Local Kid Scoop reporter is ‘Voice for Youth’ at Sept. 27 RNC debate

GETTING THE SCOOP—Kid Scoop reporter Ethan Dumper (closest to the camera) is right in the thick of interviewing political figures, including GOP presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy. (Photo by Michelle Mayans)

By Ethan Dumper, Age 14
KidScoop Media Correspondent

On Sept. 27, I covered the RNC Debate at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, Calif., where I interviewed Republican presidential candidates, governors and journalists from all over the nation. In the United States, the first Gen Z’ers are filling seats in Congress, and in a hyper polarized political environment, youth activists are engaging in current events in a way they never have before.

Young advocates in Montana recently won a case where the judge said they have the “fundamental right to a clean and healthy environment, which includes climate change.” As the only journalist under 18 in that room, I had the opportunity to ask questions that con- cern young people the most.

I have a unique insight into which issues matter the most to young people, being one myself. One of those issues, no matter where you are on the political spectrum, is climate change.

In the first debate, Republican candidates were asked who believes in man-made climate change by a show of hands after a video of a young conservative played where he talked about climate change being a major issue. Governor De Santis dodged the question for all of them by responding that they were not “school children,” and went on to avoid directly answering whether he believed in man-made climate change. 

After the debate, California Governor Gavin Newsom came in to defend Democrats’ record and address some of the claims Republicans made.

In my interview with Governor Newsom, he said “We’re more energy independent today than at any time in history. The Republicans are lying to you. Mike Pence is lying to you.” He continued, “You’ve been lied to by so many of the pundits out here. We’re more energy-independent than we’ve ever been under the Biden administration. Those are the kinds of things I want to talk about.”

A common conservative talking point that was repeated during the debate was that our energy independence had gone down under President Biden, and therefore gas prices were higher, contributing to inflation. Governor Newsom stressed that this was false, standing up for the Biden administration in every interview he did that night. 

Conversely, Republican presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy has attempted to position himself as the young conservative in the race, and he has made the claim Climate Change is a hoax a core part of his campaign. The Ramaswamy team has issued “ten truths” that he would govern under, and #3 on the list reads, “Human flourishing requires fossil fuels,” a controversial opinion, but a main point nonetheless. 

Mr. Ramaswamy has also made it clear that he opposes affirmative action, another issue that is of importance to young students of color. “As a person of color, I don’t find it alarming whatsoever that he [Ramaswamy] would support the end of policies like Affirmative Action,” said Kathy Barnette, a Ramaswamy campaign adviser.

“There are over 200 of these policies under the Lyndon Johnson Great Society, and not one of them has actually built the black family. Instead, they have done the complete opposite.”

The Lyndon Johnson Great Society is a reference to a 1964 speech where Johnson proposed a society free of poverty and racism. The fact that Mr. Ramaswamy and his campaign team don’t support these policies is surprising, but not an uncommon position nowadays, considering the Supreme Court ended policies that consider race as a factor in June. “We need to bring our country back,” finished Barnette. #4 on Mr. Ramaswamy’s ten truths reads, “Reverse racism is racism.”

This is a surprising stance to take from a candidate who went to Harvard University in 2007 and may have benefited from the very same program he celebrated the striking down of by the Supreme Court. 

North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum is a candidate who did not get much speaking time during the debate, and he made his annoyance clear that on issues like technology, energy, and business, which he says he is very familiar with, he was not extended questions.

While speaking time was sparse for the North Dakotan, the main point he wanted to stress was that the federal government should be limited, and issues should be left up to states to be decided, which is an interesting position to take for someone running to be in charge of the federal government. In an interview after the debate, Governor Burgum said that a Burgum administration would focus on three things, “fixing the economy, giving small business owners hope again, and securing our border.”

Gen Zers continue to vote more liberal than conservative, with a recent Pew Research Study signaling nearly 70% of Gen Zers voted for Democrats, while a mere 21% of Gen Zers voted for Republicans in 2022. Somehow, Republicans need to find a way to connect with younger voters, and a good way to do that may be by discussing issues of importance to the youngest voting generation.

“It doesn’t matter what the topic is, energy, agriculture, innovation in schools… We’ve got a story to tell the whole nation,” stated Governor Burgum.

In the latest New York Times/Sienna poll, Former President Trump held a clear lead over all republican voters, even young ones. Kari Lake, who lost the Arizona gubernatorial race in 2022 has thrown her support behind Donald Trump, and said Trump should “Not attend a debate until the general election against Biden.”

Meanwhile, Kellyanne Conway, a former Trump adviser turned Fox News Host said that Trump was a “hologram hovering over the hall,” and added that he has pivoted toward a frontrunner/general election strategy. On the topic of Trump attending the debate, Conway said she would “love to see him in the debate stage,” but does not think it would be wise for his opponents to see him out there.

As Gen Zers grow up in this hyper-polarized environment, political ideals are imposed on us earlier and earlier, and getting to ask questions relevant to our generation was a special opportunity. You can check out my video about the full debate experience coming out soon on KidScoop Media channels.