TYLER, Texas (KETK) – The first presidential debate for the 2020 general election is in the books – and yet one more scar on the national psyche.
After more than a year of sniping at each from a distance, President Donald Trump and his Democratic challenger, former Vice President Joe Biden, appeared together Tuesday night on a stage at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio.
The night managed to unite political pundits across the spectrum on one resounding point – the night was a hot mess of interruptions, untruths, insults, and mudslinging from the get-go.
KETK’s own political analyst, James Newsom from UT Tyler, agreed fully with that assessment.
“It was a slow moving train wreck,” Newsom told KETK. “I didn’t see anything profitable come out of that debate.”
The debate – which at times seemed more like a verbal barroom brawl – has been called the worst in living memory, and, again, Newsom agreed.
“I can’t argue that point,” he said. “The first 30 minutes of the debate I was appalled by both candidates, by both candidates. This wasn’t a one-sided thing. Both candidates were equally guilty. It was demeaning, it was rude, it lowered the level of discourse in this nation, which is already at an all-time low. It put on display for the world the worst part of American politics.”
Ideally, debates should present voters with a clear, or clearer, picture of where each candidate stands on the issues and what policies he or she supports. Newsom said Tuesday night’s confrontation missed that opportunity entirely.
“Both candidates gave us negatives as to why we shouldn’t vote for the other candidate, but I want to see why should we vote for a candidate,” he said. “I want to see the emphasis on policy, I want to see the emphasis on what will you do rather than trying to disrupt the other person.”
Newsom said the night also missed a prime opportunity to invite new voters into the political process.
National polls repeatedly show that about 10% of the American electorate remains undecided about which candidate they will choose. Campaigns this season also have been focused on registering new voters, whether those are young people just reaching voting age or those people who have, for one reason or another, never voted before.
Newsom said Tuesday night’s slugfest did nothing to help undecideds make a choice or entice new voters into the process.
“My daughter is just now reaching the age where she is politically conscious,” he said, “and she was subjected to that.”
And while he said he does not entirely understand how anyone could still be undecided less than 40 days from the election, he saw nothing Tuesday night that would help them make a choice.
“This debate was so hyped and both candidates were under so much pressure to perform so that they lowered themselves to the lowest common denominator. This isn’t what American politics should and could be.”
Even so, he urged the young and the undecided voters not to let Tuesday night’s debacle turn them off participating in the election.
“You should give it another chance,” Newsom advised. “Focus on issues. Which candidate supports the issues that you like? Base your vote on issues, not personality.”
Watch the entire interview with Newsome in the video below.