In the last three presidential elections, the presidential primary debates have gotten pretty ridiculous. Most notably, the recent Republican primary debates throw all rules out the window from the time the first word of the first question is even asked.

Presidential debates are a major platform for candidates to speak and get their message out and sway voters. There are rules to most debates regarding time limits on answers, whether a candidate can respond and so on.

In the most recent Republican debate in South Carolina, candidates ignored the base of all questions and immediately attacked either President Obama, Hillary Clinton or a fellow Republican candidate. It was a classless show of pandering to the fear and anger mostly instigated by one candidate: Donald Trump.

From watching the debate, what I learned about Trump’s policy is that he doesn’t want to let anymore Muslims into America, he wants to build a wall to keep illegal immigrants out and he does not like anyone else that is running for president.

The entire field of Republican candidates has adopted the Trump strategy for debates. The candidates try to outdo one another on a scale of who hates Obama most, as if that’s what people are actually trying to find out. We get it: You don’t like the president or the opposing party. It’s understandable, but don’t ignore questions about your policy and intentions just to rip on the president.

I forced myself to watch the majority of that debate, and by the end I was as angry as the candidates were. At one point, I felt like I was watching an episode of Maury. The Republican candidates were trying to articulate that one of their opponents was not born in America, and therefore not eligible to run for the presidential office.

I tuned in to learn about candidates’ policies and what they would do as the leader of this nation. What I got was little actual political substance and more of a shouting match between angry, wealthy middle-aged men.

Why is there so much emphasis on these debates? When questions are asked, they are dodged. Questions are even tailored to each candidate, but getting a straightforward answer is like pulling teeth.

The only way to even get a sense of what each candidate is about is to go online and read their websites and political fact checkers. Doing hard research is the best way to find out about what each candidate has to say.

I want to believe that, if Trump was not running, there might actually be a debate worth watching. That’s a hard thing to believe when there is always a Trump running for president. In the 2008 election it was Sarah Palin, and in 2012 it was Ron Paul.

The pattern has become that if you have no shot at winning the presidency, saying crazy things gets you face and name recognition.

And that’s not the democracy that I signed up for.


Matthew Saunders is a digital producer for the Central Florida Future. Follow him on Twitter at @ClassicSmit or email him at

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