DENVER, Colorado—Presidential debates can be heated affairs. The candidates insult each other on stage, and TV viewers yell at the plasma screens mounted in their living rooms.
But the mood was decidedly more chill at the Mile High Lifestyle, a palatial cannabis smoking lounge in downtown Denver, 30 miles from the Republican debate in Boulder. Unfortunately, not even massive amounts of weed could make tonight's debate interesting.
“This is probably one of the most boring things I’ve ever watched, and I’ve watched a lot of debates,” said Heberto, a 20-year-old political junkie and one of the five U.C. Boulder students who participated in Fusion's debate watch party, a mixed group of Republicans, Democrats and Independents.
Heberto, a registered Republican who had been genuinely excited to watch the pre-candidates match wits, could only shake his head in tired exasperation as the debate sputtered to a sad ending. “I don’t even know what they’re saying. Money. Taxes. God. It’s all just sound bites.”
The other U.C. Boulder students agreed.
“This was supposed to be an intellectual debate, but it’s pretty depressing," says Fabián, a 19-year-old junior. "And I watch C-Span.”
Fabián said none of the 10 candidates said anything he wanted to hear. “I’ve never watched a full Republican debate, and frankly this is pretty depressing," he said, pulling on a cigarette. "Their rhetoric isn’t even controlled.”
The other students in the watch party agreed that the debate was too heavy on the showmanship, and too light on substance. The issues they wanted to hear about —income inequality, free-trade, access to public education, and student loans—didn't get enough play to satisfy anyone.
“I guess this is what I expected it would be— personal attacks, attacks on the Democrats, and boasting,” says Brittani, a 21-year-old senior at U.C. Boulder.
The weed didn't make the debate more engaging, but it did help keep everyone on the level.
“Cannabis helps bring it down a bunch of notches,” says Big J, who along with the 'The Five Brothers' helps run Mile High Lifestyle. “One thing we can all agree on is our love for cannabis; we’ve all shared a joint or a bag, so we’re like family and we can talk like family about issues. But this debate is just about one-liners; that’s what this has devolved to. All that’s missing is the rim-shot.”