Drinking to Drown Out the Debate
Like many did across the country, my roommates and I gathered in front of the TV last Monday night, to watch the first presidential debate between candidates Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. We anxiously awaited some clarification on where each candidate stands on currently important issues. Such clarity comes forth only in a debate setting, where justifications are put on trial, opinions are in the spotlight; where the ability to critically analyze and question your opponent’s position is crucial and to competently articulate a defense for your own position is vital in order to win.
What we witnessed instead was a train wreck.
The course of the debate seemed to follow a pattern: the announcer would give a prompt pertaining to prevalent social and political issues, one candidate would be given two minutes to provide and defend their stance, Trump would interrupt, personal attacks would start to fly, fingers would start to be pointed, Clinton would roll her eyes, and by that point the conversation would be far enough away from the original prompt that the announcer would forcibly steer the debate in the direction of the next prompt. That is, if he could raise his voice louder than Trump’s, whose volume would steadily increase when the announcer gave him the time’s up notice. If I were to give this debate a title, it would be The Blame Game: Which Candidate Has Screwed Up Most?
We got a painfully thorough run-down of each candidates controversial actions: Clinton’s email scandal, Trump’s refusal to release his tax return, the time Trump insisted that President Obama was not a US citizen, Clinton’s support for the nuclear deal with Iran, Trump’s offensive rhetoric toward women, immigrants, African Americans, and so on. Clinton’s strategy for playing the blame game was to passively acknowledge and move on from the attacks, for example, when she admitted that she made a mistake in having a private email server. This strategy seemed to work well enough, because she managed to stay in the offensive position for the majority of the debate. Trump’s strategy, on the other hand, was to loudly and vehemently deny the truth of the allegations against him. Unfortunately for him, denial is not an argument, and because Clinton had prepared well enough to force him to provide more of a defense, he ended up contradicting himself several times. One example was when Clinton stated that Trump had supported the Iraq War before the invasion—he responded by saying “wrong” at least three times, but was unable to defend himself against the proof cited by Clinton.
Despite all the distraction, some issues were still discussed. Hillary was prepared for this, armed with facts, statistics, and plans for the future. Trump focused on finance and economic politics, which is one of his strong-suits. But on several other issues, it became painfully clear that he wasn’t as prepared as his opponent. This is evidenced by the number of times he repeated the same vague phrase, for example “we have to bring back law and order,” perhaps as a way to make up for the lack of substance in his argument. Another mechanism he used for this purpose was to cite the number of endorsements he’s received and who he’s received them from. Perhaps the most concerning assertion made by Trump was when he expressed support for bringing back “stop-and-frisk,” a strategy for reducing crime that was ruled unconstitutional in 2013 due to racial profiling. His stance on this, as well as the mention of the time he was sued for racial discrimination, was delegitimizing to claims he made throughout the rest of the debate that he will work hard for racial equality in our country.
I don’t blame Clinton for rolling her eyes and grimacing as many times as she did. I would have done the same. I was both highly concerned and frustrated by the time the debate was over; my notes were littered with sarcastic criticisms. The frustration of having two relatively unfavorable candidates, one of which is a celebrity that has gone bankrupt multiple times, has a way of making this debate seem like a bad reality TV show. My roommates must agree, because they all fell asleep on the couch around halfway through, epitomizing the state of the disenfranchised Millennial. It reminded me of a bumper sticker I had seen recently, which read “we’re screwed - 2016,” decorated in both colors and symbols of the Democratic and Republican parties. It’s no wonder people play presidential debate drinking games.
TL;DR: Trump wasn’t as prepared as Clinton for this debate, which mostly consisted of the candidates playing the blame game. Issues were touched on but not deeply debated, Trump contradicted himself multiple times, and the debate was primarily just a disaster.
The views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of other Arbitror contributors or Arbitror as a whole
Photo: “Hillary Clinton vs. Donald Trump” Originally posted to Flickr by DonkeyHotey at https://www.flickr.com/photos/47422005@N04/24564574914, licensed under CC-by-sa-2.0