What can we say about Tuesday’s presidential debate that hasn’t already been said, post-event, by basically every news commentator on television and your entire Twitter feed? Yep, it was a hot mess. A dumpster fire. A train wreck. (Or all three wrapped into one, as CNN anchor Jake Tapper so nicely summarized: “That was a hot mess, inside a dumpster fire, inside a train wreck … We’ll talk about who won the debate, who lost the debate … One thing for sure, the American people lost.”)
You know who else lost? Our kids, who — as kids do — were watching. They were watching the incessant-interruption-filled-and-poorly-moderated debacle along with us. Or at least, my kids were, and so were SheKnows’ “Hatch Kids” — a group of tweens and teens that we’ve been following for five years in order to get the unfiltered opinions of Gen Z.
In 2016, we asked them to watch the debates between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton and share their thoughts. Back then, Trump was a novelty and these kids clearly didn’t think he’d win. Last night, those same kids gave us their feedback on the 90-minute exchange between Trump and Joe Biden. And well, they weren’t impressed. Reed, 15, was basically all of us in saying: “I’m only, like, 30 minutes into this debate and already it’s taken 20 years off my life.”
Some of our teens felt Biden won. Some felt no one won. No one thought Trump won. Evan, 15, told us, “I don’t necessarily feel that either candidate won the debate, since I don’t think it was very productive.”
And have their thoughts on Trump the candidate versus Trump as president changed over the course of nearly four years? “I think that in 2016, it was kind of, like, fun to hate him,” Reed says. “It was kind of a novelty. It was like this weird guy is like running for president. He’s totally not going to get it. But now, more than ever, I’m just more fed up with him.”
Gabrielle, 15, is more fearful than fed up: “At the beginning of the four years, I thought that he was bad. I thought that his views were misogynistic. I thought that he wasn’t going to help progress this country. I was extremely scared,” she says. “At the end of those four years, I am more scared. I think less of him than I did before.”
Juno, 15, agrees: “He made me feel uncomfortable, oppressed, disrespected, scared for my future then. And he makes me feel the same way now — just to a higher extent.” She continues, “Donald Trump is a racist. Period.”
“I just honestly don’t understand how he’s in office,” Gabrielle concludes. “But we are here now, so please vote him out.”