It remains to be seen if the Sept. 26 presidential debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump will sway the election, but most agree the stakes are enormous as American television networks anticipate a Super Bowl-size audience of 100 million viewers.
"The debate is the center point for a healthy and vibrant democracy," said Kyle Cheesewright, director of speech and debate at the College of Idaho. "Getting people to watch varying viewpoints is essential for students developing their own opinions about the election."
Cheesewright will host a debate-viewing party at the McCain Center on the C of I campus, one of a number of public gatherings to watch the Clinton/Trump duel Monday evening. At Boise State University, the student government organization is partnering with the Political Science Association and the Boise State Center for Idaho History and Politics to host a more formal gathering at the Student Union Building. The event will feature a pre- and post-debate panel discussion with attendees.
"If you get out of your own personal echo chamber and sit around with some folks who have a different political view than yours, [you'll] see how they respond to different moments in the debate," said Dr. Isaac Castellano, a Boise State political science professor and adviser to the Political Science Association. "I would love for it to have a moderating effect, for us to have a more encouraging, less partisan discussion of some of the critical issues facing the country."
Dr. Jill Gill, history professor and co-director of the Center for Idaho History and Politics, says a "communal" debate-watching experience can encourage a diversity of opinion in the campus community.
"The motivation for the debate-watch is simply to create a community environment in which to engage the candidates and issues for the upcoming election," she said. "We have no way yet of speculating who'll come on Monday night. The buzz right now looks promising. Faculty are announcing it in classes and at events."
Dr. Jasper LiCalzi, chair of the Department of Political Economy at C of I and a frequent political commentator on KIVI Channel 6, has an entirely different take on Monday's big event. When asked if he would require his students to watch the debate, LiCalzi said he would "have a required not-viewing of the debate."
"You will have less information about the debate than you did before watching it," LiCalzi said. "The debates with this election are more for entertainment."
Rather, LiCalzi said he's encouraging students and C of I alums to attend a Wednesday, Nov. 3 evening event at 10 Barrel Brewing, where he'll speak "about the election in terms people don't normally think about."
Idaho Republican and Democratic parties will be holding their own debate-watching parties across the Gem State Monday night. In Boise, Hillary Clinton supporters will gather at the Powderhaus Brewing Company on Chinden Boulevard in Garden City. Donald Trump supporters will be watching the debate at Dave and Buster's on Milwaukee Street in Boise.
The debate broadcast, which will be televised by every major American television network and across several cable news platforms, will air beginning at 7 p.m.