This past month, voters across the nation braced for the impact of the Presidential debates, armed with beer cans in hand. Turning to the long-standing tradition of debate-related drinking games, students shared their drinking game rules and following experiences on social media.
Senior Civil Engineering student John Town found his drinking game of choice from a Snapchat story, which instructed the player to take a shot or finish a drink any time President Trump or Vice President Joe Biden said one of their famous phrases or other clichés, between Biden’s stuttering or references to being Barack Obama’s bestie, to Trump downplaying the COVID-19 pandemic, waving hands dramatically or interrupting others. “I attempted this game for the first debate [on Sept. 29] but quickly realized what would be the inevitable: it would be a constant stream.”
As to why Town chose to drink during the debates, he explained, “I knew intuitively going into it that the debate was going to be a complete and utter shitshow, for lack of a better word. It would be a complete mess. So I figured it was the only way I could find any enjoyment from it and to make it less overwhelming.”
Kayla Mitchell, senior Biomedical Engineering student, said she played a similar game. “I played with my suitemate, we drank some pumpkin beer. So, you know, we tried to make a little bit of fun out of it… eventually we ended up going off of the game rules, because otherwise, you know, our livers would be dead.”
On a similar note as Town, Mitchell said “obviously, I want to be more politically active because it’s my first time voting. But I wanted to make sure I was paying attention without letting the debate get boring or depressing, so I wanted to make some fun out of it. So I said, let’s drink, why not?”
Meanwhile, junior Mechanical Engineering student Dillon McCormick played a game that he came up with himself during the second Presidential debate, where he would drink each time a candidate interrupted each other or the moderator. “To be fair… I hadn’t really kept up with the news surrounding it, so I didn’t know they would have a mute button for the second debate. I was prepared for more interruptions like in the first debate.”
“I knew that the debate would just be more of the same, and just as disgraceful as the last, so I thought, why not make it fun? I think the format of the Presidential debates have been broken. I think this second debate looked more civil, but looks can be deceiving. There’s still this aspect where, we can’t have fact checking as the debate goes on,” McCormick said.
However, their feelings for the ongoing election become a little more complicated.
“There’s just so much going on,” said Town. “It’s so easy to get overwhelmed. And I think everyone is still so shell shocked from 2016, about how, it can seem like one thing will happen, and then we completely flip the script. Nobody wants to make any confident assertions. Right now, the only fear I have is that there will be a 269-269 Electoral College tie, which is a non zero possibility, or that we have a repeat of 2000, where it all boils down to one state like Pennsylvania or Florida, and then it goes to the court and it’ll be another political nightmare.”
For Mitchell, although the game was intended to take some of the stress off, it also heaped more of it on. “It was fun, don’t get me wrong. But I’m thinking like, these are two possible leaders of our country. It’s concerning to think about it, that we’re getting so much entertainment out of this. And I noticed I got less information than I wanted to about the topics at hand, and more so thought, oh God, where is this going to end up?”
McCormick also discussed the use of humor in both coping and tackling the stress of election outcomes. “Everything over the past four years has been so crazy that some of these politicians are even immune to the kind of political satire used in like, late night shows. Trump is his own satirization. Every time we see an Onion article now, we’re not even sure if it’s true or not. The best way to criticize these leaders now might be to go for this hyper-absurdist sort of humor or infiltrative journalism like Sacha Baron Cohen does in ‘Borat 2.’”
On the contrary, McCormick said, “I have ultimately, no stress about this election. I welcome the chaos. If civil war comes… I’m here for it, I suppose. But I don’t think it’ll get that bad… I don’t fear anything I suppose, so there was no edge to take off, but it of course helped to laugh at it all.”
It’s remarkable that college students, and notably, many first-time voters, have been able to share both their frustration surrounding the election and pride in their social responsibility to vote on social media. Beyond this, despite the pandemic, even across screens, they’ve been able to sit down to a drink to stop to enjoy the hilarity that has been 2020.