Manhattan Caucus is a new column in the News Section, which will run weekly until election day, to offer students a voice in the ongoing presidential elections.
Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald J. Trump met at Hofstra University on Long Island last Monday for the first of three televised presidential debates. The debate opened with a heated exchange over trade, in which Trump challenged Clinton over her prior support of the Trans Pacific Partnership (T.P.P.) trade agreement.
Most students interviewed by The Quadrangle were too unfamiliar to comment on T.P.P. The issue of free trade has divided both major parties. From the start, Trump has been at odds with pro-free trade Republican orthodoxy, and T.P.P. is one of only a few instances in which Clinton publicly disagrees with President Barack Obama.
“There have been more front page stories on the emails and Donald’s taxes than there have been on the Trans Pacific Partnership,” Margaret Groarke, Ph.D., an associate professor of government, explained by phone. “Although it’s important, […] it’s less directly connected to things that people think about every day, or less obvious what the impact would be on us.”
Sophomore Peter Ruimerman, who prefers Clinton to Trump, thought he got the better of her in the exchange, calling it “the only highlight for Trump.”
Trump promised to release his tax returns if Clinton releases the 33,000 emails she has chosen not to release from her private email server.
Students are far more informed and opinionated about Clinton’s emails and Trump’s taxes. “Obviously [Clinton] was in the wrong for having this email server that […] wasn’t the government server when she was the Secretary of State,” said junior Haley O’Connell.
“They’re deleted,” said sophomore Brendan Murphy, “They’re not able to be given back.”
O’Connell also added that Trump should release his returns, which every Republican nominee has done since Ronald Reagan was first nominated in 1980.
Ruimerman speculated that Trump has something to hide, saying, “He probably doesn’t pay any taxes.”
Clinton claimed that Trump “has a long history of racist behavior,” citing Trump’s insistence that President Obama release his birth certificate.
“There’s obviously evidence… videos and tweets and all that show that even after the birth certificate was released, [Trump] still thought it was false,” O’Connell said. The scandal, O’Connell said, “brought him into political stardom.”
Sophomore Lauren Alexander does not think Trump’s harping on the President’s birth certificate qualifies him as a racist. “That’s not even necessarily him being racist… that’s just him targeting literally everybody,” she said.
But Alexander still believes that Trump has racist tendencies, citing his prior support for a ban on Muslims entering the country and his harsh rhetoric on illegal immigration.
Trump said that Clinton doesn’t have “the look” or “the stamina” needed to be President.
“What is the presidential look? A man? A white male,” O’Connell asked, charging Trump with sexism.
Freshman Dylan Spina opined, “I think that was kind of… just an out-there comment. It wasn’t really necessary.”
Near the end of the debate, Clinton chided Trump for mocking 1996 Miss Universe winner Alicia Machado for gaining weight, and for referring to women as “pigs, slobs, and dogs.”
Spina minimized the comments, saying, “I think it can go both ways, I think he just got caught on camera saying it.”
Ruimerman says there is a double standard working in Trump’s favor, saying, “If anyone else had said those things, they would be nowhere.”
Additionally, many students thought that it was inappropriate for this to be discussed in a presidential debate.
Since the debate, Trump has lashed out at Machado on Twitter, questioning her character and accusing her of being in a sex tape, while publicly criticizing Clinton’s handling of her husband’s infidelities.
“It doesn’t seem very calculated or well thought out, but I think that, from what we’ve seen in the primaries, is that he often turns quickly on people who criticized him,” Groarke said, comparing Trump’s attacks on Machado to his attacks on his former G.O.P. primary opponent, Sen. Ted Cruz.
“It’s tasteless. I’m not offended by it… he can say whatever he wants, but just… that’s not a very diplomatic thing to do,” Ruimerman said.
Democrat Tim Kaine and Republican Mike Pence will meet tonight at 9 p.m. in Virginia for the first and only televised Vice Presidential debate. Trump and Clinton will debate a second time on Sunday, October 9.
Students are not very excited about tonight’s debate. Murphy said, “They’re both vanilla people.”
But in the final weeks before the election, students are hoping that the candidates begin to focus more on the issues.
“I want to see them be serious,” Alexander said, “I don’t want it to be overshadowed by Donald Trump’s cartoonish-ness. I would really hope he can actually ‘chill-out’ and explain what his goals are.”