If I had to describe the debate yesterday in one word, it would be surreal.
I have always been a very politically involved person. Even back in ’08, I remember getting in a “fight” with my best friend, who “supported” Mccain. Obviously, as 10-year-olds, we knew nothing about politics. But that didn’t stop me from siding passionately with my Democratic parents.
Knowing this about myself, I think it was foolish to assert, as I did in my previous blog post, that I would not be getting involved in politics on the day of the debate. To be fair, there was a motivating factor; in light of the news of yet another black man dead at the hands of the police, I felt that to do nothing would be an injustice.
I’m glad I got involved; not just because it was the right thing to do, but because it led to some absolutely incredible moments on debate day, such as being in a group that was interviewed on CNN’s Facebook page, and meeting civil rights activist Jesse Jackson (who then followed me on Twitter after I Tweeted my excitement about meeting him).
That’s not to say, however, that I didn’t get my fair share of absurdity as well. At one point, performance artist Vermin Supreme showed up, and “debated” fellow performance artist Matthew Silver. It involved a lot of squawking, drug references, and comically oversized objects.
In general, the whole day was absurd. The fact that so many of my idols, as an activist and as a journalist, were within one square mile of me, was absurd. The fact that I was watching the debate on NBC as it took place a 5-minute walk away was absurd. The fact that it was my campus that played host to such an insane yet historic event was absurd. Now that it’s over, I still kind of can’t believe it happened.
As for the debate itself, I wasn’t wrong about it providing much more in terms of entertainment value than it did in terms of productive discussion. I was worried, at first, that I would be proven wrong. Trump was being surprisingly civilized, and even making somewhat salient points, for those who lean toward the right end of the spectrum.
But I should have known that that wouldn’t last. As we all know, Hillary roasted Donald like a rotisserie chicken, and Donald interrupted Hillary 28 times, and poor Lester Holt, from what I’ve heard from my lucky friends who made it into the debate hall, was just facepalming the entire time. It was almost like an episode of the Kardashians.
What I noticed the most, and what we discussed in my culture and expression class as well, was the different rhetorical strategies employed by both candidates, in everything down to their color palettes (I know it’s difficult to see the Don as a skilled rhetorician, but there’s something there, I promise you).
First of all, the aforementioned color palettes. I was living for Hillary’s vibrant crimson ensemble, especially her lipstick. I’ve long been a believer in the power of red lipstick, and it’s not just because red is my favorite color. Wearing a red outfit has been scientifically proven to boost one’s performance in a competition. The exact reason as to why this happens is disputed. There are studies that show that wearing red makes the wearer feel more confident, but there are also studies that suggest that the color intimidates the competition.
Either way, this is a reaction that hearkens back to our most primal of instincts. Reddened skin is a sign of dominance among many primates. It also indicates vitality and fitness. Given the sensationalism over Clinton’s health, and Trump’s charges that Clinton has no “stamina,” red was a wise choice indeed.
As for the psychology of Donald’s tie, blue is the most popular color in the world by a vast majority. Generally, blue is considered a soothing color, so much so that Scotland and Japan have installed blue street lights in an attempt to reduce street crime and suicide. While very few people, I think, associate the Don with soothing vibes, reducing street crime through “law and order” has been a key feature of his platform (just as it was a key feature of Richard Nixon’s).
Additionally, in the United States, blue is associated with masculinity, competence, high quality, and corporate values. I feel like this is pretty self-explanatory.
I also loved the irony of each candidate wearing the other party’s colors, especially considering the criticism they both have faced for flip-flopping stances on various issues.
I would go into their other rhetorical strategies, but 1. there are too many thinkpieces about that already and 2. that would make this post a novel.
Anyway, I think the most important thing I’ve gleaned from this experience is this realization; while I used to think I would definitely be a print journalist and nothing but, it’s telling that some of the people I was most excited to see at the debate were broadcast journalists. I have no broadcast experience, but hey, that’s what college is for, right?
Seeing as this blog post is nearly novella length already, now seems like a good place to stop.
If you’re interested in viewing my additional debate-related content, here’s a Storify of my livetweets of the weekend/the debate itself.
And here’s the vlog I made about the debate weekend, and the events leading up to it.