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On the First Presidential Debate
Fatima Sohani

Spirit week is normally characterized by costumes, lots of red, and, of course, the Baylor-McCallie football game. However, this spirit week also saw the first 2020 U.S. presidential debate.

Some thought it was frustrating while others found it hilarious, and others still found it just flat-out confusing. The debate was held at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio and moderated by Chris Wallace, host of Fox News Sunday. As a result of the pandemic, less than one hundred people—all of whom were required to be masked throughout the duration of the debate and undergo COVID-19 testing—were allowed to attend. President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden were physically distanced from one another and remained unmasked for the debate.

From coronavirus to the economy to race, President Trump and Joe Biden discussed—maybe a better word would be argued about—a variety of topics, not seeming to agree on anything. News outlets, talk show hosts, and celebrities were all quick to call the debate a complete disaster, with many even likening Chris Wallace to a kindergarten teacher. Many members of our very own Baylor community agree with this sentiment wholeheartedly, such as Caroline Chapman ‘21, a three-year boarding student and prefect from Lexington, KY. who “thought the presidential debate was an embarrassment to both the country and our democracy” and believes not “a single issue was truly addressed in that debate. . . amidst [the] interruptions and ‘below the belt’ insults.” Owen McDaniel ‘23 views the debate as “a total fiasco that people shouldn’t take as an accurate representation of American politics. Both Biden and Trump failed to get their points across, and it ended up devolving into a catastrophe.” Sophia Baleeiro ‘23 simply called it “an ineloquent disaster.”

As for what issues individuals in the Baylor community wants to hear about, Roe v. Wade is one of Baleeiro’s top picks. Chapman and McDaniel, however, focused more on the way in which the issues are debated. Chapman commented that “[w]hile the purpose of the debate was to inform undecided voters on each candidate’s stances, I doubt voters were swayed either way, as you could barely understand what they were talking about” as a result of the format of the debate. McDaniel “think[s] if both candidates were to expound a little more on each of their respective policies instead of constantly taking shots at one another, that would be beneficial.” McDaniel also added that “the moderator needs to do a better job by keeping both candidates on the ball and not allowing either various interruptions or nonsensical ramblings.”

Regardless of their political views and thoughts on the presidential election and debates, all three students agreed on the importance of voting. Chapman “think[s] when you’re deciding between two candidates, it’s important to keep this in mind: whether Biden or Trump, this election is not just about the president; it’s also about the administration and its policies.” Chapman asks voters to consider which candidate they trust “to look out for the stability and well-being of our country,” and though Baleeiro cannot vote herself, she would like to “encourage everyone else to.” McDaniel expressed that he believes “voting is perhaps the most important thing you can do for your country.”

McDaniel continued, saying, “Even though I am a steadfast Republican, I have nothing but the utmost respect for the Democratic Party and what they’ve done to try and make the United States a better place, which goes to show that politics doesn’t have to always be right vs. wrong or liberal vs. conservative; it just needs to be an environment where people feel safe enough to express their ideas, unlike the first 2020 presidential debate.”

Baleeiro ended her statement by imploring people to “vote, educate themselves, and listen to other people,” and the final message Chapman wanted to convey to the Baylor community was that “[b]oth candidates are far from perfect, but we need to put party and pride aside and choose. Every vote matters.”

On that note, if you’re able to vote and would like to do so in the upcoming election, make sure to go https://ovr.govote.tn.gov/ or vote.org to register to vote!

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