On Tuesday, September 29th, Americans stayed up to watch the first of three presidential debates. The nominees to take the stage were former vice president Joe Biden and current president Donald Trump. What should have been a civilized and controlled argument turned into a petty squabble between two long-time political foes. The debate was equivalent to a car crash, and we couldn’t look away. Instead, we witnessed constant interruptions and name-calling. Viewers commented that Trump was engaging in two debates, one with Biden, and another with the moderator, Chris Wallace. Trump interrupted and fought Wallace on nearly every question. Many found this predictable due to Trump’s track record of being rude and insufferable. The answers Americans were hoping to hear about how the candidates plan to heal our nation after months of suffering remain unanswered. Trump and Biden accomplished nothing on the debate stage except making the United States look like an incompetent joke.

I must have turned my television off at least ten times within the hour and a half they had to speak, only to turn it back on 30 seconds later. Despite how much their bickering made me want to start and finish the bottle of wine in my kitchen, I had to remind myself this is the future of our country. Whether I want it or not, one of these two men will become or continue to be my president. So I watched and watched, and then opened the bottle of wine and watched some more. Regardless of how painful it was, I realized there were moments within the debate that should be attracting voters’ attention. 

Let’s start with the worst moment of the night that had people shocked, disgusted, and disturbed. Wallace asked Trump to condemn white supremacists on national television. Trump initially said sure, and then said something that further divided an already warring nation. He directly addressed Proud Boys, a violent white supremacy group, deemed as terrorists by many who have seen their work. Trump stated, “Proud Boys, stand back and stand by. …someone has got to do something about Antifa and the left.” This remark sparked outrage in many as people interpreted Trump’s statement as him saying he would be calling Proud Boys into action at some point to deal with anti-Trump organizations. Many have suspected for a long time Trump is secretly a white supremacist. However, it is much more dangerous for a man with such extreme power to feel comfortable enough to say it on live television. Proud Boys quickly made “stand back and stand by” their slogan and reported a surge in club members after Trump’s address to them.

Trump continued his night by crossing a very personal line for Joe Biden. During the debate, Biden started talking about his late son Beau, a war veteran and cancer victim. Trump once again decided this was a good time to interrupt Biden and attack both of his sons. “I don’t know Beau. I know Hunter. Hunter got thrown out of the military. …He was dishonorably discharged. …For cocaine use.” This statement was gross for several reasons. One, he knows who Beau is and the sacrifices he had made for this country. Two, Hunter Biden was discharged, not dishonorably discharged. There is a major difference between the two, and Trump knows this. Three, never should a person’s struggle with drugs become a point of mockery. America is currently dealing with an opioid addiction crisis, and many felt personally attacked by Trump’s choice of degradation. Viewers chose this moment to give Biden credit, as not only did he refrain from returning the attack that focused on familial struggles, but he stood up for Hunter. He spoke directly to the camera and stated he is proud of his son for the personal demons he has fought and beat. Trump has yet to let this cruel jab go. The next day on the Glenn Beck Program, Trump doubled down on his debate statement by referring to Biden’s son as “Crackhead Hunter.”

Trump wasn’t the only one to slip up during the debate. Somewhere down the line, Biden started to take the taunting bait Trump was laying out for him. He snidely referred to Trump as a “clown” at one point and later went on to tell the president to “shut up.” Many couldn’t blame him for the latter, as Trump had been interrupting and antagonizing Biden the whole night. However, Biden voters came down hard on him for claiming he does not support the Green New Deal. For Clarity, the Green New Deal was introduced to us by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. The deal focuses on reducing the use of fossil fuels and curbing greenhouse gas emissions, bettering the environment. Biden’s response struck a nerve, as it contradicts what his official campaign website states, “the Green New Deal is a crucial framework for meeting the climate challenges we face.” Biden supporters did not appreciate the inconsistency and lack of backing for an initiative meant to save our burning planet. 

This debate was rough. By the time it ended, Wallace had to interrupt Trump 87 times and Biden 15 times. Biden later acknowledged how an event so important to the future of America had quickly turned into a joke. Luckily debate officials have stated they are providing future moderators with the tools necessary to ensure we do not see a repeat. Such tools will allow mods to cut off microphones if a candidate does not give them the time to ask the question or their opponent the time to answer. The bar has been set low for the next debate. Let’s hope our candidates can get their acts together. Our country deserves better than what we saw on Tuesday.

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