To find the cornerstone of our country we can’t just listen to a microphone

Matthew Smalbach

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Often in presidential debates we only remember the clever one-liners, but these do not make a good leader. Instead, presidential candidates should be thoughtful, deliberate and surrounded by advisors who have dedicated their lives to public service just as you would want them to be in office. Candidates should not be expected to know every detail of a financial policy or climate change bill because it is not solely their responsibility.

One of the most important traits that a president can possess is the ability to listen. Presidents are constantly communicating and listening to fellow politicians, experts in different fields and leaders around the world. When presidents attain new information, they are not required to formulate an immediate response. In fact, it would be troubling if every decision made was under a one-minute countdown that buzzes when they’ve run out of time.

Presidential debates are the exact opposite of how we would want a leader to act in real life. Putting others down and trying to memorize how their plans represent every little community in the United States is useless. Not every policy can be beneficial to everybody. For example, Bernie Sanders believes that college should be free because of increasing student loan debt. However, what is less talked about is how we will pay for it and that somebody will end up paying for another person’s college because the cost of attending can never be zero. Presidents, in theory, are trying to do what they believe is best for the country, but the debates make it seem like they are just trying to win over as many people as possible..

At the beginning of all the Democratic presidential debates, news networks such as MSNBC and CNN assert that the candidates have never seen the questions. They act as though this is a good thing. But when has a president ever been faced with a problem to solve on their own in five minutes? It’s an incredibly unrealistic and inefficient way to discover a candidate to whom you give support.

Some might argue that it is the best way to understand what different politicians believe on each issue. While the debates might help some people derive basic ideas, all of these candidates make regular television appearances and have extensive policy plans laid out on their websites. 

As the 2020 presidential campaign kicks into full swing, many students will be able to use their democratic privilege in order to help select the next president. It is important that the young adults are able to distinguish who they believe to be the best presidential candidate. While some of them will do extensive research and read numerous articles and interviews, others might simply sit down and listen to a couple of debates. An average of 54 million people watch the presidential debates according to the Pew Research Center, but only doing this hinders the public’s ability to make the best decision for the country.

Today, social media dominates the news cycle, especially among young adults. In fact, 50 percent of this population is online almost constantly, according to Pew Research. That culture perpetuates the idea that a memorable one-line comeback is more important than deliberate thought and knowledge.

As students, we must recognize that debates may be captivating television, but they are not good for recognizing favorable leadership traits. It is important to branch out and research more about candidates to make the most well-informed decision.