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Manhattan Caucus: October 18

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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.

Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and Republican nominee Donald J. Trump debated last Sunday night at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, in what was the second of their three televised debates.

The day before the debate, The Washington Post released a video from 2005 in which Trump bragged about how he once made sexual advances on a married woman, and how he can touch and kiss women freely because of his stardom. Trump later dismissed the video as “locker room talk.”

Students are disturbed by Trump’s comments, and some are questioning his fitness to serve as President .

“Honestly, I see that most men talk like that,” said freshman Nicole Sansone.

Sansone said that this tape is made more disturbing since it is from a presidential candidate. She said that if it was a different man, who were not running for President that she feels it would, “still be disturbing, but it wouldn’t be as disturbing as the fact that he’s a presidential candidate.”

“No one wants to admit it, but it kind of is sometimes locker room talk, although… poor words,” said sophomore Tom Quinn. “It’s pretty bad for him, especially because he really needs to kind of improve, like, how many women are going to vote for him.”

But senior Alannah Boyle, a Clinton supporter, said, “I think that this is not locker room talk.” And whether or not it is “locker room talk,” should not even be an issue, Boyle argues.

“I think what’s happening right now is that people are being desensitized to the idea of sexual assault and the idea of sexual misconduct because it’s being so dismissed by Trump,” Boyle said.

Trump said that if he were in charge of the country, Clinton “would be in jail.”

While many students agree that Clinton committed a crime with her use of a private email server at her Chappaqua, New York home, they don’t necessarily think that a President Trump would or should have the power to incarcerate her.

“She broke the law, so, yeah I do think she should be in jail. I don’t think Trump has the automatic power to say that she’s guilty, but, I mean, it’s kind of obvious she did break the law,” Sansone said.

Senior Priscilla Edwards called the charge inappropriate.

“I don’t think he has the authority to say that she should go to jail. He’s done things too that could be looked at too,” Edwards said.

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Students gathered in the Kelly Commons to watch the first presidential debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald J. Trump earlier this semester. Aaron Mayorga/The Quadrangle

Trump charged that Clinton was an ineffective and corrupt politician, saying “For thirty years she’s been doing this […] why didn’t she do something about [taxes]?” He added that Clinton did not change the tax code as a Senator because “all [her] friends take the same advantage that [he does].”

“I’m not sure how much power she had to change that. I feel like if she was intending to, and had the power to, she would,” senior Erika Vidales said.

Other students are not defending Clinton.

“At the end of the day, they’re all politicians, so yeah, she could’ve done it,” Edwards said. “I don’t think she’s been an effective politician so far. I think Trump is right in saying those things against her,” she added.

Sophomore Daniel Swammy doesn’t trust Trump or Clinton on tax reform, and he supports Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson.

“The Libertarian idea is to make a flat tax, and that gets rid of deductions, and loopholes, and [stuff] like that,” Swammy said.

Since the release of the video, House Speaker Paul D. Ryan, the highest ranking Republican in Washington, has allowed Republican congressional candidates to stop supporting Trump if they feel it would help their chances of winning reelection. Trump responded on Twitter, calling Ryan “very weak and ineffective.”

According to Margaret Groarke, Ph.D., assistant professor of government, such a rift in a party over its nominee is highly uncommon. Groarke cited the Democratic Party’s division over its nominee, George S. McGovern, in 1972 as the most recent instance of such deep intraparty division.

“A lot of times, you don’t have a big divide between the candidate and the leadership, and if there is some divide, you kind of paper it over for the team, you know?” Groarke said. “I think the interesting thing to think about it is whether it’s a difference about things, or just a concern that he’s not going to win.”

Most students agree that Republicans should be free to back away from Trump.

“Just because you’re a Republican, you don’t have to follow Trump,” Sansone said. “I think that if Republicans don’t want to vote for Trump, they don’t have to vote for Trump.”

Over the past week, several women have come forward, saying that they were groped or kissed by Trump. Jessica Leeds, 74, claims Trump assaulted her on a plane in 1979, telling The New York Times that Trump was “like an octopus,” and later telling CNN that she was groped and inappropriately kissed by Trump “wherever he could find a landing spot.”

Since the accusers came forward, Trump has tried to deflect the charges by impeaching the credibility of the women and by attacking the news media.

Early Saturday morning, he tweeted, “100% fabricated and made-up charges, pushed strongly by the media and the Clinton Campaign, may poison the minds of the American Voter. FIX!”

“Dozens of other women have come out to speak of their experiences of being sexually assaulted by Donald Trump, and his reaction has been to state that he is the victim,” Boyle said.

Some students remain skeptical of the charges from the women.

“Why didn’t they come out about this sooner? Why now?” Swammy asked. Swammy added, “If he did it, yeah, it’s wrong I’m not going to defend it,” but still remains skeptical of the charges.

“I could see it happening, I hope it didn’t happen because that’s really wrong if it did, but I agree the timing’s kind of off,” Quinn said.

“This woman has nothing to gain, other than people calling her a liar, calling her a slut, calling her attention-seeking,” Boyle said, “except to hopefully educate the public before they go to the polls and elect our next President.”

The candidates will debate again for the final time tomorrow at 9 p.m., in Las Vegas, Nevada.

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