If you had not watched the debate and exclusively looked at my Twitter feed, you would have thought that Hillary Clinton delivered the knockout punch to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. Depending on what news source you choose to follow, you might find something very different.
In all reality, an objective viewer is likely to say very little changed from Monday to Tuesday. Clinton was exactly as prepared and calculated (perhaps overly so), and willing to expose Trump’s character flaws as we would have expected. Trump continued to be as brash and braggadocios (yes, it is, in fact, a word) as he has always been, marginalizing some and endearing to others. On the whole, voters got to see very little that they had not known hours before.
Perhaps a few Clinton supporters feel more confident in their candidate. Perhaps the political ideologues feel a little better knowing that their candidate will stick to certain statements and adhere to party lines. Perhaps even a few undecideds were able to come to terms with their voting reality. But, on the whole, it would be hard to say that Monday night moved the needle much at all in one direction or another.
The sad reality we face was displayed in the split-screen image that filled our TVs. We were able to see these two individuals next to one another, to compare their speech and their reactions. In this way, it was abundantly clear that we are comparing two dramatically different characters. One a career politician, taking up a role she has spent years training for, and another who continually proves himself to be impulsive and volatile. It is an embarrassment to our political system and a mockery to the ideologies that divide our nation.
Our country is deeply and troublingly divided on big conceptual issues and how to solve them. In an election year, we have the chance to discuss and debate, to hear from potential leaders and choose a future we can believe in. Unfortunately, we do not have two options of legitimate governmental direction. We created a situation in which a man with nothing but money and hot air has been selected as the leader of a party once known for its traditional adherence to values and history, now known as a circus. In a year where we so desperately need to discuss the political reality of our country, we find ourselves incapable of having a legitimate conversation.
A debate is only valid when two legitimate parties agree to discuss particular issues. While Clinton showed up to play ball, she opposed a man with no legitimacy to back himself up. What resulted was a sad version of two people engaging in very different discussions from one another. What should have served as a moment of high-level discussion and policy argumentation devolved into a mockery of a country in desperate need for change.
This election will show far too many people who are voting far more because they hate the other person, rather than that they feel strongly in support of their candidate. That is a sad reality, but one we have to come to terms with. As a result, Americans will have to continually fight for their voices to be heard. It won’t be enough to wait another 4 years until we can take another crack at this elections craziness. We must be willing to work hard to work with whichever of these two individuals find themselves in the oval office. Monday night made it abundantly clear that we have an awful lot of work to do.