The lone presidential debate, the second of two general election debates held this election season, was held last night in conjunction with the Panem Debate Council and The Panem Free Press.
Candidates that competed were required to meet standards set by the PDC, of which five candidates met the qualifications:
- President Peeta Mellark (Liberty Party-District 12)
- Senator Iris Canstrom (Labor Party-District 9)
- Senator Patrick Newsom (Civic Party-District 3)
- Governor Kaitlyn Jones (Conservative Party-District 11)
- Senator Julie Roydon (Centre Party-Capitol)
Topics of the presidential debate were separated into two sections: domestic policy (including economic policy) and foreign policy. Questions were fielded from the audience in a townhall-style format moderated by former White House press secretary Polaris Septrix. If a candidate’s name was invoked during another candidate’s response, the first candidate was allowed to respond.
Below are excerpts from the debate proceedings, based on subjects.
ON DOMESTIC /ECONOMIC POLICY:
Question: “Senator Canstrom, the economy of Panem has been on the rise since four years ago, when a crippling recession hit during President Canth’s term. However, you have criticized the President and his administration for their approach to tax reform and measures that were taken to reduce regulation on industries. Please explain why.”
Senator Canstrom: “My criticism of the president and his administration lies with the long-term effects of such policies. By allowing corporate interests into the heart of our government, President Mellark acts contrary to the will of the people. They did not elect us for lobbyists to come in and tell us how much they wanted cut off of the corporate tax rate to help corporations. The people elected us in order to represent their interests, not big business.”
President Mellark’s response: “Now, Senator Canstrom, you know that what you said is inherently false. First off, the people elected me in what was the largest electoral landslide ever in a contested federal election based on my platform. I campaigned that I would decrease people’s taxes across the board, which I have done. I campaigned that I would decrease the corporate tax rate, which I have also done. Those ideas did not come from lobbyists. They came from my campaign for president, and they are promises to the people of Panem that I have kept. Furthermore, the tax code was far more successful at benefiting large corporations before I reformed it. The loopholes were excessive. Through fixing our tax code, we managed to find a solution that ensured financial and ethical integrity while restoring Panem’s economy.”
Question: “Governor Jones, much like your running mate Delia Sutherland, you expressed discontentment with the Mellark administration, stating that you had hoped that the new administration would recognize the extreme size of Panem’s government and seek to make it more efficient. What could be done to fix these issues?”
Governor Jones: “First off, I want to note that while I was disappointed with the administration’s approach, they have done much to downsize the government’s role. However, when I become president, we need to look into ensuring that cabinet-level agencies are efficient and not turning into bureaucracies. So many people get caught up in red tape these days, whether it’s applying for government permits or a passport or anything to do with the federal government. By reducing the sheer number of agencies, ensuring that the government is running efficiently rather than politically, we will see an easier life for our citizens.”
Question: “Senator Newsom, out of everyone on this stage, you have been undoubtedly the most critical of the Mellark administration. Out of everything, what is your largest criticism of the administration in regards to domestic and economic policy?”
Senator Newsom: “That’s simple. President Mellark’s administration in general has been a catastrophic failure, but the largest pitfall emerges in his handling of the morphling crisis. We have allowed a pharmaceutical industry to continue to hold our citizens captive while they overprescribe addictive medication and destroy lives and families in the process. However, under the Mellark administration, such actions by that industry are completely legal. As president, I’m ending that. We cannot afford to allow entire industries to go unchecked. This is what happens when capitalism runs amok without any sort of check on its power.”
President Mellark’s response: “Senator, the morphling crisis has been a stain on this country’s history long before I came into office. You know that, I know that, and this nation knows that. You simply cannot blame me for a crisis that has existed for well over fifty years. And in response to your claims that we have essentially turned a blind eye to the pain and suffering of those affected by this crisis, I would like to note the policies that have been put in place under my Department of Health and Human Services that have limited the ability of the pharmaceutical industry to make a buck off this crisis, and furthermore, I’d like to note the impact of such policies. In the last year of the Canth administration, exactly 32,283 Panem citizens died due to overdoses on morphling. In each year of my administration, I have made this crisis a top priority, resulting in decreases each year: in year one of the administration, we decreased to 20,451 deaths, then to 16,004 deaths in year two, then to 11,340 in year three, and we are projecting a decrease for this year to be around 5,600. The decrease we have seen is astronomical; to insinuate that my administration has failed on this issue is to simply do exactly what you do every time you step up to a podium: make up facts and mention my name.”
Question: “Senator Roydon, you have openly criticized the administration’s handling of a major whistleblower case that arose late last year. What sort of protections do you think should be afforded to those who choose to blow the whistle on illegal activity in the nation of Panem?”
Senator Roydon: “Whistleblowers are absolutely right to inform on companies or entities that engage in illegal activity, and they should certainly be protected. It is deeply troublesome that whistleblowers in this nation are not protected to the same standards as in Britain or France; the case that you mentioned is a prime example of how not to deal with that situation. While the law may not protect whistleblowers at the moment, it should have been clear that in this case, the corporation involved was certainly acting illegally and against the best interests of our nation, and instead of punishing the person who turned them in, we should have been looking to punish the corporation for their crime.”
Question: “President Mellark, your opponents have rigorously attacked you for your handling of education. You made this a key part of your agenda for your first term, and it seems to have been a constant source of controversy the entire way. How do you respond to your critics on this issue?”
President Mellark: “I would first like to remind my critics and opponents that education simply should not be a political football. Period, the end. Panem has always served as a beacon of hope to the world, and that beacon is lit up first in our education system. How do we inspire the future leaders of our nation without ensuring that their education system is well prepared to do so? It is our duty to ensure that every student has access to a quality education system and that they are not limited to simply a single option. Much of this controversy comes from the fact that we are enabling students to have a choice of what school they attend. I personally think that as shown in industries across our economy, competition improves the product sold, and allowing private and public schools to operate on the same footing will ultimately improve our schools overall. So, to each person on this stage, I challenge you to consider this question: do you seriously believe that your child’s education should be talked about in this way?”
ON FOREIGN POLICY:
Question: “Senator Newsom, you have continuously expressed your discontentment with the administration over multiple foreign policy issues, particularly that of the Greek conflict. Should another issue akin to Greece arise, what would you choose to do as President?”
Senator Newsom: “In that case, I would work to ensure first that we avoid dipping our toe into foreign waters that we have no business being in. I understand the need to ensure the safety of our citizens, but we simply have no business intruding on a conflict that did not involve us until we chose to make it our issue.”
Question: “Senator Roydon, your opponents have described you as a ‘foreign policy lightweight’, and have noted your relative silence on such issues. How do you combat these complaints?”
Senator Roydon: “Let me be clear: I currently serve on the Foreign Relations Committee, and to insinuate I’m simply not prepared to tackle foreign policy is absurd. Each election year, we continue to insist that certain candidates are ‘not prepared’ as others have served in certain positions that allegedly qualify them to serve in the office. Let me remind everyone that while Katniss Everdeen never served in public office prior to her election as President, she undoubtedly made a positive mark on Panem’s history, especially in foreign relations. Meanwhile, many heralded Cecelia Paylor and Rick Canth for their so-called experience on foreign policy, and some of their largest mistakes were made on the international stage. The insistence that you must have experience in foreign policy is a farce. What matters is a leader with a clear mind and morals that is prepared to rely on the proper advisors, and that is exactly what I will offer as president. ”
Question: “Senator Canstrom, Oceania is continues to threaten action against the nation of Panem for what they are calling ‘invasive action’ that is occurring due to the anti-terrorism initiatives that Panem continues to stage on their soil. In the case that Oceania does act on their threats, how would you react as president?”
Senator Canstrom: “To be honest, we shouldn’t still be in Oceania. Regardless of if they threaten us or not, I will seek to remove our troops from the region as President Mellark has failed to do so.”
Mellark’s response: “Senator, the reason those troops haven’t been moved is because while the Oceanian Empire has been eradicated and serves no active threat to the nation of Panem, there is still significant potential for certain minute cells to conglomerate and reconstitute the OE. You need to understand that being president isn’t all simple; it’s not something you can view in the short-term. It may be a great political point to say that you’ll withdraw, but by doing so, you are creating a power vacuum that will ingest many of our bravest and finest. I simply won’t stand for that, and I stand by my decision.”
Question: “Governor Jones, what do you view as the greatest threat to Panem on the international scene today?”
Governor Jones: “The threat of unstable countries or entities obtaining nuclear weaponry is what I would consider to be our greatest threat. We are reaching a point where there’s a chance that an unstable country could begin to enrich uranium or other elements to make nuclear weapons and begin a nuclear holocaust. We are all very aware of the threat that causes, and we don’t want to face that threat ever again. However, even worse of a threat is if a group like the Oceanian Empire emerged and obtained nuclear weapons. Think about it: for all the destruction that was caused by the OE, imagine how much worse it would have been if they had miniaturized a nuclear bomb and detonated it inside of our borders. We simply cannot allow a threat like that to occur.”
Question: “President Mellark, the most controversial topic of your presidency lies with Panem’s involvement with the Greek conflict. Despite constant criticism on the topic, you continue to stand by your decision to enter the conflict. Why?”
President Mellark: “First, because a good leader always stands by what they believe to be right, and second, because I don’t just believe it was the right decision: it was the right decision. As Governor Jones said, we cannot allow for nuclear terrorism from a nation or a group. That is exactly what was happening in Greece, and I need to point out that we withdrew as soon as we completed our goals. Greece is no longer a nuclear threat. We are not facing a threat of nuclear warfare at this time. We did not stay to fight in Greece. We succeeded in our goal, and it was a worthy goal. This criticism that has been thrown in the face of this conflict is simply a misguided view on foreign policy. As one of my opponents said earlier on foreign policy, it’s our job to ensure the safety of our citizens. In response to that statement, I would like to say that not only is it our prerogative to do so when we are attacked at home, but also to ascertain that we don’t have to have attacks at home.”
Senator Canstrom: “Today, we face a choice. Do we want a Panem that fights for equality, fairness, and greatness, or do we wish to continue down this path that will lead to our demise? It is our job this November to ensure that we make the right choice to restore a proper education system for our children and to avoid needless wars to keep our soldiers safe.”
Governor Jones: “It is our responsibility to ensure that government is by the people, and for the people. Right now, we are seeing a government that is inflated, leading to a drag on our economy and on our people. It’s time to ensure that we see true smaller government, to put the power back with our districts, and take Panem to its highest point yet.”
Senator Newsom: “There are five people on this stage, and there are five different visions of the future. However, under a Newsom presidency, you can be assured that no one will be left behind. We must move forward together as a society, and our first step towards that will come in November.”
Senator Roydon: “For far too long, we have received the same old story about removing special interests from politics and governing for the people. And yet, it appears that none of our political parties are truly interested in that. That’s why I’m on this stage: it’s time for a real change, one that brings true accountability to our government and brings the people back to the People’s House. Don’t be fooled by the glamour of these special interests. Vote Centre in November, and let’s take our country back.”
President Mellark: “Over the last four years, I have worked diligently to deliver reform to the people of Panem, and I have done so with great success. We have made great progress on education, on our economy, and in our foreign policy. As my opponents are eager to say, now is a time to make a choice. Do we wish to continue on with a strong, capable government who is a proven success, or do we make a choice to change to a new and trendy government who may fail in the manner of the Canth administration in a year? Do we wish to endanger our progress on the issues we have faced, or do we want to continue to fix the problems in our country? Are you better off than you were four years ago? These are the questions that each of you will ask yourselves following this debate up until election day. If the answer to the final question is yes, then I’m certain of where your vote will fall. If not, then you have four other options to choose from.”
ANALYSIS: Based on flash polling conducted immediately after the debate, the following results occurred:
Which candidate do you believe won the debate?
Peeta Mellark – 60 percent
Julie Roydon – 19 percent
Kaitlyn Jones – 15 percent
Patrick Newsom – 2 percent
Iris Canstrom – 1 percent
Undecided – 3 percent
If the general election were held today, which candidate would you be most likely to vote for in the election for president?
Peeta Mellark – 36 percent
Julie Roydon – 18 percent
Kaitlyn Jones – 17 percent
Patrick Newsom – 13 percent
Iris Canstrom – 9 percent
Undecided – 7 percent
The debate has thrown the momentum behind President Mellark in the final days of the campaign. A clear win in the debate has undoubtedly affected the polling of the race, where the President in the last poll was only two points away from his nearest opponent. As of tonight, he is now eighteen points away from his nearest opponent. Meanwhile, Iris Canstrom and Patrick Newsom completely crashed tonight, endangering their candidacies as the election campaign goes into its final stretch.
At the end of this cycle, it appears that we may be looking at one of three scenarios:
- A Mellark/Roydon runoff: This option has been widely predicted for weeks as Mellark and Roydon’s momentum has continued to swell. Such a runoff would be hard to predict; would Labor and Civic push their voters to support Roydon to prevent a second Mellark term, or would they make no push at all?
- A Mellark/Jones runoff: This option is entirely new based on the polls from tonight. While Jones was at the bottom of the pack previously, her star has risen after tonight’s debate, leading to the potential for such a scenario. In this case, it’s a true tossup, and potentially a low turnout one at that. Mellark and Jones are both ideologically right-wing, which completely isolates the left wing of Panem politics. While there’s a chance that Labor and Civic could endorse the lesser of the two evils, it’s far more likely that they simply don’t make a move at all. Meanwhile, Centre may choose to endorse Jones, giving her a much needed boost in the face of the Liberty Party’s massive electoral machine.
- A Mellark majority win: This option was thrown out the window long ago as the President’s approval rating dropped consistently. However, following this debate and the momentum that will follow, there is a very real chance that Mellark will avoid a runoff; in our last district poll, a vast amount of the races were very close, and Mellark was typically within two to four points of the leader if he was not in the lead. As such, it’s entirely possible that Mellark manages to win outright. It will be up to Roydon and Jones to halt this movement with their own momentum- if it’s not too late already.