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Buzzword-filled ‘debate’ overshadows country’s real issues

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Since the first presidential debate of 2016, the internet has been abuzz. Everyone, from media pundits to Twitter aficionados are trying to decide which candidate won the debate: business tycoon Donald Trump or former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
While the winner isn’t clear, the loser is; every single one of us who tuned in, hoping that bringing these two divisive candidates on the same stage would result in fascinating discussion.

Instead, there were only insults and witty comments. Entertaining, certainly, but not entirely helpful. Every single scandal that has occupied the media for weeks came up. The debate was just the same points that Trump and Clinton have been making for what seems like eternity.

At this point in the election, all of these scandals are old news. We’ve heard about Judge Gonzalo Curiel and the Khan family. We’ve heard about the comments Trump has made about women. We’ve heard about Clinton’s emails for a long time, through hearings and investigations. These aren’t new scandals that people will be weighing at home. It’s fairly likely that anyone who was going to decide how they voted based on those comments and conflicts already knew about them. Most people have already made up their minds.

Both sides have made the same points again and again. And again. And this Monday, they drove them home yet again. These aren’t bad points. When electing the person who will represent this entire nation, considering temperament and point of view and past mistakes are all important.

These points shouldn’t be ignored. For many people, these are the issues that helped them decide their vote. But focusing so much time on them is neither necessary nor productive.

Its been many, many months since this election started. There is an unprecedented number of undecided voters right now. At this point, those undecided voters have already heard about each politician’s scandals. Those biting comments aren’t going to convince anyone of anything. The two potential leaders of this country had the chance to really talk about policy, and it just didn’t happen.

The number of witty comments you make about your opponent shouldn’t influence how we describe your performance. The next president doesn’t need to make snide remarks to world leaders. The president needs to understand policy, law, and international issues. We let politicians in these debates command attention with these comments, and ignore actual issues.
This debate was full to the brim with buzzwords and phrases that poll well. Clinton used the ones that liberals love, like “having the wealthy pay their fair share and close the corporate loopholes,” and “strong growth, fair growth, sustained growth.” Trump focused on all his greatest hits, like bashing Mexico, making America great again, and insulting President Barack Obama.
To call what happened on Monday night a debate is, quite frankly, a stretch. It involved two people talking at or over each other. This was not discourse of ideas, but a repetition of the things that have gotten them this far.

The same points that have made up stump speeches were regurgitated on stage, repackaged for primetime drama.
At the end of the day, many of the voters that haven’t made up their mind yet aren’t just undecided. They’re unhappy with the choices they are left with for this election. Some are struggling between voting third party or for a major party candidate. Others are wondering is voting is worth it at all. The voters that needed this debate to make up their mind weren’t give much to work with.

If the goal of this debate was to show the depth of these candidates to win over undecided voters, it didn’t happen. There simply wasn’t enough substance.

To be fair, both politicians did bring policies. They did bring up their plans for the country. But they did so in a way that was meant to be palatable, not thought-provoking.

Furthermore, the candidates weren’t the only ones bringing up old issues that garnered media attention. The moderator, Lester Holt, brought up many of them himself, including Trump’s previous questioning of the President’s citizenship.

These questions, while not unimportant, did derail from discussions about things like racial tensions in the United States. They weren’t necessary, at least not at the expense of policy talk. They certainly should not have been brought up by the moderator.
Holt also let the discussion fall apart from its structure. A segment on the Iraq war turned into a conversation about who has the better temperament. The actual issue at hand was completely forgotten.

Perhaps more guidance would have allowed for stronger discussion. Holt’s acceptance of off-topic talking points was ultimately only a detrimental.

In the end, this was the first of three debates. We can only hope that by the next one, even the candidates will be sick of bringing up each other’s scandals relentlessly and will choose to focus on policy.

Without concrete discussion, asking voters to change their mind is an unfair burden.

We deserve real discourse on the future of this nation, because casting a ballot to decide that future without adequate information isn’t a choice any of us should want to make.