On Thursday April 8th, Bryant University and the College of Arts & Sciences hosted a panel titled: “Will American Democracy Survive the 206 Election?” The event was hosted in the Grand Hall at Bello at 7:00 p.m. It was to be moderated by Lee Elci, host of the Lee Elci Show on CBS News 94.9. The participants were two Democrats and two Republicans. On the Democratic side was Scott Bates, President of the Center for National Policy and Leslie Marshall, host of the Leslie Marshall Show and Fox News contributor. On the Republican side was John LeBoutillier, former Republican Congressman from NY and co-host of Political Insiders on Fox. With him was Colonel Rob Simmons, former Congressman from Connecticut. I was studying in the library prior to the program’s commencement so getting there by 6:45 p.m. was relatively was easy. I made my way to the foremost seat in the hall and made myself comfortable. This event was open to the public so the room got packed very fast with people from all walks of life. By 6:55 p.m., Colonel Rob Simmons walked in. He shook my hand and that of the student who sat next to me and joked that everyone who sat in the front row gets 5 points. He did well to also shake the hands of everyone sitting in the front row. By 7:05 p.m., the rest of the panelists were seated and ready to go. Provost Sulmasy introduced the guests, and the host Lee Elci who got the ball rolling.
His first question to the panelists was “In one word, describe the 2016 primary.” Mr. Scott began by saying it was exciting, Ms. Leslie, embarrassing, Mr. LeBoutillier’s word was “crucial” while Col. Simmons said “Democratic.” Mr. Elci went on to ask each of the panelists what they felt was the most important thing they had noticed during this election season. Mr. LeBoutillier went first saying he was not rooting for anyone but that what is happening during this election season was the most significant thing in America now. He lamented that lots of people did not have faith that the government was capable of solving their problems and that he understood the feeling people wanted a “savior” but then the only savior was “we the people” and not Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton. Col. Simmons added that the most important thing is freedom. He cautioned that the greatest threat to our freedom was an overreaching government. Mr. Scott shared his fears that felt the community spirit of America was being eroded and criticized “The Donald” for playing on fears during his campaigns. Ms. Leslie said that only 46% of people who are eligible to vote actually voted in elections and that it was troubling. She pointed out that local level politics had much more impact on the lives of Americans than whoever was in the White House.
Mr. LeBoutillier agreed that many people were frustrated with the government, Wall Street, etc. He argued that the next President of the U.S. was not yet in the race. He also hoped that Americans would come together and unite once and for all and drop the hyphenations like African-American, Asian-American and so forth among ourselves. He argued that if a candidate came onto the scene and run as an American instead of being divisive along party lines or political ideology, people would flock to that candidate’s camp. Ms. Leslie argued that there was a cult-like personality with Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders. She declared herself unabashedly for Clinton and said Bernie was really not an “outsider” but that he had spent many years in Congress.
Mr. Lee then asked the panelist what they thought about the party system in the U.S. Mr. Scott said it was better than the five to six party system in Europe because getting 2-party system to work in Congress though not easy, was better for compromise than in five or six party system. Ms. Leslie lamented how one former Congresswoman who had dropped out of Congress had claimed that in the past, politicians would disagree in Congress fiercely but after they would go for a beer. That comrade does not exist anymore. Ms. Leslie thought the two-party system would not survive. Mr. John said Hillary Clinton was a weak candidate and pointed out that her majority of her bases were “flying away” from her, especially the younger Democrats. The crowd cracked up. He also thought a 74-year old “Democratic Socialist” would never win because he was so far out of mainstream America. Col. Simmons also spoke about working with Hillary in Congress (not her directly but her aides). He noted that Hillary was not big on personal connections.
One of Mr. Elci’s final questions to the panelists was about the tax system in the U.S. today. They all seemed to be in one accord here. They disliked the IRS. Col. Simmons argued that he did not like big government reducing his income through taxes because every dollar taken is a dollar less to spend. He also said the tax system is aggressive and oppressive. Ms. Leslie said she did not agree with flat tax and that income inequality was huge in the U.S. She also claimed rich people were able to hide their money. Mr. Scott further talked about inequality. Mr. LeBoutillier ended the panel by saying he did not fancy the way rich people were demonized. He claimed that he loved rich people and that they are an integral part of the U.S economy because they hired a lot of Americans.
They then fielded some interesting and provocative questions from some students. By 8:30 p.m., the event came to a successful end. They duly thanked the Bryant community and students for being open minded to different points of views.