Debate Night in America – Round Three

by: Chris Thompson and Michael Shields

Across the Margin guides you through the wreckage and the aftermath of the third and final Presidential Debate of 2016…

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“Such a nasty woman.”  – Donald Trump

As the 2016 Presidential election draws near, the circus sideshow that has become this election cycle continues to captivate and terrify. In Donald Trump’s own words, since the previous debate and the backtracking of a healthy share of his Republican support, “the shackles have been taken off me.” Although this proclamation did little to heighten Donald’s haughty swagger, as he was already a freight train runneth out of control as is, he did, in just the last week, mock a sexual assault victim, touting “she would not have been my first choice,” continued to flatter Russian President Vladimir Putin, celebrated leaked information from a foreign country attempting to interfere with our electoral process, and went in hard on conspiracy theorizing, claiming that Hillary Clinton is secretly colluding with international banks to plot the destruction of U.S. sovereignty. On top of all this, Mr. Trump continued to insist that the election – which has yet to take place – is rigged, going as far as proclaiming at last night’s debate that he is unsure if he will respect the 2016 Presidential election result.

The Unites States has a litany of strong traditions, with one of its cornerstones being the peaceful transition of power. Trump’s continual and strong refusal to respect this tradition, unheard of in American history, is an idea that not only undermines the democracy he professes to champion, but functions as an obvious maneuver to shift the blame elsewhere if he loses the election. In the lead up to the final debate President Obama put Trump’s immature complaining in perfect perspective, stating plainly that Trump is “whining before the game is over.” And Hillary Clinton furthered her character assassination of Trump by stating during the debate last night that this sort of position is more evidence of Trump’s “pattern of deviousness” and his “talking down” of our democracy.

In preparation for the third and final debate last evening at the University of Nevada in Las Vegas that was moderated by Fox News’s Chris Wallace, both campaigns were in full spin mode, submitting guest lists designed to provoke the other’s camps. Traditionally, a candidate’s guests are chosen because they highlight a central theme, but at last’s night’s debate the candidates guests only served to indicate how much they dislike each other. Imploring the same sort of mindset in readying for a television reality show, Trump once again pulled out all the stops. As his guest for the evening, of which there were many, the Republican Presidential candidate welcomed President Barack Obama’s half-brother, Malik, a Trump supporter who would, Trump believed, highlight the nation’s frustration with the standing President, an administration linked closely with Clinton’s campaign. Not to be outdone, Secretary Clinton was joined by two prominent billionaires who supported her campaign, the current CEO of Hewlett-Packard and former Republican California gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman, widely considered one of the highest-ranking Republican defectors, and Mark Cuban, the loquacious owner of the Dallas Mavericks and disparager of all things Trump. Mr. Cuban’s attendance at the third and final debate can only be viewed as what it really was, another dig at Trump’s “inflated’ wealth. So with both candidates and their accompaniments safely in their corners, and with the expectations for the evening’s debate to be tense and anything but jovial, all were ready to rumble.

The debates format spanned six topics, ranging from the Supreme Court and its impending nomination of new Justices to the future of entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicaid, and from mitigating foreign hotspots like Syria and Iraq to both of the candidate’s fitness to serve as President of the United States. In all, the evening’s format was rather uneventful, with Chris Wallace tightly controlling the exchanges and for brief moments, the debate possessing instances where it actually felt like one was watching a Presidential debate of old. But those moments were fleeting, existing in only the first half hour, and once the gloves came off, what unfolded was the sort of fighting that Las Vegas hasn’t seen since Mike Tyson fought Evander Holyfield and took off a piece of his ear.

On the topic of the future of the Supreme Court – with the next President potentially nominating two to three new Justices, which could conceivably determine the balance of the court for the next twenty five years – both candidates responses were polarizing and extremely opposite. Secretary Clinton’s insistence that the 2nd Amendment (a.k.a. the right to bear arms) will, of course, continue in the United States under her Presidency, but only with “reasonable regulation” and “in a way that will saves lives,” did nothing to gain her any voters among those who consider themselves pro-gun Americans. But it might have been enough to reel in some moderate gun-rights supporters who have become appalled at the high rates of senseless death and violence at the hands of unregulated firearms. In contrast, Trump’s insistence, while displaying an ignorance to how gun traffickers work around state laws, that he would strongly support and protect the 2nd Amendment, even going so far as to say that he would nominate conservative Supreme Court Justices to achieve this goal, could potentially be his achilles heel, as a Supreme Court with so many conservative-leaning Justices will invariably have a domino effect on other U.S. laws. One downfall of such a right-leaning Supreme Court could be the overturning of Roe vs. Wade, the highly controversial law which protects a woman’s right to have an abortion. In a series of back and forths that saw Trump using fear-based rhetoric to make his point and proclaiming that Hillary wants fetuses to be killed days before they are born (displaying an utter incompetence of how abortion actually works) and Secretary Clinton firing back that she has seen the wreckage of governments meddling in a woman’s right to make healthcare decisions, citing both China and Romania as examples, it was highly evident how far apart each candidate stood on the issue. But what it all boiled down to was each candidate painting a picture of what kind of country they envisioned for our future, and, notably, the country that Clinton foresees is one where “the government has no business in the decisions that women make with their families in accordance with their faith and with medical advice.” And she vowed to “stand up for that right.”

The topic of Immigration saw Trump launch into a barrage of controversial and at times, comical statements. With Trump’s insistence that “we have no country if we have no borders,” and his strong opinion that we have “some bad hombres,” here in the United States, in reference to all the drugs lords who have crossed the U.S.-Mexican border, it was hard not to envision a society that has strong parallels to past examples of injustice. With Secretary Clinton painting a grim picture of a Trump’s future America, where a massive law enforcement action is implemented to go door to door and school to school to “rip families apart” in service to Trump’s immigration policy, it was hard not to have strong reservations about such an idea. But with Secretary Clinton’s view that for all illegal immigrants currently in the U.S. there would be a path to citizenship for them – except for any person who is violent or who has been vetted for deportation – being light on substance and heavy on vague phrases like “comprehensive immigration reform,” both sides failed to provide satisfactory solutions to the problem. Although immigration is a topic that has received a substantial amount of attention throughout the campaign, the full particulars of the issue were glossed over once again last evening, as they have been in the previous two debates.

In an odd pivot, the topic of Immigration drifted to Russia and it’s increasingly meddlesome role in both the Middle East and the 2016 Presidential Election. At no other time in history has a country been so publically called out for engaging in espionage in order to influence an election and Secretary Clinton took this opportunity in the debate to call out Donald Trump and his so called goodwill for Russian President Vladimir Putin. Taking her point a step further, she declared that Russia’s efforts at influencing the election was one, if not the, biggest topic of the evening and she went on the attack, putting Trump on the spot and demanding he admit that Russia was responsible for all it had been accused of. Trump, in a well-exercised maneuver to this line of aggressive questioning insisted that he didn’t even know Putin, but also stated that “if we got along, that would be good.” Hillary responded that she found Russia’s actions “deeply disturbing” and that what Russia’s real goal is to get Trump elected President so they could have another leader to “spout the Putin line,” as if Trump would be their “puppet.” In an exchange that was a comical as it was saddening, Trump choose to interrupt Secretary Clinton and crassly claim “you’re the puppet.” It wasn’t the first, or the last time last night that Mr. Trump interrupted his opponent’s allotted speaking time, but it certainly ranks up there as one of his better (and not in a good way) one-liners.

“I mean, who does that?”  – Hillary Clinton (In reference to the Trump Foundation using donated money to buy a six foot portrait of Donald Trump.))

By far, last night’s Presidential debate was both candidates best performance and the nominee’s spoke on numerous topics beyond what we just discussed. However, Trump shot himself in the foot several times (“I will look at it at the time, I will keep you in suspense”) throughout the televised ninety minutes despite his improved execution, and Hillary brought her debate A-game once again, draped from head-to-toe in brilliant white, effectively marginalizing any benefits Trump may have gained from his own performance. All in all last night there were nostalgic moments where it felt like we were back in 2008, watching Obama and Romney go at it in a very Presidential manner, intermixed with instances of clarity and rational and well-reasoned thought. But then the harsh cold reality of 2016 came crashing back. Women were suddenly called opportunists or hired accusers and talk of espionage and borders and inner city hellholes and fleeing jobs stuck us in the face like icy rain, rousing us from the warmth of our momentary reminiscence. Add in the fact that Trump called Secretary Clinton a “nasty woman,” a bizarre thing to say when taking into account the swirling controversy surrounding his treatment of women, and then threw in a “lights out” moment in American politics by refusing to say he would accept the will of the people and the Presidential Election’s result, the final nail in Trump’s campaign coffin, and that of the greater Debate Night in America spectacle, seemed finally struck.

Going into last evening’s debate, we here at Across the Margin had a multitude topics that we hoped would be addressed, chief amongst them climate change and energy, a topic that has received a paltry 325 seconds of coverage in the first two debates combined. With a moderator who has been known to make some fairly disheartening claims on the issue, hope for a consequential discussion about the status of our planet was paltry going into the debate. Once again last night, those who were yearning for a question or two about one of the most pressing matters facing mankind were left dumbfounded. In the third and final debate of the 2016 Presidential Election, not even a moment was spent on an issue which could – if scientists studying the gradual increase in the Earth’s average atmospheric temperature and its oceans and man’s responsibility in this modification are correct – deem all these other debate points inconsequential. This grand omission, in some ways, sums up the failings of the 2016 Presidential campaign, as it seems that throughout the entirety of its run, we have been missing the point, coercively distracted, and ushered away from the heart of the matter. If we can’t have a meaningful discussion about the planet’s well being, the scarcity of natural resources, and energy concerns in a Presidential Debate in 2016, then we truly have an uphill battle ahead of us.

Election Day is eighteen days away from today, and we all know the task that awaits us come Tuesday, November 8th. While the rhetoric that is bouncing around the airwaves is that Trump’s days in the spotlight are numbered and his campaign for President of the United States is done, there is still work to be done still. On Election Day we must actively make sure Donald Trump never steps foot in 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue or disgraces the Resolute desk that President Kennedy first placed in the Oval Office in 1961. And this can mean only one thing: we must vote for Hillary Clinton for President of the United States (yes folks, your official Across the Margin endorsement has arrived just in time for the election!). While warts are evident on both sides of the parties and either candidate’s likeability is at historic lows, the one’s that lie on the Republican side, we feel, are grotesque, plentiful and boiling turbulently over. Thwarting the most unqualified Presidential candidate in history is not reason alone to go to the polls and vote this November mind you, for the opportunity exists to give the Senate a much needed reconfiguration as well. Flipping the Senate in this election comes with an added bonus, as Paul Ryan recently warned, “If we [Republicans] lose the Senate, do you know who becomes chair of the Senate Budget Committee? A guy named Bernie Sanders. You ever heard of him?” We have. And here’s hoping. But beyond November 8th, there is still more work to do. As a nation must never put ourselves in this position again. We owe it to ourselves and our future generations to make it clear that this Presidential Election cycle is rock bottom. And not only does the Republican Party need a complete overhaul, the Democrats need to dig deeper to unearth qualified candidates, without deep ties to corporations, special interest groups, and super PACs. This election should not be something we simply get over and move on, but one we must learn from, because once you hit rock bottom, the only way to go is up. The dark cloud that has languished above the United States during this campaign is poised to persist far beyond election day, and it is up to We The People to part the skies and make way for sunny days ahead.

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