Clash of the cringeworthy: How the debate proves that election season will prove difficult

The first presidential debate, which took place on Sept. 26, is an event I hope to regale to my future children. Of course, I do not mean that in a positive sense. On the contrary- it will serve as a cautionary tale about how two potential presidents made Americans lose even more trust in the electoral process (if such a thing could happen). To many of us, this will either be our first or second time voting in a presidential election. For most of our young lives we wondered who we were going to vote for to lead our great democracy towards the future. As a great democracy, we are able to use our First Amendment rights to allow civil debates between opposing candidates. However, while Clinton can attest to her experience as Secretary of State and Trump can attest to his many successful businesses, the debate as a whole was poorly conducted by both candidates.

Clinton definitely had the upper hand in naming certain key successes in her political career and in policy making. Her roles as a senator, first lady and secretary of state make her well-versed on the internal mechanics of government and made her stand out from the crowd of other Democratic hopefuls. While former Bernie Sanders’ supporters still worry about her placement on the political spectrum, she’s deemed as being progressive enough and willing to compromise in a continuously adapting party. However, I was disappointed that she was not able to strongly counter Trumps’ arguments, primarily due to her picking on Trump’s personality rather than his lack of planning or lack of insight in regards to policy making. Although this seems like a minor complaint, maintaining the upper hand by appearing more rational and civilized will distinguish her from her competitor. I was also disappointed that she did not seem to make some kind of strong statement regarding her email scandal regarding the Benghazi attack and other political scandals, which are used by Trump and his supporters to view her in a criminal light.

Trump, on the other hand, has a strength that Clinton seems to lack and has been criticized for since the start of her campaign: the ability to emotionally appeal to disenfranchised, blue-collar America and convey a passionate temperament of strength and nationalism. Many Trump supporters agree with his rhetoric of the failing American industry, weakening ties between other nations and the threat of terrorist groups to our unity and strength as a nation. Though his actual dialogue may have been filled with repetitive slogans and little in-depth discussion regarding policy, his ability to sway stadiums of thousands proves that he has a powerful appeal to those who feel that Democrats (and most Republicans) will only muzzle their political representation. However, Mr. Trump lacks significant political experience and has been criticized as having few specific plans to fix the many issues he addresses in his speeches.

If anything was clear about our first presidential debate for the 2016 election cycle, it was that in either case Americans will be losing. Both candidates seem to have stooped to a new low- both in national popularity polls and in terms of personal character. It is certainly not going unheeded that Clinton has been involved in numerous political and personal scandals, the lack of conviction a scandal in itself. Additionally, Trump’s mismanagement of his businesses, his decaying relations with undocumented immigrants and 8th-grader-like argumentative style are not flying under the radar anytime soon either. If Clinton cannot redeem herself from her scandals and questionable ethics regarding trade and foreign relations, she will continue to fight an uphill battle against Trump’s aggressive interrogation and saber rattling. On the other hand, if Trump cannot heal his ties with the moderate Republican constituency and show better insight in regard to foreign policy or economic relations, he may begin to crumble under the pressure of both his party and his opponents’ party. Most importantly, if we Americans cannot be honest with ourselves and admit that both of these candidates have proven themselves critically flawed, we may get used to selecting the “lesser of two evils” rather than having rational choices between different political views.

COURTESY OF GAGE SKIDMORE & CARL HAYDEN

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