Final Presidential Debate
Overview of the debate and the strategies used by the candidates / AC students' general responses
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On Wednesday, October 19th the Austin College Student Democrats and Young Republicans co-hosted a debate watch party in the Pouch Club for the final presidential debate between Democratic Nominee Hillary Clinton and Republican Nominee Donald Trump. In attending the event, I hoped to analyze the debate strategies used by both candidates and get an overall feel for how students at Austin College viewed the candidates based on how they responded to the debate.
The debate began with the moderator asking the candidates to describe what direction they wanted to see the supreme court take the country. This is clearly a pressing issue, as there is currently being an open spot on the Supreme Court. Hillary Clinton spoke first, emphasizing the need to focus on women’s rights, LGBT rights, and the rights of people in the work place. She concluded her statement by saying “the supreme court should represent us all.” Donald Trump answered the question very differently, emphasizing the need to uphold the second amendment and pro-life causes. He specified this was the way the country’s founders meant the constitution to be interpreted.
Following Trump’s statement, a debate ensued regarding the upholding of the second amendment. Hillary Clinton argued there must be reasonable regulation on the second amendment, including comprehensive background checks. Moreover, she emphasized her support for the second amendment, while simultaneously wanting to see it regulated. Trump countered the proposition of regulation by stating Chicago has the toughest laws, yet still has tremendous gun violence. Yet he failed to consider the number of variables likely moderating this correlation, such as population density, which may increase gun violence regardless of regulations.
Following the debate on gun regulation, the candidates moved on to discuss abortion rights. Trump said states should decide if the Supreme Court decision Roe V. Wade, which gives women the right to choose to have an abortion, is upheld. Hillary Clinton countered by declaring her support for Roe. V. Wade, while also voicing her support for Planned Parenthood. She declared her support for Planned Parenthood to be based on the beneficial services the organization provides, such as cancer screenings. Additionally, she stated her belief a woman should not be forced to carry a fetus to term if her health is in jeopardy. She went on to say “you can regulate [abortion] if you are doing so with the life and the health of the mother taken into account.” This response elicited applause from the AC students attending the debate watch party.
Of course, Trump countered Clinton’s response with the use of scare tactics, utilizing the emotionally-charged phrase “you should not be able to rip the baby out of the womb.” This statement clearly exhibits an appeal to individuals’ emotions, disregarding Clinton’s stance that late-term abortions should only be performed when the health of the mother is at risk.
The next major topic covered at the debate was immigration. Trump advocated for stronger borders, as drugs “pour in” through weak borders, which leads to crime. Trump specified heroin abuse as being a result of weak borders, again using a scare tactic to garner support. Additionally, among one of Trump’s most shocking comments for the evening, was his statement “there are some bad hombres over there,” referencing the citizens of Mexico. This comment garnered a shocked gasp from the audience at AC.
Finally, Hillary Clinton countered Trump’s statements about immigration by enunciating her position of not wanted to rip families apart by making immigration regulations stricter. She also pointed out in order to enact Trump’s plan, there must be a massive law enforcement presence, which is not in line with our nation’s ideals. In her words, “we are a nation of immigrants.”
The rest of the debate continued on in a similar fashion. Generally, both candidates stated their positions on various issues presented to them by the moderator, with Trump frequently resorting to scare tactics and attacks on Hillary Clinton’s character as his counter-arguments to Clinton’s positions. On the other hand, Clinton tended to point out flaws in Trump’s plans on the rare occasion he specified any specific policy ideas, as well as elucidate her own stances and ideas of how to deal with various issues.
In general, the audience attending the event, as evidenced by their applause in response to Clinton’s stance on abortion and shock at Trump’s comments about immigration, show signs of support to Hillary Clinton more than Donald Trump. Additionally, since the debate watch party was co-hosted by the Student Democrats and Young Republicans, one would expect both sides to be equally represented.
Overall, there was an overwhelming turnout at the debate and the interest students have taken for the future of our country. Hopefully this will translate to a high voter turnout on the part of AC students on election day. It will be interesting to see which candidate will come out on top—Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump—at the mock election AC is holding this week.