A room in the back of Busboys and Poets in northwest D.C. filled up quickly Monday, Sept. 26 in anticipation of an event like no other.
It wasn’t Monday Night Football, nor an R&B performance. Rather, the more than 100 patrons sipped beverages, devoured burgers and other delicatessens and stared at a big-screen television to watch the first presidential debate between Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump.
“Sometimes people look at these things in isolation … so it’s great to be around people and connect with each other,” said Busboys and Poets owner Andy Shallal minutes before the debate. “This is an important conversation and a lot of people’s eyes are on this. It has been an interesting campaign, to say the least.”
As some patrons looked down at their phones and tweeted their thoughts during the debate, others quietly sat and listened to the candidates.
But several people couldn’t contain their emotions and based on the sounds, the audience was decidedly anti-Trump.
One person yelled “shut up” when Trump interjected an opinion while Clinton spoke, while a cascade of boos filled the room when Trump mentioned his hotel in downtown D.C.
Several patrons, including Thomas Clark of Charlotte, North Carolina, laughed when Trump said he has a better temperament than Clinton. Clark, in town with his girlfriend, Linda Bain, to visit the National Museum of African American History and Culture on the National Mall, said he’ll “reluctantly” vote for Clinton despite backing her foe in the Democratic primary, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont).
“I can’t vote for Clara Bell, who is Trump,” he said.
Everyone in attendance Monday received a “DBATE” bingo card to cross out words and phrases used by both campaigns such as “emails,” “huge (or yuge)” and “physical stamina.”
After the debate concluded, the restaurant invited four people to have a post-debate discussion titled “Debunking the Presidential Debate.”
The panelists spoke from a philosophical perspective and didn’t hear anything unique from both candidates.
Jared A. Ball, an associate professor of communication studies at Morgan State University in Baltimore, called the election system “a farce.”
Ball plans to vote for Green Party candidate Jill Stein and her running mate Ajamu Baraka.
“The reality is it’s not about the individual. It doesn’t matter what [Clinton] says, or what [Trump] says,” said Ball, a co-editor of “A Lie of Reinvention: Correcting Manning Marable’s Malcolm X.” “It’s about the party that represents the interest they represent and who funds them. We can’t keep going back to the same rhetoric.”
Medea Benjamin, an author of nine books and co-founder of the anti-war group CODEPINK in Northeast, said Clinton easily won Monday’s debate over Trump. However, she supported Sanders and is now a Stein devotee.
“No matter who wins the election, we’ve got a very vibrant society now that has to just keep going forward and I’m very optimistic about that,” she said.
Bill Ayers, an author and professor of education at the University of Illinois at Chicago, said he voted for Sanders and will also vote for Stein.
“When I go to vote, I vote for the lesser of two evils,” he said. “I don’t vote on a moral compass that says, ‘I need a perfect person.’ I vote as one part of political life that exist [on] 365 days of activism.”