Watters: Lowered expectations after debate race to bottom


Arabella Watters, Assistant Forum Editor

When Barack Obama and Mitt Romney took the stage last Tuesday at Hofstra University, I already had the sinking sensation that the debate wasn’t going to go the way that I had hoped. After all, in this election, Romney can’t seem to do anything right consecutively. He’s a one-hit wonder kind of politician, and he proved it in spades as he bumbled around the stage, shaking his finger at the audience and getting fact-checked by moderator Candy Crowley.

Even more frustrating than Romney’s performance was the fact that President Obama wasn’t all that good. Although I don’t agree with all of his policies, I try to give the President credit where he deserves it. I can say easily that his speech at the Democratic National Convention amongst a crowd awash in blue was rhetoric out of a dream. President Obama inspires people to be politically active, and I respect him for that.

But Obama didn’t command the room Tuesday like he did at the DNC. Sure, he articulated his points with conviction, in sharp contrast to the disaster at Denver two weeks ago, but I don’t think that signifies victory because I expect the president of the United States to possess the ability to string together a sentence at all times. Working in his favor was the fact that Romney couldn’t seem to pick up the shattered pieces of himself after his “binders of women” comment. President Obama shouldn’t get credit for “winning” a debate that he didn’t do much more than show up for.

It was clear that this debate was going to have a far more social slant given the airtime spent in Denver belaboring taxes, unemployment and the economy. At this point, I think it’s pretty clear what each candidate wants to do to heal our economy. I don’t want to hear about Romney’s five-point plan for 12 million jobs anymore. In fact, I’d been waiting for a long time on this campaign to hear the candidates talk about gun control, an issue that I feel extremely passionate about, and I think after a year in which America has seen mass shootings happening repetitively and without mercy, it should be something that our candidates running for office should put aside their political agendas to address.

The fact that all we got during the debate were artful dodges to the question makes the statement that the president won the debate all the more ludicrous. All President Obama had to say on the matter was, “We’re a nation that believes in the Second Amendment, and I believe in the Second Amendment. We’ve got a long tradition of hunting.”

Meanwhile, the way Romney avoided questions all night honestly grated on me more than his idiotic statements about women’s rights or foreign policy. It isn’t that hard to be brave and make a statement. Despite my excitement to see how this election turns out, I can’t help being disappointed in both candidates. I expect my President to have the tenacity to take a stance on an issue he obviously cares about, and I wish that Romney had the ability to pick a continuous side on anything.

As we head into the final stretch of the election, it pains me to admit that we may be hitting a wall in terms of how far Romney can carry the GOP in the fight against Obama’s reelection. I find it just a little bit pathetic. Romney followed a truly impressive first debate showing with one of the most lackluster, cumbersome public speaking appearances we’ve seen on the election trail. I have a feeling that in the next debate, focusing on foreign policy, Obama will railroad Romney into the ground. Obama has an uncanny knack for championing his foreign policy achievements during debate while simultaneously providing hope for the future of America as the world police. Romney, on the other hand, seems heavy-handed and out-of-touch, and I don’t really want to hear about how he thinks Russia is our biggest geopolitical foe.

An election like this should be centered on what is good for the country as a whole. In 2008, President Obama won in a landslide of 365 electoral votes to John McCain’s measly 173 because Obama’s plan for the nation seemed like what was best for every single person. In contrast, this election, as demonstrated by the way that the candidates have polarized each other repeatedly in each debate, has been characterized as a mad arms race to win each target demographic. It’s overly political and frustrating, and, unfortunately, I don’t think it will change.

Monday’s debate will be just another opportunity for Romney and Obama to butt heads in an attempt to alienate the other enough from each voting group to edge out the other. They play a tiresome game; as a voter, I’m honestly confused. There are so many opinions being voiced, and yet nothing is really decided upon with conviction. I want this next debate to be over with because I can’t handle another 90 minutes of quantification. In reality, what’s done is done in this election, and there is nothing halfhearted promises or well-timed zingers can do about it.

Arabella Watters is a Medill sophomore. She can be reached at [email protected]. If you would like to respond publicly to this column, email a Letter to the Editor to [email protected].