Seeing both President Donald Trump and Joe Biden interrupt each other for an hour and a half was more than a spectacle. To think that one of these two candidates is going to be the next leader of the free world is a hard concept to comprehend, especially after viewing one of the most dramatic debates in presidential history.
Instead of debating real issues, Trump’s deep-rooted attacks went to an extremely personal level, where even the moderator Chris Wallace had to intervene and scold him like a child, yet Biden had retaliatory jabs that were a defensive line against Trump’s heartfelt words.
Aside from this immature, non-political talk, there was little debate about true political issues. With that, this eventful mess on TV was a sad metaphor for our current political climate, one of which has little to no respect for the precedents of our nation.
But, the real question comes down to swing states, specifically Wisconsin, as debates set the stage for undecided voters to make their decision as the election comes closer.
The quick verbal exchanges provided viewers with insight on the current polarization of American politics.
These exchanges showed to be an extreme form of this polarization, as both Trump and Biden barely wanted to have a cordial conversation in front of the 73 million viewers.
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Moreover, Trump’s personal attacks seemed to cross the line of this polarization and showed that his aggravation was finally breaking through.
In particular, Trump’s words for Biden’s family were completely unwarranted and showed his temper was rising. About halfway through the debate, he brought up Biden’s two sons who were in the military, focusing on Hunter Biden’s drug addiction. This was a complete show of disrespect to Biden and the debate in general.
It took under seven minutes for this bickering to start between the two candidates. From then on, it was a complete downward spiral.
The lack of respect for a true debate with a moderator and a less targeted discussion about issues that affect many Americans were in close resemblance to how many politicians treat the political climate today.
For comparison, the first televised presidential debate, between John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon, was almost a completely different event.
Both JFK and Nixon held a discussion that was cordial and focused directly on what the viewership wanted to see, it was a promising attempt to discuss fixing the problems of the nation. The two candidates each walked to the podium to speak for their introductions and even nodded to each other when they were done speaking.
In contrast, the absolute bombshell of a debate between Trump and Biden featured zero respect for each other’s time to talk and even had rebuttal right after the introductory statements.
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What does this mean for voters this election? Some recent polls were indicative of voter’s choices in relation to the debate.
The Politico/Morning Consult poll surveyed potential voters to see if they had made up their mind on who they were voting for, and they found that 86% had picked their vote, but 14% had not. This is even more important for Wisconsin voters, as the state could be a deciding factor for either of the candidates.
In a separate CNN poll, 57% of viewers said the debate did not change their decision on who they were voting for, but the other 43% of viewers who were influenced was divided between 32% voting for Biden and 11% for Trump.
Polls can be indicative, but the margin of error — 2% for the Politico poll and 6.3% for the CNN poll — are always good to factor in to the analysis.
These polls are great for seeking insight on how the election may turn out, but voters still need to get to the polls and make their final decision.
For Wisconsin voters that have yet to make their decision, it would be in their best interest to wait until the other debates have been scheduled and completed.
Television networks and both of the campaigns can learn from the horrific first debate and fine-tune the next debate to make the discussion of political topics clearer.
Specifically, some media commentators have said debate moderator should have a mute button if one of the candidates violates the rules of the debate.
In any event, watching these debates is necessary for anyone who is going to vote, no matter how chaotic they become. These can be a chance to get to know the candidate of choice’s running points on a national stage, which will be crucial for the swing votes of Wisconsin.
Ethan Wollins ([email protected]) is a freshman majoring in political science.