With the deafening bang of a wooden gavel, the Texas Political Union’s first debate of the semester was in session.
In an open debate hosted Tuesday night by the organization, students discussed the personalities of current politicians and how personality can help or hinder their ability to enact public policy.
Daniel Orr, classics senior and president of the Texas Political Union, opened the meeting with a statement on the importance of fostering discussion in the era of the Trump presidency.
“Discussion has kind of fallen out of the soul of American society,” Orr said. “Not just discussion between Democrats and Republicans, but serious discussion between opposite ends of the earth. Through that kind of engagement, we become leaders, and we become better citizens.”
Orr said the “cult of personality” in politics has existed for centuries around the world.
“This is a phenomenon that we’ve been living with for a long time,” Orr said. “Perhaps it’s an unshakeable part of democratic life.”
The debate was then opened up to the audience, where students were encouraged to voice their opinions on the effects of politician’s personalities.
“Politics is very much a ‘what have you done for me lately’ kind of game,” history sophomore Mark Mathenge said. “People are frustrated, and they don’t have very long memories.”
Government sophomore Janna Sayfie said societal gender roles played an important role in the 2016 election by changing the public’s perception of the candidates.
“When you have Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump portrays himself as this macho man, the typical male gender role,” Sayfie said. “And you have Hillary Clinton, who doesn’t really play to the typical female gender role. I think that hurt her in a way.”
Mathenge said Trump has no ideological consistency, meaning it can be difficult to pinpoint his position on issues.
“He’s Schrodinger’s politician,” Mathenge said. “For any given issue, he both supports and argues against, and you never know until you open the box.”
Physics graduate student Paul Vonder Haar said Trump’s career as a celebrity and businessman led to his eventual election.
“(Trump) sticks in your head,” Vonder Haar said. “He’s been sticking in the head of the American consciousness for 30 years.”
The Texas Political Union’s next debate on Sept. 19 will tackle the issue of North Korea’s nuclear development and how it should be handled by global powers.