Students react to a unique first presidential debate

Cyrus Oswald

The first presidential debate of the 2020 presidential election on Sept. 29 between President Donald Trump and former vice president Joe Biden was historic, shockingly departing from the typical progression of a political debate, leaving most of the country worried and speechless.

Junior Erin Bucchin watched the debate live. She said she has somewhat mixed feelings about how it went. 

“It was both not surprising at all and also kind of shocking just because I think people still had a little bit of hope just to the way discourse happens in the United states,” Bucchin said.

Senior Jonah Goldberg watched the debate with his housemates. While the rest of his housemates ignored a lot of the debate, he tried to listen to both sides, considering that both candidates have huge followings throughout the country.  

Goldberg said that even if you disagree with the president’s policies or rhetoric, it’s important to know what’s happening in the country.

“I think the debate was really important, mainly for the fact that Biden was coherent enough to drive home some of the key points hammering at Trump,” Goldberg said. 

Not all students agreed that there were important points made during the debate. First-year Evelyn Stearns saw the debate as centered around things much less important than policy. 

“The debate was just about scandals and public image, they weren’t even talking about their platforms at all,” Stearns said. 

Other students saw politics generally as a distraction from more pressing current events. 

“Trump said something stupid, and it’s a whole news cycle. Meanwhile there’s people detained at our borders and being forced to have hysterectomies,” first-year Eamon Dunn said. “That’s really scary and no ones talking about it.” 

Dunn mentioned concentration camps in China, wildfires in the United States and mass extinctions of animal species as topics that should demand more attention. 

First-year Rachel Vanderven, agreed that politics and the media often focus on the wrong topics. She noted the ongoing conflict between Armenians and Axerbaijans in the Nagorno-Karabakh asiatic region as a more pressing issue. 

Vanderven identified UVM as a very liberal school. She said that she doesn’t often come across someone with different political views than her. She doesn’t see that as a good thing. 

“I feel like it’s always healthy to talk to people who have different political opinions than you,” said Vanderven 

Students identified their fellow undergrads as political people. But, they don’t think that UVM is representative of the country as a whole.  

“I think that people here are so passionate, which is great, I love that about people. Everyone wants to have an opinion and let their opinion be known, but we are so far [left] on the spectrum,” said Senior Amelia Luke

Luke remarked that as a more moderate person, she can sometimes be put in an uncomfortable position with her peers. 

Junior Zoe Silverman sees the liberal slant of UVM as a nonideal situation. She wishes there was more room for discussion. 

“Everyone shares similar opinions,” Silverman said. “I think that prevents any real conversations or discourse from happening, which I think can be a disservice, when everyone has the same opinion.”

Other students identified the pace of current events as an area of concern. First-year Keelan Boisvert characterized the news cycle as not only fast, but repetitive. 

“I also think it moves so quickly because it’s the same thing over and over again from the same people,” said Boisvert. “There’s no real variety coming from different parties, it’s just the same rhetoric over and over again, so it’s really hard to keep track of.” 

Junior Sam Heilbronner also perceives the current pace of events as faster. But, he doesn’t necessarily think of it as repetitive. 

“I think during a presidential race, everything feels faster The debate was an event within itself, then Trump got COVID, and everyone he’s working with has COVID, but I think everyone’s pretty used to it right now, things happening right after another after another,” Heilbronner said.

Students at UVM seem to be engaged in the current state of politics. However, they are really only engaged in one half of the aisle.