Barbour agreed that the sanctions imposed are having an effect on Iran, but said that Republicans had been pushing for sanctions for several years before they were enacted."Tougher sanction against Iran should have been done much, much sooner," he said.

Members of the audience also chimed in, as Kroft asked questions from posed by several of them on diverse topics including what issues present the most likely opportunity for both political parties to come together, whether the first woman president will be a Democrat or Republican, whether religious views should play a role in policy decisions, and if the national debt can be reduced significantly in the next eight years.

In their final remarks, the debaters spoke passionately about the issues important to them.

"There is one fundamental competing vision: the role of government," said Rendell. I believe the government has an obligation to care for its most vulnerable citizens. Government can also create opportunities for people, promote growth and be a catalyst for good things."

Santorum also spoke about the role of government."It's not about what government can do for you, it's about what you and your family and your churches can do. Each one of us has a responsibility to take care of each other, but government has robbed us of the obligation and the joy of helping our brothers and sisters. We've walked away and we need to get back to what made our country great."

Myers reflected on the value of collective action. "This is the greatest country in the history of the world, and we keep getting better because we do have individual initiative, but we've had a partner in that who's been essential in creating what we've got. There has to be a balance and change will come through collective action. We've accomplished a lot because we've worked together."

As the final speaker, Barbour urged everyone not only to vote, but to spend these final days before the election urging others to vote.

"Whoever you're for, this is the most consequential presidential election of your lifetime. There's never been an election where the visions have ever been farther apart,"he said. "Whoever you're for, remember the most powerful tool you've been given by our constitution is your vote and your ability to tell people about that vote. Talk to your friends and family, the people you work with, the people you go to church or synagogue with. Don't leave any stone unturned."


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Mindy Hughes, Public Relations

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E-mail: mhughes@regent.edu



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