One of the most important functions of a presidential debate is to sway undecided voters into choosing a candidate to vote for on Election Day.
But between constant refutation of the opposing candidate’s claims and incessant bickering between the candidates — and occasionally even the moderator — all these past three debates have really managed to do is draw an uneasy chuckle from the Americans who are experiencing the increasingly common fear that our next president is definitely going to be an enormous jerk.
Romney and Obama displayed “jerk” qualities through the obvious and endless fountain of lies they both spewed making it necessary for voters looking to make an informed choice to constantly refresh the page on live fact-checking websites.
They made inaccurate hyperboles in hopes of winning voters through cheap scare tactics, most notably Romney’s claim that our economy is headed in the direction of Greece’s.
They unintentionally made offensive language choices, including the infamous “binders full of women” comment. But another seriously important — and possibly overlooked factor — in these debates by voters who have made their decisions already, myself included, was the way the two men handled themselves and treated one another: like two knobby-kneed elementary schoolers in an argument over a playground game.
If I’d waited until the last minute to decide what candidate to vote for and relied exclusively on the debates, I’d be pretty disgusted to see two grown men interrupting each other and standing face to face, gesticulating and holding microphones close to their mouths like they were getting ready for a rap battle in a dive bar.
Ability to show respect shows a lot about a leader, and neither candidate was terribly respectful.
Between the yelling in debate two and the constant demands for time extension, despite the clearly set rules and time limits for each candidate, neither of the candidates seemed to show respect for rules or for one another. The total lack of social graces displayed between the two was astounding.
Most recently, Obama, despite the fact that he was the clear winner of debate three, decided to allow his comfort and confidence to manifest in a series of what I originally perceived to be zingy one-liners but, in retrospect, were clearly just rude and immature statements issued purely to belittle his opponent.
Was it truly necessary to use the old — and no longer funny — joke structure of “The 80’s called, and they want their foreign policy back?” in a foreign policy debate? This dig was entirely uncalled for and completely immature.
It’s something I would have expected to see on Rob Delaney’s Twitter and not coming from the mouth of the sitting president of the United States.
I understand that the point of the debates is for each candidate to prove himself more worthy of the presidency and our votes than the other, but I don’t think the best way to handle the pressure that these men are clearly under is to hurl immature insults at one another and clamor for the moderator’s attention. My vote is and always was going to be for Obama, but I’m really relieved I tuned in long before the debates. If I hadn’t, I would have been thoroughly unimpressed and deeply confused by the behavior and content that dominated the debates.
It’s time for these candidates — and all future political candidates — to grow up and understand that this type of behavior is what voters want to see. No one wants to vote in the mean fifth grader on the playground.
Sarah Moesta is a junior majoring in English and is the Daily Collegian’s Friday columnist. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org