By ARDEN IGLEHEART
For better or worse, the first of a series of four presidential debates began last night. At a debate watch party on the 11th floor of Jenkins, hosted by the Department of Political Science and International Studies, shirts from both Clinton and Trump’s campaigns dotted the audience as students came to support or show their disgust at the respective candidates.
While a big focus of Donald Trump’s campaign is immigration, the topic was all but ignored by the candidates as they instead focused on a central aspect of Trump’s plan to reform the economy-foreign trade. Trump mentioned taxing imports on Mexico, as well as doing away with the NAFTA agreement, which he believes is defective.
Hillary outlined a more holistic economic plan, featuring raising the minimum wage, profit sharing among corporate employees, and government spending in areas such as clean energy. This was her brief and only nod to climate change.
“Some country is going to be the clean-energy superpower of the 21st century,” Clinton said. “Donald thinks that climate change is a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese. I think it’s real.”
Trump immediately denied having ever said this, despite having tweeted in November 2012: “The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing more competitive.”
Hillary mentioned another aspect of her economic plan that was met with wide applause and cheers from students–reducing college debt.
“So let’s have paid family leave, earned sick days” Clinton said. “Let’s be sure we have affordable child care and debt-free college.”
Arielle Pollock, a freshman biology major, agrees with Hillary on her plans for higher education, although she doesn’t support Hillary as a presidential candidate.
“College is insanely expensive,” Pollock said. “It should require hard work, but it should be more available to everyone, especially with such a competitive job market we have now.”
Ben Eggert, a freshman whose major is undecided, says he was somewhat put off by Hillary’s statement. He spoke of the scholarships he received in order to go to UT.
“I had to put a lot of work into getting those,” Eggert said. “And so, for me, personally, it was almost taking away the work I put into that. Of course, I don’t want people to be in debt, I feel like that’s a terrible thing.”
If the candidates were not divided enough, the moderator Lester Holt’s question on improving race relations in America polarized the candidates.
Clinton said she would push for better training for police that gave them the tools to only have to use force when absolutely necessary. She also will push for criminal justice reform and tighter gun control.
Trump’s answer stressed two words: law and order. He will reinstate Stop-and-Frisk in dangerous cities, he said. Holt reminded Trump that Stop-and-Frisk was ruled unconstitutional for discrimination against racial minorities.
“That’s wrong,” Trump replied, which was met with boos from students at the party.
Trump did, however, receive large applause from students in response to his referencing Clinton’s e-mail scandal. Holt asked if Trump will release his tax returns, to which Trump responded that he will.
“We have a situation in this country that has to be taken care of,” Trump said. “I will release my tax returns–against my lawyer’s wishes–when [Clinton] releases her 33,000 e-mails that have been deleted. As soon as she releases them, I will release.”
Despite Trump’s frequent interjections, some students expressed surprise at his relative sobriety during the debate.
Luke Brantley, a freshman criminology major, is a Trump supporter. He said he admired Trump’s new professionalism, but admits that part of what drew him to Trump is his temperament.
“I could see that helping him, but I also think that a lot of his supporters like his fiery attitude,” Brantley said.
Most polls showed that Clinton won the debate by a wide margin, CNN showing that 62 percent of people believed she won compared to 27 percent for Trump.
UT will have watch parties for all of the subsequent debates, the next one to be held on Tuesday, Oct. 4 for the vice-presidential debate. The debates begin at 9 p.m., but the parties start at 8:15 p.m.. They are all on the 11th floor of Jenkins except for the final debate on Oct. 19, which is on the 9th floor of Vaughn. There will also be a party on election night on the 9th floor of Vaughn at 7:30. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Arden Igleheart can be reached at email@example.com.