A hushed Republican populus, strained with anticipation and weighed down by the formidable reality of the United States’ presidential prospects, watched the first 2016 general election debate on Tuesday night, feebly hoping for any indication that the cataclysmic nominee that it had thrust upon itself had miraculously transformed into a more palatable, presidential candidate. He quite obviously had not.
Although Donald Trump commenced the night with a degree of composure, his demeanor began to falter shortly into the debate, reinforcing belief in an underlying naivete and oversight in the fledgeling candidate. By the second discussion topic, Trump seemed to have alienated a sizable portion of voters by casually remarking that not paying a cent in federal taxes “makes [him] smart,” thus insinuating that the average voter’s choice to fund troops, schools, and other governmental operations is unwise. He also succeeded in displaying a characteristic lack of courtesy by routinely interrupting his opponent and disregarding the debate moderator. His aggressive manner surely would have been far more severely criticized had it been witnessed in his female contender.
However, Hillary Clinton maintained a firmly deferential tone throughout the evening. She had spent weeks rigorously preparing for the debate and consequently, her answers, though evidently rehearsed, appeared clear and logically formatted. Trump surprisingly did not use Clinton’s predictability to his advantage, but rather delivered his typical disjointed declarations and facile accusations. His lack of preparation was obvious to viewers.
“He didn’t have a clear purpose,” observes SLV AP Government student, Robert Jeffrey, calling Trump’s performance “scattered.” Numerous critics shared this opinion, leading to widespread post-debate criticism of the Republican candidate. In fact, a recent Washington Post post-debate poll reported a 5 point increase in Trump’s unfavorability and revealed that only 18% of adults believe that Trump won the debate.
Nevertheless, the Trump campaign had made sure to accommodate for any debate outcome. Prior to the discourse, Trump had accused debate moderator, Lester Holt, of bias against him, thus cushioning any post-debate accusations of weakness. Mr. Trump had also implied that preparation was a sign of in-authenticity, stating prior to the debate that you “don’t want to put so much practice in that all of a sudden, you’re not who you are.” In addition, his campaign desperately published a few soaring post-debate polls that were essentially internet opinion surveys with skewed samples.
Reports of a microphone malfunction also emerged, as the Trump campaign desperately attempted to justify the candidate’s defeat. Yet it seemed that the only trouble with the microphone was that it was transmitting Trump’s self-immolating words to a nation wearied of his antics.
By Natasha Herle