This coming election will be one of the most influential elections in American history, with the potential to either continue progress started in the Obama administration and further develop America’s good standing on the global platform, or send us reeling backward to far less forgiving times in our history.
Hillary Clinton’s tasteful and impactful presentation as well as her logical, concise explanations of her plans to address the issues of our nation have won her much praise among political analysts and registered democrats alike. Meanwhile, Donald Trump appealed almost exclusively to his supporters. Despite Clinton’s clear advantage in composure and professionalism, many Americans left the debate feeling that neither candidate came out on top.
In a typical debate setting, there are multiple factors that go into deciding who won a debate, the majority of which focus not on the actual information delivered, but on the manner in which it was delivered. However, presidential debates are judged by the voters. The outcome can only be guessed at, even by experts.
The point of a presidential debate is to give our candidates a platform on which to better communicate their policies to an audience that may have previously been undecided or even supporting their opposer. It is one of their final chances to appeal to more voters before election day.
Moderated by Lester Holt, the first presidential debate alternated between professional discussion of American issues and childish squabble over who has messed up worse. Though Holt overcompensated for his republican bias by making his questions to Trump much more accusatory than his questions to Hillary, he did a pretty good job keeping them civil overall. While that is an impossible task, he did his best.
Both candidates had issues with avoiding answering the actual question so much so that oftentimes the viewer wasn’t able to recall the question they were supposed to be answering. Hillary did a slightly better job sticking to the question, yet still veered completely off topic several times. Trump was slightly more blatant in ignoring the questions, at one point answering a question about “healing the racial divide” with “…and when I look at what’s going on in Charlotte, a city I love, a city where I have investments, when I look at what’s going on throughout various parts of our country, whether it’s — I mean, I can just keep naming them all day long — we need law and order in our country” which had little to nothing to do with the question right off the bat. Most of his responses at least loosely related to the topic when he’d first start talking but his speech would corkscrew- some times more rapidly than others- into some other point entirely.
This was also a problem in the most recent debate on October 10. The best example was how, when asked by a concerned citizen about how his policies would protect America’s Muslim population from Islamophobia if he were President, he proceeded to say “Well, you’re right about Islamophobia, and that’s a shame. But one thing we have to do is we have to make sure that, because there is a problem…because you look at Orlando and you look at San Bernardino and you look at the World Trade Center. Go outside. Look at Paris. Look at that horrible — these are radical Islamic terrorists.” Not only did he seem to completely ignore her question, he gave an Islamophobic response to a question about how he’d protect his possible future citizens from Islamophobia.
However, Trump was not the only candidate having difficulty directly addressing the citizens’ perfectly valid concerns- Clinton also often lost focus. At times, both candidates were so rowdy and off-topic that it seemed more like a couple of 8th-graders vying for a position on the student council what with making petty personal attacks and such.
The focus of this second debate was dramatically shifted by the release of the controversial tape of Donald Trump talking with Billy Bush from 2005. According to the Twitter hashtag “cbsreax,” many Americans were watching solely to see how this man could possibly defend himself, and the expectation that he would do so was prevalent. His apology came off as rushed and insincere, and turned out to be one of the most laughable- and honestly frightening- events of the evening. When asked “You described kissing women without consent, grabbing their genitals. That is sexual assault. You bragged that you have sexually assaulted women. Do you understand that?” he responded with “Yes, I’m very embarrassed by it. I hate it. But it’s locker room talk, and it’s one of those things. I will knock the hell out of ISIS. We’re going to defeat ISIS.” He immediately dismissed the weight of his words by claiming them to simply be “locker room talk,” but shouldn’t that term be reserved for hormonal teenagers who are clearly just running their mouths as opposed to a (supposedly) mature 59-year-old with multiple sexual assault accusations? Possibly even more comical was his swift shift of blame as he, a man who is not exactly quiet about being an adulterer, accused Clinton of being an enabler. He basically held her accountable for the actions of her husband, as if Mr. Clinton’s adultery dragged her to the same low level of morality as Trump.
With Trump’s slightly more blatant racism than usual in the first presidential debate, the released tape, and Michelle Obama’s tear-jerking speech in New Hampshire endorsing Hillary, it appears that Clinton should have the upperhand in the election. Yet, with Trump’s supporters proving time and time again that they hold him to a standard somewhere slightly below basic human decency, they may as well be on level playing field. At this point it’s up to the electoral college to do its job and prevent the ignorant masses from electing an unfit leader.