An abnormal debate leaves students, teachers searching for answers

Published: Sep. 30, 2020 at 10:08 PM CDT
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BISMARCK, N.D. (KFYR) - Political analysts are saying Tuesday night’s debate is not what presidential debates are supposed to look like. The candidates interrupted each other, leaving moderator Chris Wallace to try and rein them in.

The Commission on Presidential Debates set down rules which President Donald Trump and Former Vice President Joe Biden agreed to follow.

They included two-minute responses per candidate and then open discussion sticking to the topic on hand. From Wallace’s first question, those rules went out the window.

As the two candidates for president of the United States bickered, students in Ryan Kaufman’s Century High history class bristled.

“I thought it was going to be more organized and less loud,” said Sydney Sheehan, Century High junior.

“I thought it was very disorganized and you know, a bad example of a debate. Just a lot of yelling at each other and not really getting anything constructive done about how to fix the problems,” said Brynn Gaebe, Century High junior.

“Our students are exceptional and they know what right looks like, and they knew what they were watching last night was not the norm,” said Kaufman.

An abnormal debate put moderator Wallace in a tough position.

“He had to try to enforce the rules, and so the moderator then had to become the referee and it just completely fell apart,” said Jason Matthews, BSC adjunct politics professor.

Some have floated the idea of letting the moderator use a mute button during the next two debates, but BSC professor Jason Matthews says that’s not an end-all solution.

“The very fact that we’re having this discussion about cutting off the microphones of the presidential candidates is reflective of how the debate has been debased. This entire debate process has been debased,” said Matthews.

Still, Kaufman says he has hope for future debates and political leaders.

“We’ve had candidates in the past that have exuded professionalism and wisdom and tact and poise and professionalism, and we’ll see that again in the future and our students understand that,” says Kaufman.

Despite the debate, these 17-year-olds have a message for everyone older than them.

“Please vote, if you’re able to vote,” said Sheehan.

Commission for Presidential Debate leaders said in a statement the debate, “Made clear that additional structure should be added to the format of the remaining debates to ensure a more orderly discussion of the issues.”

Copyright 2020 KFYR. All rights reserved.

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