By Jono Davis
International Relations Student
“Well, I don’t expect us to cover all the issues of this campaign tonight” sighed a brazen Lester Holt, as he unknowingly summarized the debate in the first five seconds of opening, the only section of the night Holt would receive the respect worthy of a moderator in a presidential debate.
In truth, debate has become somewhat of a misnomer in this election cycle, both on the political stage and off in the wings of the internet; hateful comments, illicit “facts” and even violence have all been employed to convey messages and policies. The Republicans, and although militant wings of the Left are also partial to these sort of tactics, must take substantial responsibility in what has been an incredulous, spiteful, and altogether discredited Donald Trump campaign. The first debate, taking place in Hofstra University, New York, illustrated subtle hints of this, but more importantly highlighted the gulf of difference between the two candidates, on both policy and experience (note this is not necessarily a negative comment on Trump; it is his inexperience or rather, “anti-establishment” stature that almost certainly gained him the Republican primary).
The opening question would be in regards to “achieving prosperity” (Holt’s words), involving the creation of jobs and maintaining infrastructure and industry growth. Clinton, going first, would play an interesting angle; going after undecided Sanders and Stein supporters, Clinton pledged higher taxes and the closing of tax loopholes, as well as investment in green energy. At least, that is what could be picked out of a speech packed with waffle, including the line “I want us to invest in you. I want us to invest in your future” which means pretty much whatever one wants it too.The only reason Clinton knows she can get away with avoiding the big domestic questions (she is much stronger on foreign policy and always has been) is because her opposing candidate makes her non-sentences sound like solid gold.
Trump, on the same question of jobs would spew “our jobs are fleeing the country. They’re going to Mexico,” which sounded rather ironic given Trump’s previous statement about Mexico as being a den for rapists and drug-dealers. Trump’s biggest issue on the national stage is that he hasn’t adapted his tone since the Republican primary, a much more niche audience than the general electorate: vagueness, making statements such as “we’re losing our good jobs, so many of them” and “a friend of mine who builds plants said it’s the eighth wonder of the world,” doesn’t play well with Independents, Democrats and let’s be honest moderate Republicans. Another facet is the vitriol and tenacity of Trump, which played extremely well next to an unenthusiastic Jeb Bush and Ben Carson, but makes his Democrat counterpart look calm and collected, somewhat removing her title as “too polished and fake.”
The two candidates would come to clash directly on tax and trade issues; Trump looking to proudly lower corporation tax (for small and big business) by 35 percent to 15 percent while Clinton’s is actually a little vaguer, merely stating “We … need to have a tax system that rewards work and not just financial transactions,” but further distancing herself from Donald by emphasising overseas trade.
It is worth noting at this point that Trump’s plan is set to “reduce federal revenue by $4.4 trillion over the next decade on a static basis under the higher-rate assumption,” and Clinton’s trade deals that she is referring to (TTIP, TPP, NAFTA etc.) when she says “we are 5 percent of the world’s population; we have to trade with the other 95 percent,” when combined, are unpopular among almost every American. Each are appealing to their voter base in these statement; Trump, to his hardcore Tea Party-esque small government slashing social welfare Republican, and Clinton to her loyal globalist Liberalists who look to the concept of “global citizenry.” Attacks on both sides at this point ensue, mud being slung left and right (with Holt made to sit quietly in a corner), leading to a moment that will almost certainly be turning up in the next wave of Clinton attack ads:
Watching it back, the sound of palms hitting the faces of many Republicans are almost audible as Trump utters the phrase “That’s called business, by the way.”
Clinton looks in control, but more importantly she looks sane.
Image by Evan Vucci/Associated Press.