A blue donkey, red elephant, yellow porcupine and a green globe gathered together to share their party’s plans for the future of the U.S. Wednesday.
The Center for Peace and Conflict Studies invited representatives from the Democratic, Republican, Libertarian and Green parties to participate in a panel — Justice 2016: Parties, Platforms, and Presidential Candidates — to discuss big topics in American politics.
The panel focused on questions relating to the environment, social issues and the criminal justice system. Each representative answered different questions for each issue.
Anthony Amstutz, coordinator for Delaware County’s Green Party, told the attendees that his party’s platform is pushing a "green, new deal."
He believes this deal would create an environmentally-friendly economy that would create millions of new jobs and reduce pollution.
“It’s big; it’s very gutsy, but we do feel like it’s absolutely necessary because it’s the biggest problem of our times," Amstutz said.
The Democratic representative — Sue Errington, a member of Indiana’s House of Representatives — responded, and she said that she believes her party and the Green party had a lot in common.
“I don’t think that the Democratic Party and the Green Party are all that far apart on the issue of environmental justice," she said.
Rich Turvey, the libertarian candidate for U.S. Congress, said he believed industrial hemp would give farmers a chance to grow a product that is environmentally friendly. He also said producing hemp would also decrease the country’s dependence on plastics.
Will Statom, chairman of the Delaware County Republican Party, said he believed there needed to be a balance between the environment and jobs.
“I don’t like pollution; I worked in factories – it's not pleasant," Statom said. "But I made a living, and I was able to provide, and I think there is a happy medium between environmental freedom, environmental practically and being able to lead a decent life."
Social justice issues
At the start, both the Libertarian and Republican representatives were asked about guns in America.
Turvey said he wanted the government out of "the lives and bedrooms" of U.S. citizens, and that his party is fighting to keep decisions on gun ownership out of the federal government and "true to the Constitution.”
Turvey also joined Statom said they believe the press created the term semi-automatic, military-grade weaponry.
“[The term] is one that’s been manufactured by the press and people who are anti-gun,” Turvey said.
The Democratic representative was asked how her party plans to address illegal immigration.
Errington told the audience that her party is working on a way to get “a path to legalization for people who are already here.” She went on to say that the democratic candidate wants to make sure the country’s borders are secure.
“[Hillary Clinton] has wanted to make sure that our borders are secure but does not believe that building a fence is going to do that," Errington said.
The Green Party’s representative talked about rights of indigenous peoples in the country. Amstutz spoke about the Green Party’s presidential candidate's history of activism, specifically referring to involvement at Standing Rock Indian reservation’s protest against an oil pipeline.
“An attack on that land there is an attack on their religion and their outlook” Amstutz said.
Criminal justice reform
At the start, Errington said she believes a solution for this issue is to invest in the community because it would be cheaper than putting people in prison for lower level offenses.
“We have put an emphasis in the past of locking them up,” Errington said. “We have more people locked up in our prisons than any other country.”
The Green Party’s representative told the audience that his party’s stance is to decriminalize the use and possession of marijuana.
“We see that as a racist policy that tends to focus specifically on a certain social class and certain ethnic minority.” Amstutz said.
The Republican at the panel, Statom, agreed that the country couldn’t afford to put all drug users in prison, but he said that he does, however, think the country can afford to “stop the flow of drugs through immigration [reform].”
Finally, Turvey said that one way to cut down on the number of people in prions across the country was to repeal laws that punish “victimless crimes,” like gambling, prostitution and drug use.
The audience at the panel consisted of Ball State students, faculty and Muncie locals, and the reaction at the end of the panel was positive.
Sabrina Kilgore, a freshman speech-language pathology major, said she was glad the panel was civil, and she appreciated the respect they had for each other.
“If only our presidential debates were held this way,” Kilgore said.
Melanie Turner, a Ball State undergraduate academic adviser, enjoyed the panel but would have liked to hear each of the questions go to each candidate.
“I already know how I’m going to vote, but I was interested in confirming what the other platforms were,” Turner said.
But Kristen Baker, a junior accounting major and secretary of the Ball State Republicans, said she thought the panel had worth, especially because third party candidates were included.
“Ball State has done a wonderful job of having different debates between their college groups and bringing in panelists," she said. "It's a really great way to get informed."