The 2016 presidential debates have become the stomping ground for malicious verbal attacks and hateful criticism. Instead of solely tuning in to see what each candidate hopes to bring to our country in the coming years, more and more people have been watching to see what the next bombastic comment will be. Most recently, current New Jersey governor and Republican presidential candidate Chris Christie made a personal address to President Barack Obama at the most recent Republican Debate on Jan. 14. Christie said that in the fall, the president was going to have his “rear end” kicked out of the White House. In a likewise fashion, everyone from Rosie O’Donnell to rival Republican candidate Ben Carson has been designated a “loser” by presidential candidate Donald Trump. Many people laugh off comments similar to Christie’s and Trump’s that are made by the candidates. However, doing so suggests that the way the candidates speak to each other is acceptable when it is not. This acceptance of bad behavior sends the wrong message to young children and teenagers who may have heard these remarks during debates or once they went viral online.
The disrespect that the candidates have shown not only to each other, but also to the current president, during the presidential debates, is staggering. In the latest instance, Christie said that “we” are not against Obama, but rather his policies. However, in the segment when he addressed Obama, the only way it can be taken is as a personal attack. While some may not agree with the current policies in place in our country, that is not an excuse to deliberately insult our current leader. Rather, the candidates should be expressing how they wish to change or improve the policies in place. Instead of maliciously criticizing our country currently, the focus of the debates should be discussing and offering potential solutions.
It is easy to say that something or someone is wrong, but much harder to elaborate on how the perceived problem can be resolved. The insults and mocking comments have made the debates into a reality spectacle rather than a showing of educated candidates, which all of them are. Rather than solely focusing on the questions asked by the moderators and discussing their intentions if they are elected into office, these men and women are more focused on undermining each other by calling each other names and insulting each other’s intelligence when there is no question that they would not be where they are standing currently if they were not intelligent people. From the debates that I have watched, I have been appalled by the behavior of these grown men and women because not only is it unprofessional, but it is also the type of behavior that is discouraged in children. Simplified, these adults are doing nothing more than bullying each other. Ironically, on Jan. 5, 2011, Gov. Christie signed into law P.L.2010, Chapter 122, an act concerning Harassment, Intimidation and Bullying in school settings that amended various parts of the statutory law. Rather than simply enacting P.L.2010, Chapter 122, Christie should be practicing the legislation in his own campaign. By signing the legislation and then behaving differently, he is setting a negative example to those who are expected to behave respectfully in a school setting.
The behavior that has been exhibited by Christie most recently, as well as by the other candidates is unacceptable. In particular, since Christie was elected governor of New Jersey, he has behaved similarly, exhibiting the type of behavior toward other people that students are punished for in school. Additionally, for Christie to say that Obama will be getting his “rear end” kicked out of office is ludicrous since the he has been elected for two terms; so, even if in the past seven years the Republican presence has increased to be “the biggest majority since the 1920s in the House [of Representatives],” as Christie stated, there is no ability to deny that he was still elected and considered by the people to be the most suited for the role as our Commander in Chief.
The debates are becoming less about communicating useful information that will inform voters of who they believe is best suited for office. I would not necessarily suggest that anyone boycott the debates because watching them does show voters the character of each candidate and can help one come to a decision as to whether they can get behind them. However, I would recommend finding additional means of finding information about the candidates that will provide the same, but more coherent explanations, such as the personal websites of the candidates.
The continued use of insults and unprofessional language sets a tone that is wrong for our country and in direct conflict with the behaviors taught to America’s youth. When we envision our country’s leader, we imagine someone who creates unity, not someone who is divisive and disrespectful to whoever does not agree with his or her politics. As we go forward and approach the primaries, we should be more mindful of how the candidates engage on stage and focus more on how their behavior reflects not only their personal image, but how their behavior will also potentially reflect on the future image of our country.