For many UTC students, this November will be our first opportunity to participate in a presidential election, and at The Echo, we believe it is important to be an informed voter.
Last Monday, Sept. 26 was the first presidential debate of this election cycle, an opportunity for voters to see the candidates side by side. Although, for many the debates only re-solidify their preference for one candidate or another, but for the independents and undecideds, the debates allow you to hear from the candidates directly.
In press conferences and rallies, the candidates have a great deal of control over their message, but in the debates they are confronted with questions from the moderator and other candidate. In this debate, both candidates brought up things the other would rather have you forget, like Donald Trump’s tax returns or Hillary Clinton’s emails.
One criticism of the current debate system is that it puts more emphasis on the candidate’s personality than their policies. To some, the debates feel like an hour of bantering and bickering.
However, the personality of the president should play a role in voters’ decision. Intelligence, trustworthiness, and an ability to perform well under stress are all valuable traits for a president.
On the other hand, policies should not be ignored. The next president will likely chose Supreme Court justices, determine the role the US will play in the Middle East for the next several years, and set goals concerning the economy, immigration, healthcare, and social equality.
Restructuring the debate system could put more emphasis on the candidates policies. Many feel third party candidate, like Gary Johnson from the libertarian party or Jill Stein from the green party, should be invited to participate in the debates as well. More vocal moderators and longer response times could force the candidates to focus on the issues.
Voters should pay attention to the persuasive techniques candidate’s use, be aware when the candidates try to evade questions, and follow fact checking.
We should also be skeptical of how news media reports the debate. There is no objective victor of a debate, so determining who won a debate is always going to be biased by a person’s beliefs and how journalists frame the story.
Whenever possible, people should tune in and watch the debates themselves. This was the most viewed presidential debate in televised history, with about 84 million tuned in. We hope this trend continues and voters do additional research to be as informed as possible.
Today, Tuesday Oct. 4 there will be a vice presidential debate and Sun, Oct. 9 and Wednesday, Oct. 19 there will be two more presidential debates. Each debate starts at 9 p.m. and can be viewed on several TV stations and streamed online.