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Third First Impressions

Posted: September 25, 2019 | By: Mallory McQueen Tagged: Blog

DES MOINES, Iowa — Andrew Jackson was not who I expected to hear about on the night of the third Democratic debate, but yet, that’s whose name I heard come out of the mouth of a Drake student that night.

Last week Thursday, September 12, I along with 14 million other Americans across the county decided to tune into the third Democratic debate. But, I didn’t just want to watch the debate from the couch and the privacy of my own home. I wanted to see what other people thought about it. More importantly, I wanted to see what other students on Drake’s campus thought about the debate. However, I did not want to explicitly ask students questions about their debates, instead, I wanted to see what I could determine from observations: laughs, sighs, groans, eye rolls.  

So I attended the watch party put on by Drake Democrats, the Democratic political organization on campus, in the Drake Room on the top floor of the Olmsted Center. There were nearly fifty people packed into the small room and by the time we got there, people were searching for more chairs to accommodate the large group in the room. A few staffers from presidential campaigns were among the students in the room including representatives from Kamala Harris’s and Cory Booker’s campaigns and a student representative from the student organization in support of Elizabeth Warren on campus. Packed into this room, everyone sat and chatted together before the debate began. Shortly after the debate started, I realized noting the observations of my fellow students for the entire debate for the next two and a half hours was not only extremely unrealistic but would result in an entirely too long blog post. 

Instead, I decided to focus on my peers’ reactions to the candidates’ opening speeches. Each candidate got to give their opening remarks for one minute going in reverse polling order, starting with Julian Castro. While Julian Castro was giving his opening speech, most people were still talking and didn’t pay him much attention. Honestly, there were very few reactions to the opening statements of the less popular candidates up until Andrew Yang and his special announcement.

Yang had announced that he had something special planned for the debate a few days earlier, though I don’t know that anyone expected this. Yang announced what he called the “Freedom Dividend. He declared that he would give ten Americans (who entered the giveaway on his website) $1000 a month for a year, no strings attached. The reactions among the students were mostly confused laughter. Yang’s big announcement was perceived as a joke, which was clearly not his intent, though it may get people to visit his website.

Kamala Harris produced the biggest reaction among the students at the Drake Dems watch party. She opened her remarks by stating that she had a few words for the president. Then she spent a majority of her opening statement criticizing Donald Trump’s actions as president. The final words of her opening statement were “And now, President Trump, you can go back to watching Fox News.” This bold statement understandably shocked the room. Students erupted in laughter and a unified “ohhh” filled the space. 

My personal favorite reaction was in response to Bernie Sanders’s opening statement. He declared that President Trump was “the most dangerous president in the history of this country”. Without skipping a beat, a female student, who I couldn’t identify in the darkness of the room with only the light from the projector, said, “That’s not true,” followed by a scoff and a declarative “Andrew Jackson”. I guess it’s just nice to know that students are trying to be historically accurate.