WU students politically engaged during second presidential debate


Photographs courtesy of 175975929003102

Megan Swett, Assistant Editor for News

ST. LOUIS – A weekend of turmoil for both presidential campaigns came to fruition on Sunday night as Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton met on the debate stage at Washington University in St. Louis for the second presidential debate.

The university’s Danforth campus was teeming with students, news crews, and politically engaged citizens as major media outlets such as Fox and CNN hosted on-ground panels leading up to and after the debate. Signs both supporting and mocking the candidates and the political institution as a whole decorated the gathered crowds.

As night fell, students and allotted members of the press assembled in campus common areas – such as Tisch Commons – to watch the debate.

Cheers roared from the crowd as Anderson Cooper opened the debate.

“It’s f–king Anderson Cooper!” a female student exclaimed to her friends.

The applause continued for Clinton – though more subdued – and shifted into jeers for Trump.

This debate was held in a town hall style, meaning that selected audience members provided questions to the candidates. Questions asked include concerns over islamophobia, the healthcare system, and energy policy.

The crowd in Tisch Commons openly provided their feedback throughout the process. Mockery and laughter often followed Trump’s responses, while occasional applause followed Clinton’s. However, the most thunderous applause came for the moderators.

Lester Holt – the moderator of the first debate – received criticism for not maintaining control throughout the debate. Cooper and his fellow moderator, Martha Raddatz, didn’t seem to share that problem.

When things between the candidates became heated, Cooper and Raddatz stepped in and pulled on the reins.

Cooper pressed Trump on the recently leaked 2005 audio that haunted his campaign through the weekend in what was called by one commentator “The worst 72 hours of Trump’s campaign.” Raddatz once quipped, “No, answer the question,” when Trump seemingly tried to dodge a question about his previously proposed ban on Muslims entering the United States.

These actions generated praise from the Tisch crowd, but condemnation from Trump and his supporters. Trump said he felt like he was in a 3-on-1 debate, and his supporters agreed.

However, the moderators also directed hard questions toward Clinton. Cooper questioned her husband’s comments against the Affordable Care Act, and Raddatz brought up Clinton’s private email server and Clinton’s paid speeches to Wall Street.

The question of the night that received the greatest reaction from the Wash U crowd – what can only be accurately described as “deafening” applause – was the last audience question.

“Regardless of the current rhetoric, would either of you name one positive thing that you respect in one another?” asked Karl Becker

Clinton mentioned Trump’s children, and Trump said Clinton’s “a fighter.”

Live fact-checking took place for this debate – as it did with the last one. Between Politico and PolitiFact, 34 of Trump’s statements and six of Clinton’s statements from the debate have been found to be varying degrees of false or inaccurate.

After the debate ended, a general sense of discontent settled over the Wash U campus.

“I can’t believe that was a presidential debate,” one student said.

The sentiment seemed to be widely shared, as the next day on Twitter #BetterDebateAlternatives trended with over 10,000 connected tweets.

The third and final presidential debate will be hosted from University of Nevada, Las Vegas on Oct. 19 at 8 p.m. CT.

Early voting in the state of Illinois began on Sept. 29. Those interested can cast their ballot at their jurisdiction’s proper election authority office, which can be found at http://www.elections.il.gov/ElectionAuthorities/ElecAuthorityList.aspx. More information about voting, registering, or requesting an absentee ballot can be found for all 50 states and the D.C. area at https://www.vote.org.