President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden’s debate was offered for collective viewing through the Debate Watch Party event that occurred Oct. 22, hosted by the School of Communication professor Joseph Zompetti and professor and Director of Illinois State University’s debate team Shanna Carlson along with Illinois State University’s Voter Engagement Coalition.
Prior to the debate, a pre-debate discussion was held and afterward, a post-debate discussion, carried out by the hosts and the 50+ participants comprising of students and staff.
ISU partnered with the American Association of State Colleges and Universities’ American Democracy Project so that students could partake in a live national conversation regarding the debate with students across the country through the platform Discord.
During the post-debate reflection and debrief via Zoom immediately following the debate, professors Zompetti and Carlson led a discussion concerning the debate’s logistics.
They opened the discussion by covering important points in detail from the debate overall, while pinning key markers through the candidates relayed content.
The discussion went on for approximately an hour and a half.
Zompetti and Carlson spoke on debate structures and strategies and why different methods used by the candidates were effective and not.
Zompetti noted that Trump claimed Biden was planning to get rid of the oil industry, then began naming the states to pay attention to this fact. Zompetti found this method of speaking to states and the nation to be an effective strategy during the debate.
Professor and Director of Convergent Media Nathan Carpenterasked, “Do you think the two-minute format was helpful or harmful this evening?”
Carlson responded by saying that the two-minute limit format was not very well abided by during the first debate. During the final debate, the Commission on Presidential Debates decided to mute the mics of the opposing candidate during each candidate’s uninterrupted two-minute period to answer the question at the beginning of each segment. This allowed for the debate to flow better and for the issues of interruption and speaking past time limits to be tamed.
“I also think that it is extremely difficult to answer a complex question in two minutes or less. Would it be more effective to section these topics differently so each issue can be addressed with more thought and depth?” participant Brittany Marx said.
Zompetti responded by saying that previous debates were more friendly, as they were segmented by topic across several debates.
Yet, he said this method ran the risk of losing interest from the audience, so the networks made the decision to make the speaking time shorter and condensed with all topics into each debate to keep the attention span of watchers.
“The race portion was very disappointing. Racial injustice is one of the biggest problems going on in this country, and both candidates didn’t really address anything to better this,” attendee Anna Marema said.
Participants and hosts responded in agreement with Marema about how neither candidate addressed the racial injustice issues during the debate as much as they should have, with the injustices being so prominent today.
“I have been very disappointed with the lack of discussion about LGBT issues in this election cycle, particularly given the Supreme Court nomination and the recent writings by Justice [Samuel] Alito and Justice [Clarence] Thomas slamming the Marriage Equality ruling. I don’t think they have talked enough about how a Trump nomination could harm the future of LGBT rights,” attendee Michael Frieh said.
This is another issue that the candidates did not touch on as much as the public agrees they should have. With the future of the LGBTQIA community at stake, attendees agreed that the candidates should have given attention to the topic during the debate.
Carpenter later came back with a question about whether Trump can continue to make the same claims about being a politician given his time in office.
“Do you all think that Trump can still make the claim that he’s not a politician, even though he’s been president for almost four years now? Many of his arguments from tonight seemed to hinge on a perceived outsider status,” Carpenter said.
He questioned whether it is appropriate still for the president to use the fact that he is not a politician as a defense when he now has enough experience as the president for this statement to become false.
Carlson also discussed the number of polling places available is shrinking which will make lines longer.
One participant talked about a previous teacher telling her class that their votes would not matter or make a difference. This comment was agreed upon by attendees and hosts to be misleading and negatively impacting young people.
The advisement, attendees said, should be for young people to vote and understand the difference each vote is able to make in their community on a local and national level.
Another participant aided in this concept by providing information about the National Popular Vote Bill across U.S. states. The bill is spreading across the U.S., allowing a higher degree of impact to be made by citizens rather than the Electoral College on election turnouts.
The discussion ended with the hosts encouraging everyone to vote.
More information about civic engagement at ISU can be found within the Center for Community Engagement and Service Learning’s website. ISU’s voter engagement efforts and student resources for voting is provided by the Redbird Voter Guide.