TU’s School of Arts and Sciences hosted a live streaming of the presidential debate last Monday, September 26th. Afterwards, a discussion panel was held among attending students, faculty and other visitors. It was hosted by Political Science professor Matt Hindman, Communication professor Mark Brewin, and English professor Holly Laird, who also co-directs the Women’s and Gender Studies Program.
The debate itself lasted a little under two hours, during which the audience was urged to refrain from talking, cheering or booing. Afterwards, Laird gave her thoughts on the debate, noting how personality has become more and more important as time has gone on, adding “Personality has come to run our debates now.” She was surprised that neither Trump nor Hillary brought up political corruptness.
Mark Brewin offered three lenses to view the debate through. He suggested that the audience should question who won the debate, recognize how much information was communicated by the debaters and recognize how the debate itself communicated an idea of how important political decision making is in the United States. An estimated 84 million people watched the debate, making it the most watched presidential debate ever, topping the 81 million viewers of the 1980 debate between Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter.
Hindman said he thought Hillary did well on race issues and keeping her composure, but that she did not speak well enough to young voters or “reassemble the Obama coalition voters.” In 2008, young voters preferred current President Obama to the next-closest competitor by more than four to one. In a recent New York Times Poll, more than a third of voters aged 18 to 29 said they would vote for a third party candidate. Professor Hindman later added that Clinton still has opportunities to appeal to American youth.
After the floor was opened for discussion, one attendee in the audience argued that Clinton “pretty effectively called out” Trump on his lack of international knowledge, and wondered what students’ thoughts were on Trump’s answers. Later, when professor Hindman asked if students cared about the issue of NATO, one student replied that he did not think participation in NATO was an issue until “Trump made an issue of it” and that the Republican nominee “talks about our treaties like they’re hollow words.” Since the debate, Trump has continued to question the United States’ obligation to protect its NATO allies. “You know, so many of them [NATO allies] are delinquent” he said at a rally last Wednesday, two days after the debate.
At the panel, the crowd was split between undecided voters, Clinton voters and Trump voters. One student, who said they previously supported Bernie Sanders before he stopped pursuing the candidacy, argued that both Hillary and Donald have hawkish policy plans, and that their view of the world is “very negative”. Another student argued that both Trump and Clinton fail to be relatable where Bernie Sanders succeeded.
The audience voiced their opinions on how multiple issues were handled or not handled during the debate. One student pointed out how the Israel/Palestine issue had not been discussed.
Clinton’s email scandal was more briefly discussed than many imagined it would be. However, Professor Laird argued that the scandal had already been exhausted by the media.
Hindman pointed out that Trump was unable to continuously attack Clinton for her email mistakes. The Democratic nominee said she did not have an excuse for her mistakes and did not try to deflect the question. Mark Brewin said it was the “best answer she’d ever given” about the scandal.
A NBC poll shows that 52 percent of likely voters think that Clinton won the debate, while 21 percent chose Trump. 26 percent said neither won the debate. Neither third party candidate Gary Johnson or Jill Stein were invited or involved in the first debate. The next presidential debate is scheduled for October 9th.