The DePauw Voices: June Presidential Debate as “political rhetoric at its worst”

Side-by-side image of Biden and Trump speaking for their presidential campaigns

Editors’ note: This story is the first installment of The DePauw Voices, an editorial series that aims to capture the opinions of the DePauw community on various national and global issues. The thoughts and perspectives expressed in these stories only reflect the views of the sources and contributors, not the publication itself. Please send pitches, suggestions, and thoughts to

U.S. President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump had their first debate of the 2024 election season on Thursday, June 27. After the live broadcast on CNN, DePauw students and faculty found the debate to be a hard watch, to say the least. 

What’s Happening

Several Democrats have raised concerns about Biden’s ability to run the office after his debate performance, with some even urging him to drop out of the presidential race due to his alleged age-related cognitive problems. Meanwhile, critics said that Trump made far more unsupported claims than Biden, although a recent poll by The New York Times and Siena College shows Trump’s lead in the presidential race has widened after the debate.

Student and Faculty Voices

Via The DePauw's poll on Instagram, Ava Rennard ‘26 shared about the debate: “It made me feel embarrassed to be an American.” 

Alumna Sarah Weeks ‘24 said: “Obviously we need new candidates. One has age issues and one has too many issues.” 

In an opinion piece on The Hill, Professor of Communication Jeffrey McCall wrote that the moderators were partly the reason why the debate became a “political rhetoric at its worst.”

The forum went off the rails at various times, with candidate insults, references to a porn star, claims about golf scores, and even more insults reducing the discussion to a barroom argument,” McCall observed. “Biden and Trump bear the blame for such diminished dialogue, but the moderators allowed the nonsense to continue, apparently forgetting they controlled the mute buttons on the microphones.”

According to McCall, the moderators asked questions in a “grocery list” manner, where they tried to cover too many topics yet the significant ones, like the economy, were not given enough attention. Nevertheless, McCall believed Biden and Trump were never “great orators,” which made the moderators’ tasks even harder. 

In recent developments, Trump challenged Biden to another debate. This is separate from the debate scheduled for September 9 on ABC. 

The DePauw Weighs In

As a fourth-year international student who cannot vote, but also does not know whether she can find a job in the U.S. after graduation, I feel like I should care more about this election, other than repeatedly saying that I’m disappointed but not surprised. Who takes office will determine immigration policies, healthcare, and millions of other factors affecting my non-green-card status. 

At the same time, I can always back out. My American friends cannot, and many of them are struggling to choose the less bad option. The way this election season is unfolding surprises me on many levels, because while I know American politics are chaotic, unpredictable, and even funny, this mix of spectacles and strategies is teaching me and generations of voters to come a lot.