Students deliberate over the Presidential Debate

Indigo Halverson

Candidates Senator Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump went head-to-head discussing topics ranging from jobs, foreign and military policy and domestic affairs during the first presidential debate this past Monday.

Visting Assitant of Politcal Science Professor Angevine and Visting Assitant of English Professor Donnelly invited students to watch and discuss the debate in the Wardman Library, where they encouraged student participation and engagement, as this election will be a first voting experience for many students. Needless to say, the event had a large turnout. 

About 100 students filled the chairs provided by the library, grabbing snacks as they took their seats and prepared for the debate to begin. Professor Donnelly asked students to keep in mind certain tropes such as the “over vilification of Senator Clinton and the over normalization of Trump” and how that could play out during the candidates’ answers.

Presidential Bingo was offered to students who attended the event, featuring common words, phrases and individuals prone to being brought up during the debates. These included terms such as “Muslim ban,” “Mexican border wall,” “Barack Obama’s birthplace,” “Hillary Clinton’s emails,” and “Donald Trump’s tax returns.” This game was not only a fun activity, but was also an engaging challenge for students to really pay attention to the issues and questions brought up and how the candidates answered them. 

Before the debates began, Angevine compared watching the presidential debates to rooting for your favorite sports team, in which a major amount of viewers already know which presidential hopefuls they plan on voting for come November. This was certainly true in the Poet’s Corner that night, in which murmurs, comments, laughs and astonished sounds came from the students particularly after Trump made a comment about his policies, or attacked Senator Clinton’s character. 

When asked by Professor Donnelly during a break who the students thought was winning, there were mixed answers. Some students thought Trump was in the lead due to his aggressive attitude, while others thought Senator Clinton was ahead because she was more poised and presented more statistics than Trump offered. 

Throughout the answers given by both candidates and the questions asked by moderator NBC anchor Lester Holt, Professor Angevine commented on the social and gender triggers that were mentioned during the debate. She brought attention to gender norms and gender spaces that have been surrounding Senator Clinton and her campaign since she entered the presidential sphere back in 2008. The gender triggers mentioned were apparent when Trump talked about Senator Clinton’s attachment to staying at home and during his remarks about her “lack of stamina,”  indicating that she didn’t look like she would make a good president. Many students groaned in disgust when this was said, commiserating with Senator Clinton. 

Students also expressed their dislike of the way Holt handled the questions and fielded the interruptions made by each candidate when he arguing that he could have done a better job participating in the debates, rather than being on the sidelines. When asked again which candidate probably won at the debates conclusion, there were more concrete opinions after the debate than when asked initially. Students made the case that Senator Clinton performed better toward the end.

Throughout the debate students grew visibly agitated as the comments from the candidates increased in vigor and viciousness. Though students bring their own background and opinion going into the debate, it was still a positive atmosphere throughout the whole event.

The next Presidential Debate will be Sunday, Oct. 9 at Washington University in Saint Louis, Missouri, which will be moderated by news anchor Anderson Cooper and Chief Global Affairs Corespondent Martha Raddatz.