A Tale of Two Town Halls

Once upon a time, a second debate was scheduled for October 15th where the Republican incumbent, Donald Trump, and Democratic challenger, Joseph Biden, were to discuss the issues facing everyday Americans. The debate was changed to a virtual format because of the president’s COVID-19 infection to keep those in attendance safe from contracting the virus. The Republican incumbent decided that he would not partake in this event in typical toddler-like fashion since he could not appear in person to challenge his opponent. The challenger’s camp decided to schedule a town hall with ABC in Philadelphia in place of the debate. The Republican incumbent saw this on the TV schedule and decided that he had to look better than his candidate, so he decided to schedule a town hall on a rival network.

Can someone tell me what the point of these town halls was? If we’re going to have two different town halls on rival networks, why not just have the debate? It seemed so pointless and a waste of money for the networks to host these events. I’m not sure if the Debate Commission has the authority to demand that the debates occur as this is a pivotal event for our democracy, but it would have worth it to at least talk Trump off the ledge so that he would participate. If this situation was possible and the debate would have occurred, I do believe that the moderator of that debate, Steve Scully, should have been removed as he has admitted to being partisan in the past against the president. I think it is most important that the moderator remain impartial to either candidate or restore order when needed.

I was more impressed with the format of the town hall on ABC over the town hall on NBC. George Stephanopoulos can challenge (to a point) candidates without sounding like a political mouthpiece. The one complaint that I do have is the fact that he did not ask a question or bring up anything about the release of his son’s e-mails in a report from the New York Post. Sure, he could say that he denies any involvement, but at least acknowledge it one way or the other. I felt like Savannah Guthrie on NBC did not do as great of a job. The first 15 minutes felt like she was debating Trump and asking him questions about stupid stuff that has been beaten into the ground before. This took away from the voters’ questions, which I thought was the more important piece of the town hall. If I were in attendance, I’d be a little irritated this would take away from my time to ask the president about the important issues facing my family and me. One thing I would implore either moderator to do is to fact-check the candidates. You typically see articles that fact-check after the town halls are completed, but why not be able to do this in real time? Savannah Guthrie tried to do this with Trump but looked more partisan in the process. I’m not sure if George Stephanopoulos did not want to question Biden to maintain the lean of ABC possesses, but there were several points that he should have challenged him on to stick to the facts, including those about the coronavirus and the treatment and vaccine availability.

One thing that I would really like to see from more Democratic candidates in the future is to do a town hall on an opposing network like Fox News. Pete Buttigieg and Bernie Sanders did this during the primaries, which is commendable on their parts, but I would like to see this from the Democratic nominee in future elections, no matter who it may be. I’m sure there are viewers of Fox News that are undecided and may not be happy with Donald Trump. I know there is a belief from those on the left about Fox’s blurred lines between news and opinion. Joe Biden has said repeatedly that he wants to restore bipartisanship. The campaign should just swallow their pride and make the effort to schedule something on this network. It is worth a shot.

These town halls also showcased the personalities of each of the candidates, easily showing their strengths and weaknesses. Trump has thrived in a rally-type format in which he can preach his feelings about anything and everything without being challenged. It doesn’t make sense why he would schedule an event like this on one hand as he failed miserably in the last town hall he did with George Stephanopoulos on ABC, but I do think he wanted to make this a ratings war between the two candidates and use this as a talking point in the next debate, if this is going to happen. Biden does better in this type of format, especially in smaller settings when he is able to talk with people one-on-one. I also thought that Biden gave more concrete plans as to how he thinks he can improve the country. Trump did not change his ways between the formats and did not give plans for the foreseeable future for a potential second term. My question to voters is: what matters to you more and who do you feel has your better interest at heart? Does this battling really benefit us, the average American?

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