Opinion: the electoral debates felt like reality TV

During the past few weeks, the American population witnessed two rather chaotic debates; on Sept. 29, President Donald Trump and democratic nominee Joe Biden faced off in a debate that I would label as useless. On Oct. 7, Vice President Mike Pence and democratic nominee Kamala Harris had their debate with a slightly more informative deliberation. 

I vaguely remember watching debates between President Trump and Hillary Clinton. I was just 15 and politics was not of the utmost importance to me then. But now, the burden of this election rests largely on the shoulders of young people. Because of that, even during the debates between democratic candidates, I committed to following the election. 

Of course, one of the biggest and most important aspects of our presidential elections is the debates between candidates for presidential and vice presidential elections. They can play a key part in determining the votes of many people nationwide and help citizens understand the candidates’ policies, should they be elected. 

[Photo of a person watching the 2020 presidential debate]
Photo by Drew Marhall | The Arbiter

Despite the obvious pressure on these debates, not only on the candidates, but also on the public, the presidential debate proved to be a dumbfounding mess of unanswered questions and childish bickering. It does not necessarily help that this bickering transpired between two grown men.

It had never been so hard to keep a straight face during something that had no intentions of being entertaining. Honestly, I felt like I may have been watching the newest reality series on ABC. 

Trump seemed to have decided, without telling anyone else, that he would be interrupting both Biden and moderator Chris Wallace at any given moment. This left Wallace an exasperated middleman, attempting to facilitate the event. 

According to Jeremy Stahl from Slate, Trump interrupted Biden and Wallace 128 times over the course of 90 minutes. To compare, Trump interrupted Clinton during the 2016 debate a mere 51 times. 

Further, Wallace asked the president to stop interrupting at least 25 times. After about 20 minutes of interruptions, Biden finally broke in and directly said “would you shut up, man?” 

Thankfully, the debate between Harris and Pence proved to be more traditional, though Harris had to break in and stop Pence from interrupting her as well. Though to many, the highlight of the vice presidential debate may have been the annoyingly insistent fly, I have to admit that it had much more substance than the presidential debate. 

While the vice presidential debates do not often change the opinions of any voters, it did clearly express the priorities of the agendas from both parties. Of course, these agendas could not be more partisan in regards to healthcare, the economy and the coronavirus. 

Graphic by Jordan Barno

The topic of COVID-19 started off the debate, and Harris led with a strong statement saying that the current administration’s handling of the virus was “the greatest failure of any presidential administration in the history of our country.” 

It is absolutely true that the Trump administration failed the American public with their mishandling of the virus. One of the biggest aspects of this was Trump’s continuous downplaying of the virus, especially when he knew it was a threat. 

On Feb. 7, Trump told journalist Bob Woodward that the virus was “deadly stuff” and would prove to be “more deadly” than the flu. Then, on Feb. 10 during a rally in New Hampshire, Trump said “I think the virus is going to be — it’s going to be fine.”
It was a not so unexpected surprise to see the poor performance from Trump during his debate. Despite that, the vice presidential debate clearly showed us the leading values of either party. All that said, remember to get out and vote however you can this year.

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