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WSHU's guide of where, when and how to vote in Connecticut during the 2020 election.

'Appalling': Connecticut Political Observers Sound Off On President's 'Stand By' Comments

Seth Wenig
Connecticut political insiders and experts react to the "chaotic" first 2020 Presidential Debate.

After President Donald Trump told a hate group to “stand back and stand by,” some Presidential debate viewers wondered if there should be any more debates this year. Connecticut political insiders and observers' views differ on what needs to change.

Trump failed to condemn white supremacy when he was asked by the debate moderator. J.R. Romano, chair of the Connecticut Republican Party, said he believes Trump’s response blaming violence on the left was sufficient.

“He did condemn. Although it was quick, because he was trying to hit another point," Romano said. "But on multiple occasions in his presidency he has condemned white supremacy.”

Trump famously blamed “all sides” for deadly violence at the Unite The Right rally in Charlottesville in 2017, which lead to the death of anti-racist protester Heather Heyer -- white nationalist James Alex Fields Jr. was convicted of her murder and sentenced to life in prison in 2019. Still, Romano called the debate "chaotic", but said it’s not a reason to cancel future events.

“At the end of the day I don’t think we should have less conversations about policies and politics," Romano said. "We should be having more.”

Erick Russell, Vice Chair of the Connecticut Democratic Party, says the Debate Commission needs tighter controls to keep future debates focused on the issues. He says Trump crossed a line.

“His failing to denounce white supremacist, when clerarly given the opportunity, was appalling," Russell said. "I think he almost doubled down even more on it by telling the Proud Boys, a white supremicist group to stand down and stand by.”

The Proud Boys have reportedly embraced Trump’s remarks.

"President Trump was handed on a silver platter an opportunity to condemn white supremacy. He balked, and then when given an option to condemn a specific rightwing racist and sexist group with tendencies to violence, he actually encouraged them," said Scott McLean, a political scientist at Quinnipiac University.

McLean said, “in a democracy all the political institutions depend on a basic acceptance of the norms" and the President trampled on those norms at the debate.

UConn political scientist Ron Schurin worries not much can be done to salvage the debates for voters who had already been disillusioned by the political process.

“This debate may just have strengthened their view that politics is a dirty business that they don’t want to get involved in," Schurin says. "It may well decrease turnout among the less politically involved segment of the electorate.”

The Presidential Debate Commission is considering giving the moderator the ability to cut off the microphone in future debates. The next debate between Trump and Biden is a town hall format in Miami on the 15th of October.

As WSHU Public Radio’s award-winning senior political reporter, Ebong Udoma draws on his extensive tenure to delve deep into state politics during a major election year.