Processing: Presidential Debate

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As I have said before, I’ve never, ever been that interested in politics. So at the beginning of the day on Monday, I had no intention whatsoever of watching the first presidential debate between Republican candidate Donald Trump and Democratic candidate Hilary Clinton. In fact, I didn’t even know it was happening until Monday afternoon.

But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that I hadn’t ever really watched either of them in this kind of format. I hadn’t watched the individual party debates because I identify as an Independent. I had never been to any rallies or other venues where these nominees may speak. My only point of reference for these candidates had thus far been the recaps featured on various news and social media outlets. Therefore, by the time I got home from a long day at work and poured myself a glass of wine, I had decided that I would sit down and listen to these two “discuss” various issues to see how accurate my chosen news outlets were.

And, although many people have a great distrust of the media and how some can spin and bias what they report from these types of events, the ones I follow stayed pretty accurate to what I saw during the debate.

I also didn’t anticipate live-tweeting the debate, but it happened.

So, let’s break this debate down.

Lester Holt acted as the moderator of the debate and attempted to lead the candidates toward discussions of various, hard-hitting topics that have shown themselves to be some of the most pressing concerns of voters. These included: creating American jobs, addressing and mending racial tensions and national security both on and offline. Holt also used the debate to address some of the things Trump has said throughout his campaign, including his refusal to release his tax returns and his comments regarding Clinton’s ability to hold the presidential office.

The first topic was achieving prosperity in America — how would the candidates perpetuate a flourishing economy and create more jobs in America? I thought both candidates did an okay job of answering this question (as this was before the interruptions, screaming matches, underhanded comments and outright character attacks.) Clinton outlined big-picture ideas that she wanted to enact, such as focusing the government’s energies on helping to grow small businesses and the middle class by holding the wealthy accountable and making them pay their fair share of taxes that would go toward bringing well-paying jobs to the middle and lower classes. Clinton also used the topic to advocate for paid family leave and equal pay for women and minorities.

Trump made a valid point about the export of jobs to other countries and how America needs to offer incentives for businesses to continue creating their products in the United States, as well as heavily taxing those products constructed abroad. Trade was a major issue discussed during this topic and this is where the two really began to debate.

As we moved onto other topics, you could really tell that Trump was getting heated and annoyed and he started to go aggressively on the defensive. He continually denied statements made by both Clinton and Holt, which were direct quotes from his former speeches, and continually interrupted Clinton to say that what she was saying was wrong. He also began to lose fluency, as he would start sentences and move onto new thoughts without finishing them. He became very hard to follow, especially considering that the bulk of his words from then on seemed to be Trump desperately trying to convince us that he’s better and that Clinton is terrible, rather than actually talking about the issues and what he will do to change them.

I thought Clinton showed wonderful grace and respect to her fellow candidate (even though he hardly deserved it.) My favorite tweets of the night were about Clinton essentially pulling a Jim-Halpert face from The Office. She consistently acknowledged the validity in Trump’s statements when they were valid, but used actual facts and testimony to bolster her arguments about what she believes would be best for the country. She did not interrupt or scream, she only talked louder when Trump was attempting to steal the floor from her. She held her own, of which I am proud.

During his interruptions and temper-tantrums, Trump made many, many statements that were either mis-statements or outright lies. Through statements made during the debate, Trump implied (either directly or indirectly, that’s up to you) that he doesn’t care about a place unless he owns property there. He said, “My responsibility is to do well for myself, my family and my employees…,” which makes me question whether he would really be looking out for the American people. He also implied that he doesn’t pay income taxes and he is smart for doing so. And finally, during a tirade against Clinton, he said he had the better temperament of the two.

Clinton’s response to all of these was both graceful and destroying. Clinton used the attacks to comment on his inability to fully understand the responsibilities of the president and the government. She also outlined the various ways in which she is qualified for the office, and attacked his treatment of both women and minorities. You could hear the implied mic-drop so many times, I thought they might end the debate right then and there.

What was overwhelmingly apparent to me, straight from the beginning, was how Clinton continually showed a calming dignity while she talked about the changes needed in a positive and optimistic way — even when she was talking about the awful racial divisions currently tearing the country apart. Meanwhile, Trump gave extremely bland, overarching ideas with no specificity, made sweeping generalizations and diverted the conversation to things like his business acumen, his endorsements and how his “responsibility is to do well for myself…” And he said all of this with an overwhelming amount of negativity, painting America in a sensationally dismal manner. If you were only listening to his side, I would feel so hopeless about the state of our country. And, I get it. We are literally living in the beginning line of a Charles Dickens novel: it is the best of times and the worst of times right now.

In one sense, we are better than we have ever been before. Our economy is somewhat stable despite our debt. There is more equality and diversity than ever before, although we do still have some work to do. LGBT rights continue to grow and acceptance continues to permeate our culture. Now, more than ever before, people are encouraged to embrace their true selves rather than assimilate as hard and as fast as you can. We are at the height of discovery, technology and invention. This is a wonderful time to be alive.

However, terrorism, both foreign and domestic, is much more of a threatening reality than ever before. Corruption is at one of its highest points in history, and its becoming fatal for so many. Taxes and housing markets continue to rise, making it even less likely that the middle class can pursue the “American dream” when they can’t even afford a place to live making $30,000 per year.

Trump focuses on the latter paragraph, while Clinton takes all of it and encourages us that things are good, we still have a ways to go, but we will get there and we will be better than ever. I think it’s clear that Clinton won this debate and I have every confidence she will win others in the future. I just hope voters will realize Trump’s lies and behavior are unacceptable for the leader of a country.

P.S. Here’s a great segment from Steven Colbert, wrapping up after the debate.

What are your thoughts of the first 2016 Presidential Debate? Who do you think did a better job of outlining their platforms and plans for change? Will you be voting this November? Let’s talk.

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