So, About That Debate…

Over twelve hours have passed and there has been time to think beyond the immediate hot takes. So here’s my thoughts on last night’s debate.

Foreign Policy:

Getting this out of the way because I am no expert (although I know at least one person who is). Clinton’s interventionist and more hawkish sides should be watched very closely and spoken out about when/if necessary. At the same time, 1) the debate gave her the chance to talk about treaties and cease-fires and working hard to create peace as opposed to war, and 2) this is a comment I made earlier this year: getting to where we want to be starts with accepting where we are, and right now we live in a closely connected, complex world.

A big takeaway for me last night was Clinton acknowledging we don’t live in a vacuum.

Trump, on the other hand, once again proposed both a spoils of war philosophy (illegal) and something that to me sounded like the condottiere system of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, of America only stepping in on international defense if it is worth our while. Those words were not randomly chosen: he talked about getting paid by our allies.

International relations are, again, not a field where I am an expert, but I’m pretty sure you can’t run them like a business.


This is where I sharpen my critical knives. Does Clinton get points for talking about systemic racism and criminal justice reform? Yes. Is this enough? HECK NO.

The always wise Sarah Kendzior put it best: Clinton’s argument was flawed because it relied on the false premise of respect between police and the community when the past two years, from Ferguson to this past month in Charlotte and Tulsa, have revealed that there is zero reason to think such trust exists, and that police and other institutions are actively working against non-whites in America.

We should definitely honor the multitude of great police, such as those in New York and New Jersey a few weeks ago, but now more than ever we need to make clear that racism, brutality, and oppression–and I call it as I see it–must be dealt with to the full. For this, we need to push Clinton hard from day one if she becomes president. Which I think is possible because the Dem primary showed she can be pushed…a point I will get back to in a minute.

The Economy: Hooooo Boy

Clinton talking about the economy reveals her as the biggest policy wonk to ever run for president. It isn’t only that she has goals for things we need or future generations need: tax restructuring, equal pay, paid leave, reasonable college prices, and job creation. It’s that there is so much darned detail behind her plans that they feel genuinely doable.

Trump’s economic plan begins with the realization that the economy has changed. A lot. And a lot of good people, including people in my home state of Ohio, didn’t get well served by this. But then it doesn’t really go anywhere from there, and this is where things get interesting.

Clinton mentioned how all of us carry biases within ourselves. And last night, going strictly from the words he said and with no need to add in anything from his tone or style, Donald Trump revealed a bias against non-upper-class people:

  • The housing crisis that wiped out the livelihoods of so many was “good business.”
  • The notion that workers could get stiffed based on arbitrary employer dissatisfaction was raised.
  • And then the idea that paying zero income taxes “makes me smart.”

That line made my blood boil. There have been years in my adulthood when I had to scrimp to pay my fair share. And I have it easy; there are people I know across this country, people whom I respect and admire as better than me, who are working hard and supporting their families and making this contribution to society with money I know they could use far more than I can. Trump’s comment betrays something. Contempt. A belief they are stupid as opposed to smart. Take your pick.

But in these moments I saw a total disregard for the people he claims to be the championing. He has no ideas on how to fix the trade agreements he rails against beyond blowing them up with who knows what taking their place. And these comments suggest profit and amassing wealth by any means necessary are his benchmarks for a successful society, no matter how much this will widen the gap between rich and poor even further. Which leads me to speculate how people could support him at all…but I am sticking strictly to what was said in this debate, so I will for now keep that speculation to myself.

And finally:

Hillary Clinton is not the world’s greatest public speaker. But last night she was level-headed, determined, and assertive the way an elected representative holding immense power in their hands should be…she even was funny in the really corny way we sort of expect from presidents. While Donald Trump, after a strange early period of incredibly low energy and sniffling, got loud, combative, and revealed more of a penchant for interrupting than ever before.

Clinton has a long resume with good points and bad. Some of the issues discussed last night grew from
policies she devised or supported. But when the darned emails (to borrow a phrase from Bernie Sanders) came up, as I knew they would, Clinton didn’t resort to legalese or parsing as she has in the past. This was a mistake, she said, and I would have done things differently knowing what I know now.

This is a person who is capable of admitting to being wrong, and who now is trying to do much to make things right and has the plans to back that up.

Compare this to Trump, who refused to admit he was capable of error, shut down Clinton and Lester Holt alike when challenged on facts (including the constitutionality of laws) and had insults to spare, from putting down African-American neighborhoods as hellish to insulting Rosie O’Donnell (???) in his concluding remarks.

In conclusion, I have many friends who I know are skeptical about Clinton. I’m not in the business of telling people who to vote for. That’s like telling people to worship God the way I do. Two months ago, one of the most sincere people I know asked people like me to pitch Clinton and I refrained because I wondered if that was my place.
I still wonder a bit. But I do think I can ask not that you vote for Clinton, but that you think of all the above when you make your last considerations.

Because a year ago, I wasn’t even skeptical of Clinton. Last fall, I was “meh” when it came to politics. She was running again, I thought. No surprise. She couldn’t beat Obama and she probably won’t beat her toughest challenger now either. We’ll see what happens. I was far more interested in Sanders and his positions then and he won me over.

Eventually, things happened, and I learned about her positions as well, and now I can say with conviction that I want Hillary Clinton as our next president.

She won me over, too. And now I hope that in these final weeks that, without hyperbole, could determine the next decades of existence, you at least give her the chance she sought last night as she brought her case to the American people.

Because there is one person on that stage who is ready for the presidency while the other…I would be delighted to let him keep his own Pennsylvania Avenue address at that hotel.

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