Who Triumphed in the First Presidential Debate?

PHOTO courtesy of politifact.com | Clinton appeared to be the stronger candidate at the first presidential debate, according to Emily Kowalik ’18.

Photo Courtesy of politifact.com | Clinton appeared to be the stronger candidate at the first presidential debate, according to Emily Kowalik ’18.


Emily Kowalik ’18
Assistant Opinions Editor

Last Monday at Hofstra University in New York, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump lashed out at one another on the debate stage in a fight to win over undecided voters. While these candidates are very close in the polls, there are a decisive number of undecideds.

From my point of view, Clinton emerged the clear winner, while Trump’s performance only served to emphasize his already conspicuous weaknesses. He merely reiterated many of his unsubstantiated campaign statements, all while harassing and taunting his opponent in his usual boisterous, unpresidential manner. Clinton articulated clear and concise plans on domestic and foreign policy, while Trump did not present any sort of precise approach toward such challenges.

 By the end of the night, there were some substantive exchanges on the issues. On the topic of achieving prosperity: Clinton voiced her intention to raise the minimum wage, spend on infrastructure, obtain paid family leave and paid child-care, create a debt-free college system and initiate a program of profit sharing for workers. Trump talked about jobs leaving the U.S., putting much blame upon China and Mexico.

On the issue of taxes, Trump said that he intended to reduce taxes and renegotiate trade deals. Clinton countered that Trump’s tax plan is a trickle down  system which would help the wealthy.

An incomplete discussion was given on the issue of race relations: Clinton argued for a reduced availability of guns while Trump contended that law and order in inner cities would help the black community. Trump also supported “stop and frisk” procedures, while Clinton said that “stop and frisk” has been found unconstitutional because it targets young blacks and Hispanics.

Regarding the security of America, both candidates discussed the hacking done by foreign nations and the need to increase cyber security. Clinton also questioned whether Trump’s temperament was an impediment with regard to handling nuclear crises.

Trump’s comportment turned the debate into what everyone expected to see: a ludicrous, absurd form of entertainment that focused little upon the actual issues. Trump spent an inordinate amount of time rehashing ridiculous arguments started on Twitter, defending his level of wealth and digressing on long tirades, such as arguing that not paying any federal income tax merely indicated he was “smart” and knew how to run a “good business.”

With a candidate like Trump as an opponent, it wasn’t difficult for Clinton to appear the stronger candidate. For the most part, Clinton was well-prepared, poised and articulate. That’s not to say Clinton spent the debate outlining precise policy proposals; she actually spent much more time steering conversation topics back to Trump’s failings — such as his refusal to release his tax returns, issues surrounding his bankruptcies and debt, etc. She also seemed more interested in winning points by directing pointed jokes and jabs at Trump. Arguments that should have been directed towards tackling major issues facing Americans, especially important to the students in the audience, would have been substantive discussions on race and civil rights, issues surrounding student loans, tax reforms, social security and more — were instead developed into pathetic volleys of taunts. Yet, in spite of the fact that Clinton chose to use the platform of this seminal debate in order to disparage her opponent rather than give support for her own views, she still amply displayed that she is more qualified to fill the role of president than Trump.

Though, at the end of the debate, Clinton did not make much headway in presenting a case for why undecided voters should choose her.  The question remains whether either candidate managed to bring any undecided voters over to their side.

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