This past Monday night, September 26th, Americans huddled around their TV’s for a showdown. No, not the Falcons vs. Saints game, but an even more contentious matchup: Hillary Clinton vs. Donald Trump.
Moments before the debate started, I noticed my hands starting to sweat. For the first time this election season, I felt nervous. I knew that Hillary would take the stage owning her poise and experience, yet with Donald, I had no clue. That’s just the problem: he is too impulsive and unpredictable for a debate.
After all of the gigantic balloons, raucous cheers, and blaring music from the Republican and Democratic National Conventions, it was time for the nominees to get serious. Entering the debate, Trump needed to convey that he could possess the composure and fortitude to be President, while Hillary had to convince people that she could relate to average voters and understand their struggles.
With fewer than 40 days until the election, Americans had to decide: is Hillary stale and corrupt while Donald is fresh and new, or is Hillary knowledgeable and calm while Donald is ignorant and reckless?
Ten minutes into the debate, Hillary unleashed the power of psychological warfare onto Trump. Slamming his father’s wealth, his exploitation of the housing crisis, and his plan of “trumped up, trickle down” economics, Hillary had Donald literally gasping for air and reaching for his water glass.
Rather than the gutsy man who speaks up for disillusioned Middle America, Trump was attacked as a privileged, white man who has a silver spoon in his mouth.
It was clear that she had gotten under his skin.
But this did not prevent him from amplifying his rhetoric. He echoed his usual messages of labor and trade, inciting fear into Americans. He condemned Hillary’s foreign policy strategies, claiming that she handed enemies her formula for defeating ISIS. And he questioned her “stamina” as potential president, weaving sexismin to his remarks.
Do any of those points above sound “fresh” or “new” to you? Well, not to me. Donald Trump shot himself in the foot because he did not come across as the suave, boisterous business man always in command. Rather, he showed himself to be a mercurial, volatile man who stayed on the defensive.
Trump, unlike in past debates, appeared more rattled and erratic this past Monday. His comments claiming that Hillary was “just not nice” and that she does not hold “a good temperament” made him sound more like a churlish child than a grown man.
Hillary, on the other hand, brought a lighthearted tone to her messaging. More often than in past debates, she joked with Donald, she made self-effacing comments, and she smiled. These physical gestures were capped off with a new hand gesture of holding a pretend basketball. According to a CNN guest, this new kind of physicality increased her likeability and warmth.
By 10:45 pm, I had been assuaged of my fears. This debate reinforced for me how Hilary Clinton wants to improve the lives of all Americans while Donald Trump simply wants to garner more media attention.