Presidential debate watch party draws full house, few attend VP debate viewing

Students and faculty gather in Founder’s Lounge to view the first presidential debate between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton on Mon- day, Sept. 26. (Photo by Stefan Carlson)

Approximately 100 students and faculty gathered in the Founder’s Lounge to watch the first presidential debate of the 2016 election on Sept. 26.

The crowd was lively— reacting with laughter, cheers and jeers as Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton went back and forth on issues such as law enforcement, foreign policy and each candidate’s qualifications to be president.

Economic concerns and jobs were the first issues discussed. In a debate that was filled with personal attacks and interruptions, this section of the debate was relatively civil.

Dr. Mary Walsh, political science department chair at EC, said this part of the debate was one of the high points of the entire debate.

“I didn’t like some of the things about the debate, but one of the things that I thought was helpful was that it did create a clear vision about how these two candidates wanted to grow the economy,” she said. “It was really clear the difference between their plans. One was focused on the middle class, and one was focused on regulations.”

On the same issue, Dr. Connie Mixon, director of the urban S=- studies program at EC, felt that America’s place in the global economy could have been better fleshed out.

“I think it’s important to recognize the fact that globalization is happening. It’s not going to go away, that is a fact of the global economy,” she said. “What I would have like to have heard was the candidates talking about how we are going to adapt to that global economy. As opposed to just saying we’re going to bring jobs back, because those jobs aren’t coming back.”

Elaborating on the aspects of the debate that were less helpful, Walsh pointed out both candidates tendency to interrupt and insult each other.

“I was uncomfortable with both candidates kind of sinking to the level of snarky comments,” she said. “I thought that detracted from some of the issues. I didn’t appreciate the demeanor at times of either candidate.”

“They were making faces while the other person was talking and not being respectful to the moderator either,” Walsh added. “I do really wish that we had a real discussion in the media or in the debate about the issues.”

Being the Director of Urban Studies, Mixon expressed concern with how both candidates tackled the topic of race relations.

“In particular, Donald Trump made a comment about African Americans as if they all live in the inner city and only some are very nice people. That wasn’t at all addressing the question that was asked about race relations,” she said. “Secretary Clinton got to it finally, but it was a bunch of details and then she finally got to the answer which was structural, system, institutional racism.”

There was also a viewing party for the Vice Presidential debate on Oct. 4. in the Founders Lounge. The turnout was dismal — with only a few students and faculty in attendance.

The vice presidential debate saw Clinton’s running mate, Tim Kaine, aggressively challenge Republican VP candidate Mike Pence who tried to remain composed throughout the affair.

In stark contrast to the presidential debate a week earlier, the vice presidential debate lingered on the character of the two at the top of the ticket. Walker noted as such after the debate had concluded.

“They come to the debate with very different agendas than their leaders,” she said. “Where-as Trump, the main member of the ticket is trying to support positions... Pence has to come in there and make Trump look temperate. And he did, even clarifying that [Trump] isn’t as polished as [Kaine and Clinton].”

Walker reminded the crowd that vice presidential debates are typically the more aggressive debates, which is a commonality defied by the nature of the two presidential candidates and their running mates.

“It used to be that the vice presidents, like Joe Biden was, are supposed to be like the attack dogs,” she said. “The candidate should be able to remain presidential in our eyes. In this case, we have two presidential candidates that are more than happy to be the aggressor.”