The year is 2020. Not only have we lost people, but we’ve also lost the will to elect sensible candidates for our country. Now now, I know it’s controversial, but who would I be if I didn’t touch on the controversy here and there. We all tuned in for the first presidential debate of the election season. Or shall I say the reality tv show? Even if you didn’t sit there through the painful exchange of political banter, you’ve seen the memes, you’ve seen the tweets, or even the political cartoons on the paper if you’re still buying it.
The presidential debate is looked at as a way to see how policies are viewed by candidates. Whether it’s climate change, education reform, or health care, many people view the debate as an informational session. In the past, debates have been done and as always, there’s deflecting of questions, however, this debate was very special and as many would say “one for the books”. Not only was this debate held in the middle of a global pandemic, but it was also one of the most uncivil conversations I’ve seen.
Before you think this is primarily a full-on opinion post, no my friends, I am actually going to come to my main point which is this: presidential debates are not informative anymore, they’ve just become televised events that happen to be pure entertainment. The whole point of these debates is to see where our potential candidates stand on these policies, as mentioned above. In past debates, we can clearly distinguish one stance from another. For example, let us take it back to 2012. It seems like it was ages ago, and if you feel like it was, I don’t blame you. 2020 has been a decade within a whole year, to say the least. Back when Obama and Mitt Romney were candidates for president, their debate was one that couldn’t be missed. Obama, the first African-American president running for re-election, and Republican nominee Mitt Romney both kept this debate focused on foreign policy but didn’t miss out on mentioning how they would both benefit the U.S. job pool and economy.
While both spoke on foreign policy, what would a debate be without both candidates bringing up things one another has done for the country. Romney did not hesitate when it came to bringing up Obama’s missions in the middle east, more specifically the death of Osama Bin Laden. “We’re going to have to do more than killing bad guys,” which was a way of dismantling Obama’s foreign policy arguments. However, Obama did not shy away from a rebuttal and even went on to mention why the death of Bin Laden was justifiable and was necessary in diffusing much of the controversy behind his decision.
Debates have a huge impact on voter turn out. With social media platforms taking more charge of exposing others to voting and spreading information on candidates, debates publicized on social media have an immense impact on voter turn out. With the 2016 election alone, “37% of people who followed the results of the 2016 U.S. presidential elections on television did so on social media at the same time“. This concept of people following the debate on T.V. as well as social media is recognized as dual screening. There is an idea that now most political news is given a digital disruption due to social media platforms like instagram and twitter misinforming many. This can heavily impact voter turn out especially for the 18-30 age range, that necessarily never has a high percentage of voters for their age group. This is excluding many other marginalities and classification groups, in 2016 only 13% of voters were younger than 30. Alot of the propaganda we’ve been shown in history books is now taking place on our own social media timelines. This year’s presidential debate was displayed on television and all over news outlets. As for all the social media platforms, they wasted no time in making memes, headlines and videos on Biden and Trump’s battle royale.
Donald Trump has certainly proved himself as a person to have no filter no matter what the context. He’s gotten on Twitter to rant about his likes and dislikes and will occasionally make it in all caps as if the writing itself wasn’t enough. He’s kept no opinions to himself when it comes to press and interviewing questions. This presidential debate was another way of President Trump presenting his strong opinions to the public.
Now although we all signed on to view a debate on policies, Biden and Trump served us a nice plate of deception. What couldve been a discussion about our healthcare system turned into a slander session of Biden’s personal life and Trump’s inadequate fit for presidency. ‘”Will you shut up, man?” Mr. Biden demanded of Mr. Trump at one point in obvious exasperation. ”This is so unpresidential.’” It didn’t take a genius to figure out that this debate was nothing close to presidential. When speaking about ongoing situations such as the pandemic, Biden mentioned how many lives could have been saved had different precautions been taken at the start of the year. However, Trump’s response deflected Biden’s statement and just reiterated his ideas of re-opening. On climate change, Trump deflected the questions yet again with the statement of “we’re planting a billion trees”.
The memes, the stickers and even the analysis from other political scientists made a mockery of the political system we call a democracy. Ultimately, this debate will be referenced for centuries to come. A mudslinging contest or a formal policy discussion, either way, we weren’t informed.