First-time independent voter Benaja Richardson coordinated with the now infamous debate on Tuesday between US presidential candidates Donald Trump and Joe Biden in the hope of gaining a vision of the future and unity in the face of the turbulence of the current climate.
Instead, the 18-year-old student from Winston-Salem, North Carolina, a potential swing state, said she opened her eyes to “the really disastrous times we find ourselves in”
“That night was supposed to be about what kind of change in the direction of our future, what kind of new guidelines will come into effect, and it was just about the two candidates tearing apart each other’s past so that we get stuck.” Said Richardson, who plans to vote for former Democratic Vice President Biden.
In the next two debates planned – if they take place after the President’s coronavirus infection and refuse to agree to new rules of debate – she said she wanted “more professionalism from everyone … and not just a few back and forth arguments”.
The unprecedented televised debate, which saw chaotic scenes of prolonged interruptions and outbursts, largely led by Trump, including the president’s refusal to condemn white supremacists, has been condemned almost universally by viewers, journalists and commentators.
CNN’s chief correspondent Dana Bash immediately described it as a “shitshow” live on the air, while her colleague Jake Tapper described it as “a hot mess in a dumpster fire in a train wreck”.
Even Fox News host Chris Wallace, who moderated the debate and was criticized for not exercising greater control over the process, said afterwards, “I never thought it would go off the rails the way it was. “
Raffaello Vancouten, a Brooklyn restaurant and bar owner, agreed with Bash’s verdict. “It was absolute shit,” said the 40-year-old, who didn’t say how to vote.
“The idea is to move voices, right? To motivate people to go out and vote. Neither side did that. As a business owner, a fiscally conservative person, a bit democratic, nothing was done for either side. They didn’t go to cross the aisle at all. “
Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia Center for Politics (UVA), has followed every single televised debate in the history of the US president since the tradition began in 1960 with John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon.
“That wasn’t just the worst … it was a disaster. It was terrible. It was mostly, I would say 75-80%, because of Donald Trump. And then the greater part of the remaining 20-25% would be Chris Wallace who didn’t do his job. “
But he said Biden shouldn’t have called Trump a “clown”, adding, “We’re not used to such things in presidential debates. We expect a minimum of dignity from the candidates.”
The greatest influence of the debate will be on Trump, he said, and took away his “greatest opportunity to improve”. The president is currently behind in the polls and is 7.2 points behind Biden on the RealClearPolitics average nationwide.
Polls also show that the majority of American voters believe the president lost the first debate. A poll by CNBC / Change Research found that 53% of likely voters said Biden had better debating performance, compared to 29% who thought Trump had won.
“If he had won this debate, people would have started talking about a Trump comeback,” said Sabato, who estimates that only between 3% and 5% of Americans have yet to decide how to vote.
In the next few debates, he said that millions more people will have cast their votes. And by the time the final debate is over, he estimates that “a third or more” will have voted.
The disastrous event led to plans for “additional structure” for the remaining debates. But Trump announced on Thursday that he would not agree to any rule change and tweeted, “Why should I allow the Debate Committee to change the rules for the second and third debates when I won easily last time?”
Sabato called for the remaining debates to be canceled. “You should just cancel it … you can’t have a civil discussion with Donald Trump. We surely know that by now, ”he said.
Twenty-year-old Michigan student Tuhin Chakraborty, who supported Pete Buttigieg in the Democratic primary, was impressed with Biden’s performance, but Trump acted “like a child.” He added, “When I hear the phrase ‘Mr President’ I really hope not to hear that kind of behavior and I was very disappointed that he was acting like a kid rather than a president.”
Chakraborty, who lives in Ann Arbor, said the Presidential Debate Commission needed “much better to maintain a different set of rules to ensure that candidates can express not only rhetoric but also their political ideas”.
However, in many cases the next debate may be too late to have an impact on voters.
Matt Florell, president of St. Pete Polls, said trends in the critical swing state of Florida have solidified in recent months, with only 1-2% of voters undecided and “unprecedented” excited about an early vote. “It doesn’t really seem like a lot of external events are affecting people at this point in time to change their minds.”
Jacqueline Salit, president of Independentvoting.org, a national organization that represents the interests of independent voters in the US, believes that many independents have not followed the debates because they are “fed up with the process.” But she predicts that most independent voters will vote for the Democrats.
Many women independents she spoke to who saw the debate compared her to “watching two little boys argue in a sandpit”. She added, “Trump has taken the extent of his bullying to a new level.”
Chris Jackson, director of the public survey for Ipsos in the US, said the debate “cast off even the lowest expectations”.
“The extremely divisive tone, the extremely disrespectful tone, especially that of President Trump towards Joe Biden, was just shocking to most people who are used to a much more decorative debate environment, especially the presidential debates.”
Functionally, however, he does not expect any major effects on the elections. According to their poll, there was “almost no movement” in people’s voting intent for any of the candidates. But he said, “Biden may have solidified the support behind him a little.”
He predicts a different tone than vice-presidential candidates Mike Pence and Kamala Harris on Wednesday night in Salt Lake City, which he regards as “relatively pleasant”.
But when it comes to the last two presidential debates, currently slated for October 15 in Miami and October 22 in Nashville, “all bets are closed”. He added, “If 2020 has taught us anything, it can keep getting worse.”