Editorial: The debates of disappointment


Photo credit: Carter Marks, Royals Media

Democratic Presidential Candidate, Former Vice President Joe Biden speaks at a rally on March 1 in Norfolk, Virginia, at Booker T. Washington High School. Remember to register or pre-register to vote at https://vote.gov/.

By 20-21 Oracle Editorial Board

Picture this: your history teacher assigned watching the first presidential debate between candidates Joe Biden and Donald Trump as your homework for tonight. Your class is going to discuss their policies and debate strategies tomorrow. You go sit down on your couch and turn on the television to your favorite news channel; almost immediately the debate turns to name-calling, constant interruptions and arguing with the moderator but can’t figure out what their policies even are. You get an email notification on your computer halfway through the debate, your teacher said you no longer need to watch the debate….it’s too hard to watch.

The embarrassment was palpable nationwide following the first presidential debate between Biden and Trump which was held on Sept. 29 in Cleveland, Ohio. We sat in our homes with our families to watch what was meant to be a display of civil discourse, a respectful debate between two politicians, one of which will be our country’s next leader. What America and the world received was the exact opposite. 

Rather than a slightly heated debate, which many expected considering the controversy around this election, we watched as two grown men completely ignored the value of civil discourse and turned the debate into an unhelpful, disrespectful train wreck. The president of our nation insulted Biden’s intelligence, education and his son’s past drug addiction. Additionally, Trump told the white supremacist group Proud Boys to “stand back and stand by” and consistently argued with the moderator Chris Wallace over the debate topics and the time he was given to speak.

Biden spent much of the debate laughing, his most notable moments being when he told Trump “Will you shut up, man?” as well as calling Trump a “clown.” Wallace had to repeatedly tell both candidates to refrain from interrupting one another and took a moment to speak towards Trump about respecting the debate rules before continuing to the next topic.

The comments that followed the debate from the common civilian to esteemed reporters who have been covering elections for decades were all the same: this was the worst debate most Americans have ever seen.

Our country preaches democracy, equality and strength, none of which were shown during the debate. These debates are crucial, they are meant to target the groups of undecided voters who will be a large factor in the election outcome. The purpose is to see what the candidate’s policies are, how they will handle our country’s most pressing issues and how well they can argue and defend their points. With constant interruption and a lack of respect for the moderator, and time given to speak, the debate did not aid in undecided voters’ choices or placate Americans’ stress levels. 

The vice presidential debate, which took place the following week, was far more civil and followed the rules and standards of civil discourse. Biden’s running mate Kamala Harris and Trump’s vice president Mike Pence overall respectfully discussed and argued their policies and worked to convince those undecided voters and displayed civil discourse. However, they aren’t the ones in the running for the leader of the United States of America. They won’t be making the final executive decisions on climate change, abortion rights, and other vital decisions that will affect millions. 

Following the debate, President Trump and multiple people within his circle tested positive for COVID-19, which he has consistently dismissed as non-concern and argued he has handled the pandemic very well. Due to Trump’s positive test, the committee organizing the second debate announced it would be virtual, which Trump refused to take part in. Both Biden and Trump held town hall-type interviews at the same time on different networks. The final debate was rescheduled for Oct. 23, after Trump tested negative.

The final presidential debate held in Miami, Florida on Oct. 22 appeared promising at first. Both candidates’ microphones were muted when the other was speaking, there were minimal attacks, and less interrupting occurred. While the second debate was far more civil than the first, the misinformation and offensive comments were far higher.

Trump spoke with a tone of confidence which cleverly made himself sound educated to his audience while he spoke false and misleading information about the economy, Biden’s policies, immigration and a variety of other topics. He returned to his 2016 rhetoric about Mexican immigrants, making offensive claims such as calling them potential “murderers and rapists.” Comments such as these are particularly hard and offensive to hear from the current, and potential future, leader of our country.

Things appear to be very dire after watching the unprofessional and disappointing first presidential debate and the events that followed. It is incredibly disappointing that our own current and future leaders do not have the intelligence or ability to engage in civil discourse for the benefit of our country. It may be hard to have hope for the upcoming election and to have hope for whoever may lead our country next, but we must continue to do our part to uphold the standards of democracy and to do what is best for our country.

If you can, vote. If you are not eligible, know that there are plenty of other options for you to take your part in the upcoming election. Go pre-register to vote, send postcards to swing states or volunteer at polling stations. Encourage those around you to vote and so we can truly make a difference this November.