By Joe Badalamenti
Ah, the presidential debates, the time where nominees from major parties come together to have a civil discussion on the issues that matter to voters. Surely this year’s nominees, Donald Trump and Joe Biden, could come to the table and show that they have what it takes to hold the highest office in America right? WRONG! After watching the first presidential debate of 2020, I mainly felt disappointed. Nearly 250 years after the founding of the American Republic, these two are the best candidates we have to offer? According to The Hill, ratings for this debate were down by 65%. Given the terrible performance, it’s no wonder why TV ratings were this low.
In polite terms, the Presidential debate was a dumpster fire. There were constant interruptions from each candidate, which made it hard to hear anything. Most of the interruptions came from Trump, which wasn’t exactly unexpected. Most of his supporters have grown accustomed to this behavior. There were also a lot of bad arguments. There was name calling, emotional appeal, and even arguing with the moderator. If the candidates were not calling their opponent a loser, they were probably repeating the same point without engaging with their opponent’s argument at all, that is, if they didn’t dodge the question in the first place. Since this was a political event, you can always count on the mainstream media to make some absurd tribal claim. This time, it was to claim that Trump or Biden did not denounce racism or violence, respectively. It’s pretty clear that both candidates have denounced these things in some way, shape, or form, and those who claim otherwise are intentionally spreading misinformation. In terms of moderation, Chris Wallace tried to be impartial, but he was reluctant to push Biden on certain issues as we will see later on.
Aside from the unprofessionalism of the debate, each candidate did give their take on several current issues. The first topic was the Supreme Court. Trump stated that he has a responsibility to appoint the next justice while Biden cited the fact that many citizens have already cast votes for this current election. While Biden chose not to attack the character of Trump’s appointee (unlike many on Twitter), he did attack her supposed stance on health care. It’s also worth mentioning that Biden did not say whether or not he would pack the court if elected. The economy was another big topic. Trump’s big feat was that he was able to bring back Big Ten football. Thank you, Trump, very cool! Biden criticized the lack of a COVID plan by the Trump administration and expressed interest in creating a plan for recovery. While making a plan does seem very efficient, many of the current plans involved lockdowns. Another interesting topic was Trump’s decision to ban Critical Race Theory training for government departments. It was in fact very misleading that both Wallace and Biden referred to these training sessions as “racial sensitivity” training. Considering many of these Critical Race theorists hold pretty radical ideas, such as the proposal to implement discrimination by Ibram X. Kendi, it’s clear that there’s more going on here than just racial sensitivity. The final topic of the debate was about the integrity of the election. In this segment, Trump repeatedly dodged the question of whether he will allow a peaceful transfer of power. While the entirety of the GOP has confirmed that they will allow this transfer, dodging the question only makes Trump look bad. As one can see, whenever a candidate dodges a question it just ends up looking bad for their image.
There are a number of ways that the presidential debates could improve. One requested change is the introduction of third party candidates to the field. The addition of third party candidates such as Jo Jorgenson from the Libertarian Party or Howie Hawkens from the Green Party could lead to some significant changes. First off, there would be more discussion of policy solutions. In the current system, candidates show very little transparency so long as they can appeal to their base or appear better than their opponent. If additional candidates were added, then each nominee would need to put in more effort to come off as not an ok choice but a great choice. After all, it’s much harder to appeal to a certain demographic when multiple candidates have similarly appealing ideas. Moreover, since there are more candidates, each one would have relatively less time to speak. This would make personal attacks costly as it wouldn’t have an effect on the other candidates. Finally, if this change were to be made it would likely come from a different organization. The mainstream media has been very reluctant to include third party candidates in the debates. However, if a different organization were to hold the debates with third party candidates, then it would likely come with a more impartial moderation staff. Though most of these changes seem like a pipe dream given the tight grip of the mainstream media on the culture, if enough people become disillusioned by the current system, then this dream may become a reality.