Last night, attracting the largest viewing audience for a debate in history, this year’s presidential candidates went head to head in the first Presidential Debate of 2016. Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton faced off against Republican candidate Donald J. Trump at Hofstra University, fiercely debating the issues that resonate most with voters. Following a civil handshake between the two, the candidates wasted no time in making their own cases and boldly denouncing their opponent.
Moderator Lester Holt began the debate by asking the candidates their plans to create jobs and decrease the wealth gap. Clinton’s plans emphasize the middle class and aiding small business by increasing the minimum wage, promoting profit sharing throughout businesses, and ensuring equal pay for women. She also highlighted the importance of balancing family and work by making paid family leave a central issue in her campaign. Trump’s plan underlined the need to keep jobs within the United States. He put emphasis on Mexico and highlighted the need to maintain domestic business.
As the issues of race and criminal justice unfortunately seemed to go hand-in-hand throughout this year, they were debated in great detail between the two candidates. When asked how each candidate would “heal the divide”, Clinton highlighted the need to create trust between communities and police. She discussed a plan to retrain the police and only use violence when absolutely necessary. She made the point that getting guns out of the wrong hands and eliminating racial bias were key steps to fixing the criminal justice system.
Trump put a large emphasis on “law and order.” He also agreed with taking the step to get guns out of the wrong hands. He brought up the ‘stop and frisk’ policy, which he believes can contribute to a decrease in violence. On the other side, Clinton sees this practice as unconstitutional and ineffective.
Both candidates were prepared to advance by confronting the other on their past weaknesses. Despite Trump’s frequent interruptions, Clinton confronted him on a number of controversial issues. When asked about his unreleased tax returns, Trump replied with a familiar answer, saying that they will be released after he is finished being audited. He went on to say that he will release his tax returns, only when Clinton releases her emails. Clinton calls his response a classic “bait and switch”, predicting that voters will never see Trump’s tax returns because he is “hiding something.”
Clinton was also unrelenting in her efforts to shed light on Trump’s history of racism and sexism. On the controversial issue of birtherism, Clinton said it was a “racist lie”, calling him out for his prejudice towards President Barack Obama. Trump confidently blamed the Clinton campaign for starting the controversy. As far as his history of sexism, Clinton brought specific examples to the table. She referenced a pageant contestant who he had previously referred to as “Miss Piggy” as well as “Miss Housekeeping” because she was Latina.
Clinton said “This is a man who has called women pigs, slobs, and dogs, and someone who has said pregnancy is an inconvenience to employers.”
Some of Trump’s confrontations against Clinton came from the accusations that, although she’s been in politics for 30 years, she lacks past success. This lead to a debate over the North American Free Trade Agreement, which former President Bill Clinton passed into law. Trump also accuses Clinton of supporting the Trans-Pacific Partnership, saying she called it “the gold standard.” Trump continued to raise his voice over her defense. Clinton responded, saying, “Well Donald, I know you live in your own reality, but that is not the facts.” Clinton said.
There seemed to be a firm disagreement of simple fact as the candidates debated how to deal with ISIS— specifically when it came to homegrown attacks. Trump was quick to equate the formation of ISIS with the war in Iraq and accused Clinton, saying “They way they[Obama and Clinton] got out[of Iraq] was a disaster, and ISIS was formed.” Clinton firmly stated that Trump supported the invasion of Iraq. Although moderator Lester Holt confirmed Clinton’s accusation, Trump persistently denied it. As the debate on terrorism progressed, Trump referred to the Iran Deal as the “worst deal in history.” However, Clinton stood by her effort to put a lid on Iran’s nuclear program.
As the debate came to a close, both candidates agreed that no matter the outcome of the election, they will accept the results. With the debate having concluded, there is now talk amongst voters as to who came out on top, and who fell short. Scarlett Bekus, a freshman double major in Political Science and Economics at Pace, said “In my opinion, Hillary Clinton won the debate by using accurate facts and calling Trump out on not releasing his taxes and his past business failures, but Donald Trump still got some good points in and was able to point out some of the mistakes and failures in Hillary’s past.” Berkus’s opinion is one proving to be somewhat popular on the internet. The next presidential debate will be October 9th at Washington University in St. Louis.