Rep. Chris Murphy argued for a move to campaigns based on constructive policy discussions rather than attack ads at a panel with Yale students Friday.
In a seminar room in Linsly-Chittenden Hall, Murphy talked about campaign strategies and foreign policy issues with about 20 members of the Yale College Democrats. Murphy was elected to represent Connecticut’s Fifth District in November 2006, when he defeated two-term incumbent Republican Nancy Johnson.
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Murphy said he thinks his campaign was unique for its “different tone,” focusing on outreach to common citizens rather than attacks on his opponent.
“People are sick of politics based on destruction and seek honest conversation,” Murphy said.
After Johnson’s campaign aired an attack ad depicting Murphy visiting a drug user’s home while canvassing door-to-door, Murphy said, his campaign aired a “boring political advertisement” rather than responding with another attack ad.
Restrictions on campaign contributions from large competitions would push politicians to put their “money where the mouth is,” focusing on policy-based appeals to constituents rather than catering to donors’ interests, Murphy said.
Jen James ’08, vice president of the Yale College Democrats, said she agrees that public financing would improve the quality of American campaigns.
“I’m all for public financing for congressional elections,” she said.
Although Murphy was swept into Congress on a wave of Democratic victories in November, he does not support plans advanced by some of his fellow Democrats to cut funding for the war in Iraq. Describing a soldier stripped of his guns and clothes, unable to fight, Murphy said the U.S. government cannot justify cutting funds to Iraq at the present moment.
“The plan to cut funding for troops is just bullshit,” he said. “But we can’t leave them behind … cutting off funding will leave our troops vulnerable.”
Instead, Murphy said, Congress should end the war by properly funding a withdrawal. At the same time, he acknowledged the difficulties in finding the best way out, saying “it’s not okay to go or to stay.”
But Murphy said he is optimistic about the current trends toward political openness in Iraq, which he said may lead to a promising future.
“There are improvements in Iraq fostering a new class of contagious thought,” he said.
Murphy said he is excited to see what Iraq will be able to achieve independently after America pulls out of the country.
Murphy also discussed broader foreign policy questions.
He said he is particularly concerned with America’s reputation abroad and alliances with nations that foster religious extremism. Nations like Saudi Arabia should be challenged on their ties the to promotion of violent jihads and extremist groups, he said.
But he said Iraq must be dealt with before people focus on other concerns, including domestic issues.
“Iraq is topic number one,” Murphy said. “Then we can deal with the problems that follow, including health care, education, national security and so forth.”
By the end of Murphy’s speech, many audience members said they were impressed by his talents as a speaker.
“I found the extent of his policy knowledge impressive and think he is certainly a rising star in the Democratic Party,” Ben Shaffer ’09 said. “The U.S. Congress needs more members like Chris Murphy.”