Last night, as presidential candidates Donald Trump and Joe Biden faced off in the first debate of this election cycle, University of Miami students got to watch them at a Foote Green event sponsored by the Butler Center for Service and Leadership.
Students who attended the event had the opportunity to watch the candidates on the big screen, in addition to being able to register to vote and receive freebies.
“The turnout was really good,” said Caroline Moody, a freshman with a dual major in political science and Spanish who volunteered at the event as a voter ambassador with Get Out the Vote, a national campaign to mobilize voters.
Griffin Alexander, a senior student studying marine affairs and ecosystem science and policy and a member of the board of trustees of UM College Republicans, attended the watchful evening.
“Everyone seemed engaged and having a good time,” Alexander said. “The Butler Center did really well with this.”
As for the debate itself, the outcome is not so clear. For 90 minutes, the candidates discussed a wide variety of relevant questions. The debate was strewn with interruptions from each candidate and interventions from moderator Chris Wallace, host of Fox News.
“It was very unprofessional,” said Yolanda Romero, a first-year dual major in political science and economics who attended the event. “It didn’t sound like a presidential debate.
Alexander also noted the lack of decorum between the candidates and their behavior towards each other.
“As expected, it wasn’t very presidential,” Alexander said. “There was a lot of talking and fighting both ways. ”
“I would love to see them more civilized with each other,” Moody said. “It says a lot about their intelligence and character.
Moody also mentioned the history of the presidential debates and how they evolved into more of a “media sensation.”
“It should be a civil debate between two people who are simply expressing their opinions and explaining what they would do if they were elected president,” Moody said. “It’s a little frustrating for people to see two adults not being so cordial to each other.”
The content of the debate touched on topics such as the Supreme Court, the economy, climate change, racism and the integrity of the elections.
“I think the moderator did a really good job picking out some important and powerful questions that targeted both the candidates and some of the issues people are having with both of their campaigns,” Moody said.
Covid-19 is a priority issue for candidates and was one of the topics discussed during the debate. Trump and Biden each mentioned how the pandemic has been handled and their plans to deal with it if they win the election.
“I think with COVID it’s such a sticky situation that President Trump obviously did his best as things unfolded, but looking back there were definitely things that he could have done better, “said Alexander. “I think Vice President Biden has the hindsight to be able to say that this is what I would have done, when President Trump had to do it in the moment.”
Moody, on the other hand, was unhappy with the focus on past actions regarding Covid-19. She thinks there hasn’t been a lot of talk about their plans for the future.
“None of the candidates addressed what they would do,” Moody said.
Although a plethora of topics were discussed, there were still questions that were left out.
“They haven’t addressed immigration, which I hope they will do in the next debate,” Romero said.
The students also expressed that they would like the candidates to outline their political plans.
“It would be nice if there was a more concrete policy,” Alexander said. “It would be nice to have a document they can point to and say ‘This is what I’m going to do.'”
The next debate, to be held at the University of Utah, will take place on October 7. This time he will oppose the two candidates for the vice-presidency, Kamala Harris and Mike Pence. The next debate between Trump and Biden will take place on October 15 at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts here in Miami. The Butler Center will also organize watch evenings for these debates. Doors to events will open at 8:30 p.m.