The Disastrous Debates


Matthias Holzman, Editor-in-Chief

Apart from the Pandemic, the economy crashing, and every other event that made 2020 truly a dumpster fire of a year, the first of three Presidential Debates between incumbent President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden added heaps of trash to the fire. Non sequiturs, rambling answers, and pointless name-calling all made an appearance at the debate on Sept. 29.

I could spend many, many paragraphs describing the downfall of politics in this country, of diplomacy, and of much else, but instead I’ll just say this: If you go back even 20 or 30 years ago, presidential debates appeared to be thoughtful events filled with information on policies and viewpoints, a back-and-forth discussion on why you should vote for one candidate and not the other. 

If the presidential candidates of those eras were taking a high school class and being graded on their debating skills, they’d probably get a good grade. Most of them, anyway. I think this doesn’t hold true today. I think that Joe Biden would probably get a failing grade, at least in his professional conduct, and Donald Trump would be sent straight out of the classroom for disruptive behavior.

A lot of people have said that Biden interrupted Trump a lot throughout the debate, as if it proved that Trump was a better candidate. The only way I can respond is with the fact that the president interrupted both Biden and the moderator dozens of times: counts range from 75 to 128 and beyond, depending on how you define an “interruption.” In the same debate, Biden committed just a third of the interruptions, in the range of 25 to 50.

Still, I’m not so blinded by party interests as to ignore the critical points of my own team. Biden’s answers, while I did feel they were “correct” in that they held true to my own political views, came across as generic and hollow, answering just the surface level of the question without going into detail. His negative remarks about Trump being a “clown” and telling him to “shut up, man,” I can understand as exasperation, but I still expect better from a political candidate.

I think that the main takeaway from this debate, instead of being ideas on key issues in today’s world, is that the candidates we allow to get this far in the race need more work instead. The Saturday Night Live skit on the debate said it best. “Tonight, we’ll be discussing six major topics, none of which anyone will remember by tomorrow,” ‘Chris Wallace’ (Beck Bennett) said.

And as an aside, both the debate planners and the candidates seemed to wisen up for the second and final debate on Oct. 22. A mute button for the microphones was installed and, though rarely used, the threat of it kept the debate running somewhat smoothly.

There was still a lot of interrupting done by the candidates, particularly President Trump interrupting Kristen Walker, the moderator, but in general it seemed as though actual debating was going on throughout the whole debate.

While the addition of the muting feature was effective and allowed the candidates’ policies to shine through, I still question why we chose candidates that we have to force relative civility and basic debating practices on. Instead of having two people (men, in this case) of character vying for the presidency, it feels like we got a couple of odd characters instead.