OPINION: Second round of presidential debates more civil than first, reveal little new information


Last night, President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden were forced to adjust to a third adversary during round two of presidential debates. That adversary: the mute button. The two agreed to participate in a debate with mute buttons hosted by CNN, with moderator Kristen Welker.

The debate was formatted so that each candidate was given two minutes to respond to the questions addressed to them. Their opponent would then also be allotted two minutes to respond. While candidates waited for their opponent to respond in those two minutes, their own microphone would be muted, and they would be forced to quietly listen.

Twitter seemed to speculate that the mute button was being implemented because of the president’s unbecoming habit of interrupting the former vice president in the previous debate. However, Welker put the reason for the mute buttons simply.

“The goal is for you to hear each other and for the American people to hear every word of what you both have to say,” said Welker.

The debate began with several questions to both candidates on the topic of COVID-19, in which the president took the position that states should continue to reopen, and normal life should resume. The vice president took a seemingly more cautious stance and emphasized the pain of families who were suffering while watching loved ones die of the virus.

This part of the debate felt extremely divisive. Both candidates reinforced ideas we already knew they had while also insinuating they cared more than the other about the well-being of certain Americans, which was unproductive.

After COVID-19 discussions came to a close, debate topics ranged from foreign affairs to corruption, healthcare, immigration, racial injustice and climate change.

The topic of corruption seemed to be where each candidate deflected onto their opponent most. Neither seemed to be willing to admit wrongdoing, and when answering questions directed at them about either tax returns or their son’s foreign dealings, they would bring up the behavior of the other. This section of the debate felt the most pointless. No solutions to real problems were brought to the table, and both candidates slang pointless insults at the other.

Real conversation, although perhaps not as civil as it could have been, was had during the climate change and healthcare discussions. While the candidates did not agree on much at all, they at least were able to put forth their clear stances and policy plans on the issues.

As expected, the race portion of the debate was loaded with memorable one liners from each nominee. Trump said several times that he was “the least racist person in this room,” while Biden confusingly called the president Abraham Lincoln in an attempt to be sarcastic. While the discussion was volatile and charged, nothing notably new was revealed about either candidate.

This seems to be the conclusion of the debate. Nothing remarkably new was revealed about either candidate, and most supporters of either candidate likely did not change their mind. However, the mute button did reveal one thing. That is, Trump is more likeable when he is not talking. Overall, he came across less abrasive and rude in this debate than he did in the first, and when he spoke he was saying substantive things. The problem for Biden was that without the interruptions, he had more time to speak freely, which revealed more missteps in his speech and memory.

For these reasons, Trump came out of the debate strong, having exceeded the low expectations set for him in last month’s debate. Whether he came out of the debate looking like a stronger option than Biden is another question, and one that probably depends on your personal set of beliefs.

Anna Schmidt is a junior in mass communications and the opinions editor for the Collegian. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Collegian. Please send comments to opinion@kstatecollegian.com.