Bullock speaks at Tisch town hall, discusses environment, impeachment, student debt

Governor Steve Bullock speaking with attendees at the 2019 Iowa Federation of Labor Convention hosted by the AFL-CIO at the Prairie Meadows Hotel in Altoona, Iowa on 21, Aug. Courtesy Gage Skidmore via Wikimedia Commons

The Jonathan M. Tisch College of Civic Life welcomed presidential candidate and Montana Governor Steve Bullock for a town hall on Friday.

The town hall was moderated by Dean of Tisch College Alan Solomont, who opened the discussion by making note of Bullock’s decorated political career. He mentioned that Bullock was the only Democratic governor to be elected in a state won by President Donald Trump in 2016.

Bullock began by noting that his motivation for joining the race stems from his dedication to ensuring the next generation of voters has better opportunities.

“Running for president, I have incredible moments, such as listening to a pastor in South Carolina and hearing all he has done, but it’s challenging, and it’s a long road. If there’s one thing I can do for the next generation, by making this guy a one-term president, then I’d better try to do it,” Bullock said.

However, Bullock said he believes that for the Democrats to beat Trump, the 2020 election cannot focus primarily on Trump’s possible impeachment, but rather on what people want in a new president.

Solomont then shifted the discussion to talk about Bullock’s thoughts on the House of Representatives’ impeachment inquiry targeting Trump. Bullock further noted that while he does not want his campaign to be about opposing Trump, he does support the possibility of impeachment.

“Until two weeks ago, I’d say no impeachment, as a lawyer and a student of democracy. However, the idea that a president used foreign policy powers for personal or political gain, it puts us at a point where we have no choice. But be it impeachment or election, there will be 30% of the country saying ‘this is all fake and just a way to bring down Donald Trump,’” Bullock said.

After discussing impeachment and divisions within the Democratic Party, Bullock then shared his ideas for improving the American education system.

Bullock mentioned that while he admits he cannot overturn all student debt, he does endorse policies such as increasing Pell grant eligibility and making education more accessible. According to Bullock, since a majority of Americans don’t go to college, cancelling all student loan debt doesn’t consider the needs of a majority of Americans.

“If you want a promise that all [student] debt will go away I’m not your candidate,” Bullock said.

Solomont followed by asking Bullock for his opinions on the implementation of gun control legislation.

“We need to look at this as a public health issue and not as a political issue. If we saw it as such, legislation could be easily passed,” Bullock said.

Bullock also expressed disapproval of Trump’s foreign policy measures, and shared how his vision would point the country on a different path.

“Trump ran on ‘America first,’ but it’s really ‘America alone.’ The knee-jerk policy of treating allies as enemies and enemies as allies is dangerous. We are losing our credibility. But I believe that our allies and enemies need to know our words matter,” Bullock said.

The moderated part of the discussion came to a close and Solomont opened the floor for student questions.

Tyler Stotland opened this portion of the discussion by asking Bullock about his plan for the U.S. to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2040.

Bullock said that the situation surrounding climate change has become so dire that immediate steps are necessary. And although scientists say we should be carbon neutral by 2050, Bullock said that he believes we can be carbon neutral by 2040.

However, he mentioned that he also understands why a number of Americans oppose climate change initiatives.

“We can’t leave communities behind in this transition. It’s hard for people to care about the end of the world when they can’t make it to the end of the month,” Bullock stated.

Another student, Ross Sonnenblick, asked Bullock what, after 4–8 years of being president, he would want his legacy to be. Bullock said he wanted to try and restore unity among Americans despite differences, and settle policy on issues such as climate change once and for all.

“I would want people to say, regarding climate change, ‘finally, we took this on, finally, we did something.’ In addition, if I was your age, I would not believe this could work anymore; politics is dividing the core of who we are. I want my legacy to be bringing back unity in this country,” Bullock said.

Following the talk, Stotland, a junior, expressed her approval of the talk.

“I liked how concise Governor Bullock was, especially since I didn’t know a lot about him before the talk. It is great to learn about a candidate that is not talked about as much. In addition, as an environmental studies major, I appreciated his stance on climate change. He clearly has a depth of knowledge on the issue,” Stotland said.

When asked about the role of Tufts students in the upcoming election, Bullock mentioned that it is imperative that Tufts students know that they can make a change, and how important making a change is for them.

“If everyone 18–30 voted, you all would run this election. In addition, every Tufts student has more at stake in this election than I do,” Bullock said.