This year’s election cycle has already been one of the most polarizing on record, and Monday’s debate, unsurprisingly did nothing to diffuse the controversy as millions of Americans, including many students at Wake Forest, tuned in to watch.
The first presidential debate, featuring Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, was the most watched on record with over 80 million viewers according to Nielson, a consumer research business.
Wake the Vote, with the support of the Pro Humanitate Institute and College Democrats, hosted a large viewing party that was open to all students, faculty and staff at the Pro Humanitate House.
The event had an impressive turnout with about 40 viewers inside the house. The rain did nothing to deter students with at least as many outside in a tent watching the debate.
Right from the opening statements, both Trump and Clinton were on the attack. Clinton’s time in government as ineffective, and that she contributed to the gridlock common in our political environment.
Clinton, on the other hand, often criticized his experience as a businessman, citing failed ventures and success at the expense of others such as his profit off of the housing crisis.
This election’s controversy was clear from the beginning of the viewing party with many audible reactions throughout the debate.
Trump supporters were noticeably outnumbered at the event, which was apparent by frequent laughter at Trump’s comments and noises of approval at Clinton’s.
“I believe about 78 percent of attendees expressed a preference towards Secretary Clinton, in contrast to about 11 percent expressing a preference towards Mr. Trump, and another six percent expressing a preference towards Mr. Johnson,” said senior Sebastian Ivory, president of College Democrats.
This was likely due to College Democrats involvement in the event as well as the fact that College Republicans hosted a separate event.
However, not everyone in attendance had a definite preference of candidates.
“Many people will think I am crazy for this, but I actually like them both,” said senior James Watt. “Yes, I can see the benefits of Clinton and Trump at the same time, and I consider that a great thing. Certainly, I do see many of their faults and agree with many of the critiques people have about each candidate but see many pros of both of their personas for presidential leadership.”
Watt does not see himself deciding before Election Day.
College Republicans also hosted a debate watch party. The event took place in one of the auditoriums in the ZSR Library. The watch party had snacks and giveaways for attendees and was also open to all students.
“The College Republicans hosted an extremely successful debate party with about 40 members in attendance,” said Joe Macy, President of the College Republicans. “Our members enjoyed finally seeing Mr. Trump go against Secretary Clinton one on one. It was great to hear him explain why his plans are what we need to Make America Great Again. We look forward to an even bigger turnout next week when we will get to see the next Vice President of the United States Mike Pence in action.”
Watt hopes that despite the inherent divisive nature of politics, events celebrating debates such as watch parties continue to unite others despite different political ideals.
“I think it is an important event, because it makes people passionate on the debate able to share a moment with their school, bring people together and form a sense of community, even when we all may have very different political views,” Watt said.