Trump vs. Biden: the effects of the worst debate in history

The first Presidential debate, which took place on September 29th, was an opportunity to bring the nation together; however, it did anything but that. Photo by Matt Siciliano-Salazar | The Signal

Every four years, political advertisements take over airtime, signs with candidates’ names line roads and debates between candidates begin. These are established traditions of political campaigns, yet the first presidential debate between former Vice President Joe Biden and President Donald Trump was everything but traditional. 

In a year of climate disasters, demonstrations and the coronavirus, tensions between U.S. citizens are at an all-time high. According to the American Psychological Association, 83% of Americans say our nation’s future is a significant source of stress.

The Washington Post described the first Trump-Biden debate as “The Worst Presidential Debate in Living Memory.” Interruptions and false information filled the dialogue of the debate. Moderator Chris Wallace struggled to maintain order throughout the event, describing it as a completely missed opportunity.

Personal attacks on the candidates outshone issues viewers wanted to hear about. Rather than focusing on pressing issues like racism, climate change and immigration, the event strayed far from political issues throughout the night. Both men spent most of their allotted two minutes defending themselves, their family name, or accusing and attacking the other. As described by CNN’s Jake Tapper, the debate was “a hot mess inside a dumpster fire inside a train wreck.”

Many viewers on both sides of the political spectrum shared this sentiment. 

Sophomore Grayson Gorman is a member of the Republican Party. He, like many Americans, was dissatisfied with the contents of the debate. 

“Overall, the first presidential debate was an absolute catastrophe for both candidates,” he said. “Joe Biden said disrespectful and shameful things to the acting President of the United States, at one point even calling him a clown and telling him to shut up. On the topic of the moderator, Chris Wallace gave Joe Biden an easy pass by not fact-checking Joe as he did Trump.”

Daniel Franklin is an Emeritus Associate Professor of Political Science who identifies with the Democratic Party. Like many, he was shocked by the debate. 

“The thing I love about presidential debates is that they are unedited,” he said. “Regardless of their efforts, candidates can’t hide who they are on live television. The most outstanding feature of the first debate was President Trump’s demeanor, which includes a total lack of decorum and discipline. The debate was a disaster for President Trump.”

Georgia State alumna Ola Moustafa is a polling location manager who helps make the voting process go as smoothly as possible. 

“That debate was not what this country needed,” she said. “Tensions are already high, even at voting locations. You can almost feel it. That uncivilized and messy debate was broadcasted for millions of people to see. ‘Division’ is a word I would use to describe it. It was just a mess.” 

Debates are held in an attempt to bring people together on divisive and heated issues. For years, they have been a respected part of U.S. democracy. However, the first presidential debate was anything but traditional. The encounter between the two candidates further set controversy throughout the country by displaying the deep division between Democrats and Republicans.