Monday night’s Presidential debate was one of the rare contests in history that featured no clear winner, only one grossly apparent loser, the American people. The candidates spend ninety minutes hurling insults, interruptions, and contradictions at each other with very little discussion on how their presidency would better our country. If the goal of these debates is to sway undecided voters, both failed miserably.
If American policy could be based on website plugs, gross misrepresentations, and flat out lies then we would have the pick of the litter after watching Monday’s debate. Unfortunately, our economic, militaristic, and domestic plans must all be based on substance and conviction. Which candidate point by point lays out the best plan for the next four years of American prosperity? All of those things can be independently researched, but it’s the job of each candidate to explain their policies in a clear and engaging way. All the candidates accomplished on the debate stage was successfully proving that after over a year on the campaign trail, they have become caricatures of themselves.
On the Trump side of the stage the billionaire embodied literally everything critics accused him of being. He interrupted, he insulted, and he came across as unprepared. He revealed no new information about his policies and even managed to apparently brag about not paying taxes; all qualities that appeal to Trump supporters and repel his detractors.
Standing behind the other podium, Clinton did everything that she was expected to do as well. She confronted Trump on some of his more outrageous claims, she came off more prepared, and she baited her opponent into going off message. Her preparedness also made her responses come across as stiff and scripted, again attracting and driving voters away in equal amounts.
This year the audience for the debates is very different. The portion of the electorate whom have already made up their minds have already seen all they need to see in order to make a decision and dug in on their candidate months ago. There is still roughly 15 percent to 20 percent of people who are currently voting third party or undecided, a much larger group than normal. This is the audience that the campaigns should be speaking to. With as close as the polls are, just a small pull of voters from this pool could give either candidate the election. Ironically, these are the same people that view both candidates as utterly unacceptable.
Knowing that, you might think the candidates would have gone in to the debates looking to appeal to this unusually large pool of voters. If the debate Monday did anything it was reinforce third party voters’ decisions and possibly drive voters away from their candidate to a third party after watching the train wreck this campaign has become.
For those who have already made up their minds it is merely cringe worthy political theatre.
Our president is supposed to be a unifier. They are supposed to bring the country together in times of distress. There was no one on that stage Monday with that in mind. Both candidates simply see the office as the crown jewel in their career long paths to accumulating more and more power. You could hear it in their contempt for one another and the arrogance in which each of them spoke. They each conducted themselves like they were owed this office by some divine birth right. There were a lot of “I’s”, “me’s”, and “you’s” thrown around Monday and not a lot of “we’s”. We didn’t hear much about working together. We heard a lot about tearing apart.
So the pundits will debate, social media users will vote, and pollsters will make phone calls. Eventually, based on all that information a consensus winner will be crowned, but this isn’t a reality show. This isn’t the Bachelor. We don’t get to watch the winner be crowned and then ride off into obscurity. We are choosing our leader, the person who represents us to the rest of the world. No candidate is ever perfect, but never have both main party candidates been viewed as so untrustworthy, unlikeable, and inspired so much hate from the opposing ide of the aisle. No matter who wins in November, the other forty some odd percent will feel disenfranchised and unrepresented. Based on what played out Monday, it’s doubtful either candidate will do much to fill that divide.