How Pierce College Sees Our Presidential Candidates

Pierce College students and professors weigh in on the many ups and downs of this year’s presidential debates

November 3, 2020

From shouting interruptions and a lost message in the first Presidential debate to snarls and civilized conversations in the Vice Presidential debate, the American people were reminded of the divisiveness that continues to polarize the nation. 

In the first debate, we saw moderator Chris Wallace struggle to maintain order between the two candidates as President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden clashed in the first presidential debate on Sep. 29. The following Vice Presidential debate featured Mike Pence and Kamala Harris, who provided more policy substance in a calm and civilized manner.

Yet the vastly different debates did not change the opinions of these Pierce College students and faculty, as America gets closer to what Donald Trump and Barack Obama deem the most important election in our lifetime.

In the first Presidential debate, Trump tallied a total of 145 interruptions while Biden totaled 67 interruptions according to a Fox News analysis. Political Science professor Chris Roberts, a current council member for the City of Shoreline, was surprised by how the president conducted himself. “The fact that he was interrupting, it didn’t resemble traditional debates in that sense,” he said. 

Moreover, the constant interruptions from both candidates disallowed the American people to hear the candidates stances going into this election. Running start student Courtney Oller believed that the two candidates acted childish by talking over each other. “The President is supposed to set an example for the country,” she said. “I’m not saying it’s just that one debate that made up my mind, but I don’t feel like either of them were showing an actual maturity to be the President for the country.” 

Likewise, Eli Haugen, who plans to work in administry and is a first time voter, compared the debate to his life at home. “I felt like that was the glimpse of my childhood,” he said. “That was like my mom trying to separate me and my siblings from arguing. After a little while, I didn’t really feel like the debate was going in a good direction and it felt very out of control fast.”

Throughout the unconventional debate, each candidate had their strong moments with Trump pressuring his stance on packing the supreme court, while Biden countered with Trump’s COVID-19 response. Professor Roberts touched on Trump’s ability to stay on message and fluster his opponents. “He really stays consistent in terms of what he always comes back to his talking points,” he said. “He always comes back to his core messages and he really doesn’t let anything distract him from that.”

For Biden’s strength during the debate, Roberts pointed to his ability to stay composed. “I think the Vice President did fairly well at presenting what he wanted to present,” he said. “Sort of a calm stable feature if he was going to become president. I think that people comparing the two really got a sense of the difference in personality between the two candidates.” 

Besides character differences between the two candidates, each has different ways of handling the economy. On one hand, Joe Biden plans to raise taxes and has thought about another economic shutdown if scientists advise him to; while on the other hand, Donald Trump plans to keep his tax cuts and keep the economy open.

Running Start student Michael Seebold, looked into both candidates’ plans for the economy and doesn’t believe in Biden’s economic policy to shut down. “I don’t agree with that, I don’t want the economy to shut down. I like what Trump is doing with the economy, like getting the manufacturing jobs and making the U.S. population dependent upon itself so we’re not outsourcing everything, and not relying on other countries for goods.”

With the policies and personalities of both candidates considered, Haugen and Seebold believed that there was no clear winner for the Presidential debate. Meanwhile Oller, who was also torn between both candidates, said that Biden won the first presidential debate due to his policies. “I kind of put it into sections for what they’re talking about,” Oller said. “For the first section definitely Biden, but I think Trump did have him in the next one. But overall, in the entire debate, I do think Biden had more respect; more overall better opinions.”

Moving forward a week later, the Vice Presidential debate served a more calm and organized structure which differed from the Presidential debate. The debate also carried a viral sensation with a fly landing on Mike Pence’s head, giving everyone watching something to unite with. 

According to Roberts, the Vice Presidential debate carried less stakes in the November election. He believed each candidate had a different purpose they were aiming for during the debate. “I think Senator Harris had the job of introducing herself to the nation; and I think that Vice President Pence had more of a goal of working to articulate and defend the President’s record.”

Oller, who believed that Kamala won the debate, noticed a difference in character between the two debates. “Even just sitting in the living room, you can feel the different attitude,” she said. “The way Kamala Harris would talk about something then Mike Pence would talk about something; even though he kept interrupting her, they were very much more mature than the president.”

Furthermore, Harris’ performance reminded Oller of a potentially bright future under her administration. “Kamala Harris has a lot of good ideas,” Oller said. “Honestly, as a woman myself, seeing another woman talk about all of these great expectations has really influenced me. That is what we need to see from a Vice President.”

Seebold believed that Mike Pence won the Vice Presidential debate, believing Pence put the American people first and focused on independent freedoms, while Kamala Harris planned to shut down the economy. “Kamala Harris was saying all of these restrictions that she is going to place because of Covid,” Seebold said. “I don’t have a problem with wearing a mask, it’s fine, it’s constricting my breathing; but actually quarantining and shutting down the economy, having to stay at home even though you don’t have it, I don’t agree with it.”

Going into this 2020 election, Barack Obama, Donald Trump, and others have deemed this election the most important in our lifetime. This year’s election is projected to curtail the highest voter turnout in a century with over 80 million ballots already casted. Young voters are expected to sway the 2020 election by shattering their previous turnout records.

Yet, Roberts argues that this election is not the most important in our history and points to the potential political realignment in 2020. “I believe that we are at the tail end of the Reagan political era,” he said. “This election is going to really determine if we are resetting a new political cycle or if the 2016 election was the beginning of the new political cycle. I think that’s why the importance in the stakes of this election seems to be higher than most previous elections.”

According to Haugen, this election will change our country’s direction and history. “There is so much that hangs on this election,” he said. “I think that there’s a lot more that’s going on behind the scenes than what some people know. Depending on the results of this election, things that are going on behind the scenes are going to come to light whether that be even more conspiracy theories or fraud voting or whatever. I think that this election is going to change the course of our American history.”

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