Debate: I do not think that means what you think it means

Brianna Patt, Senior Writer

The first presidential debate was a travesty in and of itself with President Trump discussing Joe Biden’s son, an unrelated topic, and Biden telling Trump to shut up. 

Did these things make you question where things went wrong? Well, some could argue it’s all in the aesthetics of things.

 Take the infamous debate between John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon in 1960, the first televised debate. You had a young, poised, attractive Kennedy going up against an older more visibly nervous, sweating Nixon. Regardless of what was said, one person looked better in the end, and based on the fact that Kennedy won, it was effective. Many people who watched the debate felt that Kennedy won, but radio listeners leaned towards Nixon. Nixon’s sweating and lack of eye contact (both problems he had) are traits associated with dishonesty. So, even if in that debate Nixon was being completely transparent his appearance told a different story. 

Today, that very thing has tainted the way we debate. Take a look at a Ben Shapiro debate. Yes, it’s arguably entertaining, but it lacks professionalism from its very foundation. 

A debate is defined as a formal discussion and, if that is the very foundation of it, many of Shapiro’s talks on how to debate fail to meet that definition. His tactic appears to be to attack: use hyperbolic phrasing to take down the argument that his debate opponent has just formed. 

In one debate, a college student asks him about his views on the transgender community. During this debate, he ultimately uses sarcasm, at one point saying, “If I suddenly call you a moose are you suddenly a moose?” He’s going against someone who is in college when he’s had more time to learn the art of debate so by comparison, he’s calm and composed the entire time speaking with confidence. Regardless of the level of formality, or what is being said he looks as if he is in the right. 

Going back to the travesty that was the first presidential debate of 2020, what could have been done to stop what took place? According to Texas A&MUniversity-Commerce communications professor Dr. John Balotti, this course the debate took could be due to the way the debate is formatted. He stated that the topics should not be given to the members of the debate beforehand and that it may be better to judge them based on their ability to answer questions on the fly, as well as allowing the candidates to ask each other questions. 

“I think one of the issues that kind of destroys and demeans debate is when the candidates know what the topics are going to be ahead of time,” Balotti said. “I think the best format is we introduce the candidates, you (one candidate) get five minutes to say what you want to say, you (the other candidate) get five minutes to say what you want to say and then you ask each other questions.”

A more level playing field rather as a result of time or the way the questions are asked could make a difference. As an example, look at Ben Shapiro’s BBC interview. He began the interview calm, but when the interviewer began to ask questions regarding Shaprio’s stances, essentially playing devil’s advocate in a way Shaprio hadn’t been prepared for, it seemed to make him lose the same composure he held in his video regarding transgenderism. From there the interview continued to decline, ending with Shapiro accusing journalist Andrew Neil of being “badly motivated” and walking out. He later apologized, stating that he had not prepared himself for the interview. From the outside looking in, Shapiro could have been completely in the right, but the fact that he became so upset that he left makes him look wrong. In that interview, he lost his composure, which is arguably the very thing he is known for. 

So, if debate is now all about the aesthetics, what do we do? 

Debate between two presidential candidates should be the equivalent of a highschool debate. In this sense, being able to mute one person’s mic is genuinely a good start. As individuals judging these events and looking back on them, we have to remember that clear, concise, logically-backed arguments should rule over anything else. Just like two schools going against each other, these candidates are expected to adhere to a format, to stay on track. So, bringing up one’s children is not acceptable given how far off track that is. 

Most importantly, as depressing and memeable as these debates have become, we have to remember that whoever wins will have a say in how our government and economy function for possibly two terms. The laws they put in place are going to stay long after they’re gone. Even if it feels like the election is a joke, the impacts of it are not. 



                         Ben Shapiro DESTROYS Transgenderism And Pro-Abortion Arguments 

                                     Kennedy vs. Nixon: The first 1960 presidential debate