Imagine President Donald Trump’s voice bellowing throughout the Huntsman Center, bulky cameras and “we are live” red lights abound. That could very well be the case if the University of Utah wins the bid to host one of four Presidential and Vice Presidential debates in 2020. The U, in tandem with the Utah Debate Commission, are hoping their bid gets the nod when it is decided in the fall of 2019 by the Commission on Presidential Debates.
Jason Perry, vice president of government relations at the U, described the potential event as a “once-in-a-lifetime learning opportunity.” The U is aptly suited to host such a large-scale event. With our Olympic history and our transit system, it is quite plausible we could conduct such an event without a hitch.
Already, $2.5 million dollars have been ponied up from taxpayers. Utah Legislature has already approved that amount and more will be requested in 2020 if the U is selected. Student tuition and fees will not be used, according to the Utah Debate Commission’s website. It is estimated that through tourism and commerce, the state will make up the cost to host the event.
“I would definitely go,” said Rio Martin, a senior in environmental sustainability. “It would be a once-in-a-lifetime event, even if any of the candidates might not be favorable, with the two party duality. Although, it would be worth it, being a part of such an event.” Martin is not politically active, but her academic major is involved with policy. That goes to the heart of our political turmoil — that “nuts and bolts policy” is not usually discussed in debates, but more so topical hyperbole.
Maddie Barker, a sophomore and double major in political science and international studies, who is politically active, said she would be very interested in seeing a debate here on campus. She worked on the Ben McAdams campaign and spoke of how “Utah is not as monolithic in terms of ideology as many would think, and Ben McAdams’ win is an example of that.” Barker thinks discourse itself would “hopefully bring issues to the forefront and face us to confront them as a society. It would be a good use of taxpayer money. More involvement by Utahns would be good, it would be a positive experience for the citizens of Utah and the students at the U.”
The state of Utah was supposed to host a presidential debate last cycle, but Trump bailed on the event — which Lt. Governor Cox called a “snub.” It seems that students are eager to see the spectacle, regardless of the candidates. Although one student, Scott Christian, a senior in computer science, quipped that he’d rather see that $2.5 million go to a “parking structure” at the U. “$2.5 million dollars of taxpayer is excessive,” he said. “Maybe it could be used to offset the tuition hike.” Whether or not we have a debate, there will surely be a debate about it.