Monday, 10 October 2016

Donald Trump probably won the second presidential debate

The second Presidential debate between the Republican candidate Donald Trump and the Democrat candidate Hillary Clinton took place on 9th October 2016. The two candidates didn’t stray far from their tried and tested styles: Trump with his simplistic answers shadowed by his aggressive passion, and Clinton with her calm technique and reserved responses which sound overly-rehearsed. The debate covered a wide range of issues varying from healthcare to foreign policy but answers from both candidates were frequently unfocused. As for the ‘winner’ of the debate, that depends on what your definition of winning is.

If the criteria for winning the debate is making the most evidence-backed, compelling arguments to deal with the questions, then Clinton won hands down. She kept her cool throughout the debate, even when put under pressure by Trump. However, if the definition of winning the debate is persuading undecided voters to vote for you, then I suspect that Trump won. Here’s why:

Often, when Trump was regurgitating his nonsensical rhetoric, Clinton would smile - probably highly amused by how easy Trump was making it for her. However, for Americans who are not politically educated and don’t fact check, Clinton’s grins could be perceived as her not taking the issues seriously or making light of them.

Clinton’s smiles were biggest when Trump came out with statements which she knew were lies and, when she got a chance to speak, Clinton would encourage viewers to visit her website to ‘fact-check’ Trump and find out the truth. However, it is becoming more and more evident that we live in a post-fact world and even the most politically uneducated among us know that candidate’s websites are not the ideal source for correct information. Clinton gives off a shifty impression to many and Trump has dubbed her ‘crooked Hilary’ numerous times so when Trump presents his false version of reality and Clinton just refers to her website, it is not a suffice response. Clinton's inability to outright deny lies individual lies with evidence proving it makes her look guilty. Ultimately, I think in those situations, it means Trump has come out on top.

TRUMP: So we’re going to get a special prosecutor, and we’re going to look into it, because you know what? People have been — their lives have been destroyed for doing one-fifth of what you’ve done. And it’s a disgrace. And honestly, you ought to be ashamed of yourself. 
CLINTON: In the first debate... I told people that it would be impossible to be fact-checking Donald all the time. I’d never get to talk about anything I want to do and how we’re going to really make lives better for people. 
So, once again, go to We have literally Trump — you can fact check him in real time. Last time at the first debate, we had millions of people fact checking, so I expect we’ll have millions more fact checking, because, you know, it is — it’s just awfully good that someone with the temperament of Donald Trump is not in charge of the law in our country. 
TRUMP: Because you’d be in jail.

It is clear from social media that many Trump supporters are highly suspicious of the media and think that there is an anti-Trump media conspiracy. During the debate there were a number of occasions when Trump argued that Clinton had spoken for too long or that Clinton was allowed to respond but he wasn’t. For those sceptical of the media, this only throws fuel on the fire.

One of the notable examples of this is when Trump brings up the issue of Clinton’s private email server to deflect from the questions he had regarding inflammatory comments he made about women. The issue of Clinton’s emails was talked about excessively at the last debate, has had days’ worth of airtime over the past year, and thousands of articles can be found about the ‘scandal’ online. Nevertheless, Trump was infuriated by the chairs of the debate when they pushed for him to address the question given to him rather than diverge back on to the issue of Clinton’s email. I think many who don’t read the news as much as they should might perceive this as the media attempting to protect Clinton and attack Trump. In reality, the subject of Clinton’s emails has just been exhausted. Regardless, the chairs snubbing of the issue that Trump raised will work in his favour as it made Trump look like the victim being ignored by the biased pro-Clinton media.  

Despite criticism following the first debate for interrupting Clinton, Trump still did it a total of 15 times (whereas Clinton only did it five times). I think many undecided voters will not see this as a negative, rather as Trump simply wanting his views to be heard - and isn’t that what America wants when they’re doing dealings on the world stage? Clinton’s passive method of waiting her turn, although customary, respectful, and polite, could be perceived as her lacking passion. Some might think, if she disagrees so profoundly with Trump, why wouldn’t she try and stop him in his tracks?

Finally, Trump frequently ignored the question and instead attacked Clinton. The attacks were so frequent and on such a breadth of subjects, it made Clinton look like a dangerously flawed candidate. If you don’t focus on the discourse of the debate, you forget there was a question and instead are just left with the two candidates trying to get one-up.

In conclusion, it is a matter of political education and knowledge. If undecided voters don’t digest news (possibly because they don’t trust it), I think Donald Trump will have emerged from this debate appearing to be the strongest candidate: ruthless, straight-talking, and passionate. For Americans who are more politically educated though, and do consume news regularly, they will be able to see through Trump’s blatant dismissal of important issues, his oversimplified rhetoric, and be extremely concerned about the prospect of him becoming present. With election day in only 4 weeks, we will soon know what significance, if any, the debates had and who in fact won.

Debate Transcript: