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Penn Political Union Debates

THE PENN POLITICAL UNION (PPU) is an undergraduate organization formed in 2014 that features parliamentary-style deliberation on urgent contemporary issues. To represent a wide spectrum of political opinion, students affiliate with five member political parties: Libertarian, Conservative, Centrist, Liberal, and Progressive. The goal of PPU, in both debates and less formal discussions, is to fully represent political diversity while maintaining civility and openness to other outlooks.

The Andrea Mitchell Center is proud to sponsor the PPU debates, now expanded to include events featuring prominent public figures from journalism, politics, public policy, and academia. As with all Mitchell Center events, the PPU debates are open to the public and there will usually be opportunity for active participation in the discussion by members of the audience not affiliated with one of the five parties. 

The Mitchell Center/PPU debates are co-sponsored by the Pi Sigma Alpha Political Science Honor SocietyThe Jack Miller Center, and the Penn Wharton Public Policy Initiative.

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2020-21 Events Archive

Democracy and Its Enemies in the World Today (with Nadya Tolokonnikova)

View a video of the event here.

JOIN THE PENN POLITICAL UNION and the Mitchell Center for a conversation with Pussy Riot co-founder NADYA TOLOKONNIKOVA, who “was sent to prison for two years just for singing a song,” as she recounted in a recent New York Times op-ed. Undaunted, she has continued her pro-democracy activism. At the PPU, she will share her personal experiences under a repressive regime, but will also offer a broad perspective on authoritarianism as an advancing global phenomenon – and the ways that everyday citizens might oppose it.

The Penn Political Union (PPU) is an undergraduate organization that features parliamentary-style deliberation on urgent contemporary issues. To represent a wide spectrum of political opinion, students affiliate with five member political parties: Libertarian, Conservative, Centrist, Liberal, and Progressive. The goal of PPU, in both debates and less formal discussions, is to fully represent political diversity while maintaining civility and openness to other outlooks.

NADYA TOLOKONNIKOVA is a conceptual artist and political activist from Russia. She is a founding member of the art collective Pussy Riot, focusing attention on feminism, LGBT rights and human rights violations at home and abroad. In August 2012, she was sentenced to 2 years’ imprisonment following an anti-Putin performance by Pussy Riot in Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Saviour. This protest attracted international media attention and support from the likes of Peter Gabriel, Sir Paul McCartney, Madonna, Bjork and Aung San Suu Kyi. Shortly after her release in December 2013, she announced the opening of an independent news service and media outlet, MediaZona, which reports on the Russia’s courts, law enforcement and prison system. She has spoken before the US Congress, British Parliament, and European Parliament.

Countdown to Election "Day": A Bipartisan Roundtable

View a video of the event here.

JOIN THE PENN POLITICAL UNION, with support from The Andrea Mitchell Center and the Penn Government and Politics Association, for its final 2020 elections event. With one week to go, we will be speaking with various political leaders, journalists, and party officials to discuss the state of the presidential race, down-ballot races, and the role of Pennsylvania this November and going forward. Audience members will be able to submit questions to the panelists.

Confirmed panelists include:

  • CHRISTINE FLOWERS, conservative commentator and former Philadelphia Inquirer contributor;
  • ERIC ORTS, the Guardsmark Professor at the Wharton School;
  • ED RENDELL, the 96th Mayor pf Philadelphia and 45th Govenor of Pennsylvania; and
  • MICHAEL SMERCONISH, host of The Michael Smerconish Program on SiriusXM, host of CNN's Smerconish and Contributor, and newspaper columnist and best-selling author.

Media Sensationalism in 2020: A Conversation with Tara Setmayer

View a video of the event here.

IN THE CURRENT POLITICAL CLIMATE, discussions of the media have often boiled down to a matter of truth vs. deceit and fake vs. real. Even within the bounds of truth, however, the media has a wide latitude to emphasize or ignore stories based on their emotional appeal to sought-after audiences. In a discussion with CNN Political Commentator and Lincoln Project Senior Advisor TARA SETMAYER, members of the Penn Political Union explore the role of “media sensationalism” in setting the political agenda and unleashing partisan passions during the Trump presidency, the COVID-19 pandemic, the summer of Black Lives Matter protests, and the long electoral season leading up to November 2020.

TARA SETMAYER is currently a CNN Political Commentator, Contributor to ABC News and former GOP Communications Director on Capitol Hill. She has appeared on ABC's The View, ABC's Good Morning America, and on HBO's Real Time with Bill Maher. Setmayer was named as a Harvard Institute of Politics Spring 2020 Resident Fellow. She has joined The Lincoln Project as a Senior Advisor. In 2017, Setmayer was named as a board director for Stand Up Republic, a non profit organization formed in the wake of the 2016 election of Donald Trump to unite Americans behind the defense of democratic norms, ideals and institutions.

2019-20 Events Archive

Should We Abolish the Electoral College?

JOIN THE PENN POLITICAL UNION as its five political parties debate the resolution, “The United States Should Abolish the Electoral College.”

Are Trump's Immigration Policies Racist? (Guest: Jamelle Bouie)

JOIN THE PENN POLITICAL UNION as its five political parties and guest Jamelle Bouie debate the resolution, “The Trump Administration's immigration policies are rooted in racist ideology.”

JAMELLE BOUIE, based in Charlottesville, Virginia and Washington D.C., is a columnist for the New York Times and political analyst for CBS News. He covers campaigns, elections, national affairs, and culture. Prior to the Times, he was chief political correspondent for Slate magazine. And before that, he was a staff writer at The Daily Beast and held fellowships at The American Prospect and The Nation magazine.

JOIN THE PENN POLITICAL UNION as its five political parties and guest Jeb Bush debate the resolution, “The United States should adopt a merit-based immigration system.”

JEB BUSH served as the 43rd Governor of Florida and ran as a Republican presidential candidate in 2016. He is a University of Pennsylvania Presidential Professor of Practice.

Should the US Government Provide Full Employment? (Guest: Dustin Guastella)

Join the five parties of the Penn Political Union and guest debater Dustin Guastella (Philadelphia DSA) for an impassioned debate as they consider the following resolution: "The government should provide a job to all citizens who seek employment."

Should the US Support the Hong Kong Protesters?

Join the five parties of the Penn Political Union for an impassioned debate as they consider the following resolution:
"The US should lend political and economic support to the Hong Kong protesters." Welcome to the start of a new semester and a great year for the Union filled with fiery debate, interesting speakers, and new perspectives.

WHAT DOES IT TAKE TO BECOME A POLITICIAN? How do you induce effective political change? Learn the tips, tools, and tricks-of-the-trade at this master class; a must-go for any Penn student interested in someday running for office. The Penn Political Union and the Andrea Mitchell Center for the Study of Democracy would like to welcome Representative Chrissy Houlahan (D-PA 6th District) as she teaches a master class on politics at the University of Pennsylvania.

U.S. Rep. Chrissy Houlahan is the representative for Pennsylvania's 6th congressional district, located in the suburbs of Philadelphia. A politician, engineer, businesswoman, teacher, and former United States Air Force officer, she has dedicated her life to serving the United States of America. She currently serves on the Committee on Armed Services, the Committee on Foreign Affairs, and the Committee on Small Businesses.

2018-19 Events Archive

Should We Continue to Use Race-Based Affirmative Action in College Admissions?

Join the five parties of the Penn Political Union for an impassioned debate as they consider the following resolution:
"Race-based affirmative action should be continued in the college admissions process."

 

Join the five parties of the Penn Political Union for an impassioned debate as they consider the following resolution:
“The US Federal Government should implement a 70% top marginal tax rate."

Federal Funding of Abortion Providers

Join the five parties of the Penn Political Union for an impassioned debate as they consider the following resolution:

"The federal government should cease all funding to healthcare clinics that provide abortions." 

Join the five parties of the Penn Political Union for an impassioned debate as they consider the following resolution:

"The federal government should abolish Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)." 

 

Has America Been a Net Harm to the World?

Join the five parties of the Penn Political Union and guest speaker George Ciccariello-Maher (author of We Created ChavezBuilding the Commune, and Decolonizing Dialectics) for an impassioned debate as they consider the following resolution:

"The United States has had an overall negative impact on the world."

TALK - America and Its Role in the World (Tom Ridge, Wesley Clark)

WATCH THE FULL VIDEO OF THE EVENT HERE

PLEASE JOIN THE FIVE POLITICAL PARTIES of The Penn Political Union to welcome former supreme allied commander of NATO, General WESLEY CLARK, and former Secretary of Homeland Security and Governor of Pennsylvania TOM RIDGE in a conversation moderated by esteemed journalist JESSICA YELLIN. Drawing on decades of valuable political and national security experience, General Clark and Secretary Ridge will discuss and debate the current trajectory of the United States’ role in the world, followed by questions from the audience.

TALK - The Health of American Democracy Today (Jeb Bush)

WATCH THE FULL VIDEO OF THE EVENT HERE
A REPORT ON THE EVENT IS AVAILABLE HERE

PLEASE JOIN THE FIVE POLITICAL PARTIES of The Penn Political Union to welcome former Florida Governor and presidential candidate JEB BUSH in a wide-ranging discussion about American democracy in the current era.

2017-2018 Events Archive

North Korea and the Bomb - A PENN POLITICAL UNION DEBATE

JOIN THE PENN POLITICAL UNION as we debate the following resolution:  "The United States of America cannot allow North Korea to develop a nuclear-tipped intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), even if that means taking military action.”

MITCHELL CENTER/PPU DEBATE - Is the Media to Blame for the Climate of Polarization?

With featured guest Michael Smerconish
Watch coverage of the event on Smerconish's CNN show here.

IN THE FIRST OF AN ONGOING SERIES, the Mitchell Center and the Penn Political Union present journalist Michael Smerconish to get a debate started over the role of the media in the political polarization of the America.

Would Increased Regulation of Firearms Prevent Mass Shootings?

With featured guest John Lott

Join the Penn Political Union and guest JOHN LOTT (The Crime Prevention Research Center) as they debate the resolution, “In order to prevent mass public shootings, the United States should more heavily regulate firearm ownership.”

JOIN THE PENN POLITICAL UNION as its five political parties debate the resolution, “The political atmosphere at Penn and other similar institutions is hostile to the free exchange of ideas.”

PPU Debate - Whistleblowers and State Secrets

JOIN THE PENN POLITICAL UNION as we debate the following resolution:  "The benefits of leaking classified information to the media outweigh the costs."

 

MITCHELL CENTER / PPU DEBATE - Is School Choice the Best Path for Education Reform?

With featured guest David Boaz

JOIN THE PENN POLITICAL UNION and guest debater DAVID BOAZ (Cato Institute) as its five political parties debate the resolution, U.S. states should enact education reform centered around school choice.”