By DANIEL LLOVERAS
At Monday night’s first presidential debate, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump faced off on issues such as taxes, gun control and foreign policy. The candidates also exchanged personal blows, with Clinton criticizing her opponent’s inexperience and sexism and Trump attacking his opponent’s e-mails and temperament.
While the process of declaring a debate winner is subjective, journalists do it in order to provide a summary for those unable or unwilling to watch the debate.
Many national news organizations, including CNN, NBC News and The New York Times, claimed that Clinton won the debate with her preparation and attacks on Trump’s sexist insults and unreleased tax returns.
However, Trump insists that he defeated Clinton during the debate and went so far as to assert that the debate was fixed by moderator Lester Holt.
“I had to put up with the anchor and fight the anchor all the time on everything I said,” Trump told supporters at a New Hampshire rally. “What a rigged deal.”
Trump’s denial of Clinton’s impressive performance shows why declaring a winner of a presidential debate is useless. Regardless of how unprepared Trump may have seemed and how poised his opponent may have been, his supporters will continue to focus on Clinton’s apparent lack of trustworthiness.
Debate coverage dramatizes the event and embellishes the importance of declaring a winner. In reality, the two-party system polarizes the country, and voters watching the debates are unlikely to change their opinions based on the candidates’ performance. When the candidates themselves deny debate results, supporters are likely to do so as well.
Debate coverage should focus on informing voters and describing the candidates’ opinions on key issues instead of treating the events like the Super Bowl.