Monday September 26th was the first presidential debate of the year and it certainly did not go unnoticed within the Bates student body. The Bates Democrats hosted a Debate Watch Party in Chase Hall Lounge for all students on campus, along with the Democratic Representative candidate for the 2nd District of Maine, Emily Cain. The debate party had drinks and snacks as well as a debate themed bingo game.
The debate, located at Hofstra University in New York, was the first of three presidential debates between the Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and the Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump. The debate was the first time that voters could see both candidates advocate for their policies as president, and challenge one another on the current issues facing America including globalization and trade, national security and terrorism, and race and policing.
By 9:00 PM on Monday night the hall was packed with students who were interested in seeing the debate, and while the debate moderator for NBC, Lester Holt, may have told the audience in New York to remain quiet throughout the debate, the viewing in Chase Hall was not without jeering and shouting from enthusiastic Bates students.
One of the coordinators of the Debate Watch Party, Alli Rabideau ‘17, was more than happy to give her feedback about the debate party.
“I was impressed by how many people who came in chose to sit and be quiet throughout the entire debate. In previous years, people would come in and watch a few minutes of the debate, but so many people were completely invested with the debate this year that most stayed for the whole time,” says Rabideau.
In regards to the experience of a large group viewing, “it was interesting to see how people reacted as a group and to think, is this the way they would have acted had they been on their own? And would they have interpreted what was said the same way?”, says Rabideau.
Not without humility, Rabideau went on to say that the success of the debate was not a result of her alone, but all the volunteers who helped and the students who attended. Apart from the Debate Watch Party in Chase there were various other campus sponsored events including a pre-debate commentary from members of Bates faculty in Pettigrew Hall.
However, the debate scene was not confined to just Chase Hall and Pettigrew. All across campus, spontaneous debate watch parties popped up, highlighting the serious involvement of Bates students in this year’s election. Unfortunately, many students went away from the debate feeling discouraged or disappointed by what they saw.
Katie DeSantis ‘20, who watched the debate with her friends in their dorm room, morbidly remarked, “I am glad to see my country going to shambles”, and Mary Turnage ‘19 who was in Chase Hall for the debate viewing commented that the debate was “sadly entertaining.” Yet not everyone was pessimistic about the debate. Rabideau remarked that while there were many things that concerned her about the debate, she “was excited to get to see my candidate perform and it felt great to see them doing well against their opponent.”
With two more debates left, the long 2016 election cycle appears to be reaching its dramatic climax and conclusion. However, for the Bates student body, the first debate appears to only be the beginning of another year of devote political activism on campus.