Opinion – We’re Better Than This

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TOPSHOT – (COMBO) This combination of pictures created on September 29, 2020 shows Democratic Presidential candidate and former US Vice President Joe Biden (L) and US President Donald Trump speaking during the first presidential debate at the Case Western Reserve University and Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio on September 29, 2020. (Photos by JIM WATSON and SAUL LOEB / AFP) (Photo by JIM WATSON,SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images)

Noah Edelman, Opinion and Politics Editor

On the night of September 29, 2020, former Vice President Joe Biden and incumbent President Donald Trump met in Cleveland, Ohio to attend the first of three scheduled presidential debates. The eyes of every American, and many more worldwide, were fixed on their televisions. Over 100 million people were projected to watch. Traditionally, the debates have been honest platforms intended to provide voters with a useful cross-section of the two nominees and their policy. These debates are known to be crucial to a functioning democracy, as John F. Kennedy once stated: “Without debate, without criticism, no administration and no country can succeed and no republic can survive.”

 It is hard, as an American, to watch this debate and be confident in the future of our country. ABC Chief Anchor and former White House communications director George Stephanopoulos, who notably interviewed the president this year, described the debate as “the worst presidential debate I’ve ever seen in my life.” Widespread disappointment is not exclusive to Democrats or Republicans. While CNN reporter Jake Tapper expressed his thoughts professionally, saying “That was a hot mess, inside a dumpster fire, inside a train wreck,” his CNN colleague Dana Bash put it frankly, saying “That was a shitshow.” Many would not disagree, citing ineffective moderation from Fox News’ Chris Wallace and unhindered rants by President Trump. 

Democrats stood by Mr. Biden as he defended himself calmly from the relentless interjections by the President. Republicans rode with Trump as he went after his opponent at every chance. Many would claim that not much actual productive discourse was had in this debate, and that is surprisingly quite a rational thing to think. The debate itself was divided into six separate segments: each of the candidates’ records, the Supreme Court, the coronavirus pandemic, race relations and violence in cities, the economy, and election integrity. 

Many young Americans will now remember the presidential debate, and possibly the election cycle in general as something similar to a playground argument. Mr. Biden was quoted as calling the President a “liar,” “clown,” and “the worst president America has ever had.”

The President was not without his jabs as well, calling the former vice president “stupid” and “socialist.” 

Now, if I had to choose one aspect of the debate to criticize, I would choose the organization. A completely nonpartisan choice, and I say this because it was so obvious the lack of control moderator Chris Wallace had on the allotted speaking turns of the two candidates. Little actual policy debate was had, and at times I found myself laughing at the screen. In my worldly and wise 16 years of experience on this planet, I find it hard to believe that these are our  best and brightest minds competing for the most powerful office in the world. I could be wrong, and honestly at this point it wouldn’t surprise me if legitimately qualified candidates shy away from even entering the race. 

Something is bubbling in this country, and the reaction to this debate is just the tip of the iceberg. Trump’s confusing refusal to denounce the white supremacist group Proud Boys has only served to fire them up more. Biden’s debatably lackluster defense of continuous protests and the Black Lives Matter movement has sparked anger in the far-left community as well. Whether we have a peaceful election or a complete societal implosion remains to be seen. The true talking point of this debate is not the candidates, but the step back we all took. Even as high school students, most of whom cannot vote, we all realized that we deserve better.

Both Republicans and Democrats deserve a smart and centered candidate, and someone who passionately reflects the true desires of their respective base. The way the President has approached politics has trickled down into the way we discuss it with each other. Name-calling and mindless cancelling will only serve to deepen the wounds this country has been bleeding from for hundreds of years.