Presidential debates have been an American tradition dating back to the 1960s, in which candidates from the Democratic and Republican parties make their case for president, while discussing important issues at hand. This year, however, has been abnormally chaotic — even childish — and unproductive.
Only two debates have taken place. The first presidential debate took place Sept. 29 between former Vice President Joe Biden, the Democratic nominee, and Republican President Donald Trump. The two were scheduled to have a second debate on this week, but after Trump tested positive for COVID-19, it was canceled. The other debate was for the vice presidential candidates, Democratic Sen. Kamala Harris and Republican Vice President Mike Pence. With chances of a “third” debate between Trump and Biden on the ropes, it’s possible we very well might have already witnessed all of the presidential debates in 2020 that will lead us to the polarized and extremely critical on Election Day, Nov. 3.
While debates between Biden and Trump are undoubtedly cringe inducing, they are critical for undecided voters and to solidify decided voters’ confidence in their picks. But now, after the mayhem of the first Trump-Biden debate and the cancellation of the second one, many important questions remain.
The first debate was a roller-coaster ride — or train wreck, depending on how you view it — of arguing, name-calling and lying on both sides. Both candidates broke rules of the forum by speaking out of turn, dodging questions and disrespecting each other in unprecedented ways. It’s hard to say that any ground was really covered by the evening’s end, leaving Americans with just more questions and confusion — and maybe even a sense of fear. Many undecided voters likely strayed further away from making a decision; others gave their support to Biden, including some local teens.
“I kind of used to think that Trump was cool because he never gave a damn when he said stuff about people,” said John Mirrales, a 15-year-old sophomore at Santa Fe High. “But since I’ve never been involved in politics until now, retrospectively looking at that while watching the debate has me scared that this could be our leader for four more years.”
Mirrales, though not old enough to vote, said it’s important that all people pay attention and get involved in this election in whatever ways they can.
Miranda Olivas, an 18-year-old senior who is eligible to vote in the election, said it’s not so easy. She said she still is struggling to choose a candidate after the frustration of the first debate.
“This debate did nothing for me,” she said. “The candidates didn’t give me any reasons to vote for them; they just gave me reasons why not to vote for the other guy.”
According to recent polls, Biden jumped to double-digit leads over Trump in the days following the debate, with slight jumps in battleground states where he already led, such as Florida and Michigan. He also took a 1-point lead in the predominantly conservative state of Texas.
While Biden’s debate performance was definitely not the greatest, it could be said that Trump’s performance led many to believe he shouldn’t be president.
One key reason is that Trump beat around the bush when asked to condemn white supremacists, refusing to give a clear condemnation. Secondly, Trump avoided many questions and mainly attacked Biden along with the moderator, Chris Wallace, by speaking out of turn, interrupting countless times and bringing up issues irrelevant to the discussion at hand. Many saw the behavior displayed as “unpresidential,” which could be another factor in Biden’s increase in the polls.
While Trump’s strategy was mainly focused on bad-mouthing Biden and taking the discussion off him, Biden tried to have a civilized dialogue for the most part. Biden did end up losing some control of the debate, however, calling Trump “the worst president America has ever had” and telling him to “shut up.”
For me, watching the debate was very upsetting simply because of the lack of respect and decency on display. I haven’t been alive for many presidencies, but I feel the behavior on both sides came off as unprofessional and definitely not what this country needs — especially now.
Americans are dealing with many social justice issues, climate change and the coronavirus pandemic. Meanwhile, the country is divided more than ever before, and a debate of this nature only makes uncertain times seem more uncertain.
As for the vice presidential debate between Harris and Pence in Utah, the mood was calmer and, for the most part, seemed to appear more like a political debate should. Yet, like the Biden-Trump debate, both candidates still interrupted each other and avoided many questions. Overall, it wasn’t a very memorable evening. It’s likely that what stuck with people the most was the fly that landed on Pence’s head during the debate.
Being that these are unprecedented debates during unprecedented times, it’s hard to be certain of anything that came out of them. But what we are certain about is that we’re now only weeks away from the presidential election, and regardless of all the negativity seen on the news or social media, what we as Americans have to do is go out and vote to make sure that our voices are heard.