By Rachel Spurlock, Staff Writer
Earlier this week many Manhattan College students gathered to watch the first presidential debate of one of the most noteworthy elections to date. Nearly 60 years ago, Manhattan College students gathered to watch the first televised presidential debate in the history of the United States.
On September 26, 1960, Nixon and Kennedy met in a Chicago studio to debate for the first time on live television. Not only did this debate spark a new course in how political debates would be carried out, but it also sparked an idea at The Quadrangle.
The fall semester of 1960 was the first and only year Manhattan College held a mock election. This election entailed a debate series between two students representing either the Democratic or Republican argument on various topics that were then published in The Quadrangle. At the end of the debate series, MC students were invited to vote for either Kennedy or Nixon to determine a winner.
The mock election was unveiled to the student body in the September 28, 1960 edition of The Quadrangle. In an article entitled “Straw Ballot to Estimate Campus Party Preferences”, credited to the entire staff, the election was outlined as followed: “To satisfy the political inclinations of the more civic minded among the student body, the student council has arranged for a real, honest to goodness mock election right here on campus. The purpose of the poll is to effectivity gauge student opinion regarding the national election.”
The first debate featured in The Quadrangle was between Ted McNamara and Pete Fitzgerald. The two of them argued their opinions on both Kennedy and Nixon. McNamara argued on behalf of the Democrats while Fitzgerald argued on behalf of the Republicans. McNamara writes, “[The] dissatisfaction with the stereotypes of the past and the concern with meeting the problems of the future is one of the primary marks of liberalism and the Democratic Party’s candidate, Senator Kennedy.” In response, Fitzgerald writes, “The Republican Party has confidence in the ability of our business leaders to correct many of the economic problems that we face.”
In the following the debate, Mike Kiey (Democrat) and Joe Pero (Republican) faced off to discuss the issues of foreign policy. Pero focuses on the issues that were surrounding Latin America during the 1960’s and how Nixon planned to take care of them. Kiey drew his argument from the problems in the Soviet Union at the time.
The third and final debate was between Charles McCaghey and Pete Fitzgerald. McCaghey wrote a piece called “Kennedy’s Platform: Medical Aid, Economic Growth, Care for Aged.” He argues that Kennedy is campaigning against “the past eight years of mediocracy.” In Fitzgerald’s piece entitled “Republicans Seem More Equipped with Experience Than Opponent” he writes, “Senator Kennedy has no experience as an administrator. Vice-President Nixon on the other hand has participated in the discussions and decisions of the Eisenhower Administration.”
At the end of The Quadrangle’s debate series and the straw poll carried out by the Student Council, John K. Kennedy emerged as the winner. In the November 2, 1960 edition of the paper Tom McDonald wrote, “By a scant 47 votes Kennedy managed to outpoll Nixon. A total of 1706 ballots were cast, 61.2% of the student body (day students) was considered to be a fine turnout.” This mock election MC held in 1960 was the only one of its kind.