Commentary: Use debate time to focus on what matters most

Presidential nominees Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton during the second presidential debate at Washington University in St. Louis on Oct. 9, 2016.


Surrounded by the laughs and groans of others at a presidential debate party, I bury my face in my hands as I listen to the presidential candidates answer the moderator's questions with monologues that are not answers at all. I try not to let out a heavy sigh as Donald Trump tells Hillary Clinton that even Bernie Sanders says she has "poor judgment" or as Clinton interrupts Trump yet again to "fact check" another statement.

As the debate continues, masking my disapproval gets harder as both candidates fail to miss a beat when insulting one another, yet inevitably fumble when it comes to policy. Trump claimed he isn't involved with Russia, despite evidence to the contrary. He once again accused President Obama of founding ISIS and mocked Clinton for not passing any policies as senator, even though, as we all know, it takes more than one senator to pass legislation. Clinton was lacking in details when discussing policy as well, suggesting the United States is energy independent and failing to outline how she would improve the Affordable Care Act.

To make matters worse, the few times policy was actually discussed in favor of insults, there was ambiguity as to the legislation or policies that candidates would actually support.

Sure, it can be detrimental for a candidate to talk specifics in a debate, as that could result in a loss of support among independents or less partisan voters. But the candidates should at least give a better sense of their ideas for policies to give voters a vision of their platform. That's the kind of information that helps debates contribute to informed voting. They show Americans the passions and goals of the candidates.

While Clinton did advertise her platform to voters by reminding them of her website and even her book, the majority of Americans are not going to visit or engage in a 288-page book about how we are Stronger Together. During a debate, even in the limited amount of time provided, it's the candidate's job to pitch how she will keep the country strong or how he will actually make America great again.

If the candidates are truly confident in their policies that will affect citizens in their day-to-day lives, they should provide detail. Clearly this is not the case - at least based on the lack of policy in the last two presidential debates.

As a millennial, this is a huge disappointment. It means that this election is not about how we can effectively improve our country. Instead, it shows that this election is about personal quarrels and insults, none of which will better our country for all.

Regardless of partisanship or personal values, I believe that every citizen has the goal of making America the best that it can be, and we should be debating the process of achieving this better America rather than attacking the people who are interested in creating it.

From this millennial's perspective, I believe that all people deserve a chance to pursue their own version of the American dream, regardless of their religion, race, or ethnicity. I, along with many people my age, am ashamed of politics and the lack of focus it has on the people.

One of the most disheartening questions at the debate was how each candidate would address Islamophobia. Trump suggested that Islamophobia was justified because, in his view, so many Muslims are supposedly committing crimes. Clinton suggested that we needed to work with Muslim Americans to improve national security. What happened to America being a nation founded on welcoming immigrants who are free to pursue their own goals? Muslims Americans don't have any more of a responsibility to serve as "national security" assets than any other citizen. They are Americans and they have the right to pursue their dreams just like anyone else, without having to worry about being deported or with special responsibilities to aid national security.

I believe that elections are supposed to be about offering a vision for improving the world. That's why 2016 is so disappointing. How are we ever supposed to achieve a better nation if our leader is chosen based on deceptions, personal attacks, and a disregard for the community?

Of course, I don't speak for all millennials; in politics, as in many other areas, this would be impossible. (That's partly why I'm tired of commentators or others speculating on how "the millennials" are reacting to the election. How about you just ask us?) But this millennial believes that the presidential candidates need to reassess their values and remember the purpose that an elected government is meant to achieve.

Brittni Teresi is a sophomore studying psychology at Swarthmore College.