Students watched presidential debate with mounting fear for democracy

Sun, 2016/10/23

The presidential debates wrapped up on Wednesday, October 19, with a debate at the University of Nevada in Las Vegas, Nevada. The debate featured Democratic nominee Secretary Hillary Clinton and Republican nominee Donald Trump. It featured Chris Wallace, a Fox News anchor, as the moderator. Clinton, according to Politico, won the first two debates. Going into the third debate, opinions were divided as to who would win.

The Office of Campus Life hosted a viewing of the debate in Center Court. People went in and out throughout the event, with attendance floating around 50 people. The crowd featured people from virtually all social groups and a representative racial and gender makeup. Among the crowd was a Jill Stein canvasser who passed out flyers advertising the Green party candidate’s positions.

The crowd in Center Court was respectful and quiet for most of the debate, at times seeming disengaged. There were exceptions to that, though. At a few moments throughout the debate, the crowd erupted into cheers, boos, and most of all laughter. The lines that spurred these reactions were almost all personal jabs at the candidates.

The debate had an ostentatious start since both candidates continued their psychological manipulation. Trump invited the mother of a victim of the Benghazi embassy attacks and the Kenyan born half-brother of Barack Obama. Clinton invited two billionaire critics of her opponent.

Another constant from the last debate were the interruptions. According to Time, Trump interrupted Clinton 48 times, with Clinton only interrupting nine times. These interruptions mostly consisted of fleeting comments such as the now infamous “Wrong!” comments from Trump. There were some substantive interruptions—though only from Trump. These interruptions focused mostly Clinton’s emails and her character. Clinton responded to these claims with calm denials and accusations of her own regarding Trump’s history with women.

This debate also brought up two specific points that are significant within the presidential campaign—and the history of democracy—as a whole. The first moment was when Trump was asked by Wallace directly “Do you make the same commitment that you'll absolutely accept the result of the election?” Trump immediately responded by saying “I will look at it at the time. I’m not looking at anything now, I'll look at it at the time.” This reasonably scared a large portion of the media and the electorate, since America has enjoyed over 200 years of peaceful transitions of power between presidents, with losing candidates respecting the outcome of the election.

The other highly talked about moment within the debate came at the end when Trump interrupted Clinton, saying simply “Such a nasty woman.”  This statement made many deeply uncomfortable, some saying that it had deeply misogynistic tones. Some media sources such as Vox and the New York Times published pieces that made it clear this was an unprofessional and unnecessary thing to say, going as far as to use it as further proof that Trump mistreats women. Others leaned into it and used it, particularly in conjunction with Janet Jackson’s 1986 hit “Nasty,” as evidence that the system of politics is biased against women and that Clinton is doing all she can to break through the proverbial glass ceiling.

This debate was marred with insults, interruptions, and an air of tension that has been unseen in recent election cycles. That said, Clinton, a symbol of the political machine’s workings in Washington D.C., has demonstrably beaten Trump, for a third debate in a row, as shown in scientific polls such as the CNN/ORC poll.