By Sam Kargbo
I stayed up on Monday into Tuesday morning to watch the first presidential debate between Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. I love Clinton: Barrack Obama has made a first in my lifetime, and I am looking for another first in Clinton. There must be something in me that gets the kicks out of the breaking of class ceilings. Conversely, from the very firstday Trump appeared in the presidential race, I have held the view that his involvement in the American presidential race exposes the underbelly of the American electoral and democratic process. The more the trumpery Trump wore into the primaries, the more I saw the joke in the process. Even in the worst of Africa, a candidate in the mould of Trump would pass for a big joke; and yet he punched out sixteen others in the Republican primaries. In him, I saw a personification of the verbalism in political campaigns. Telling the electorate what they want to hear and ignoring the content or reality of what is said is the vessel on which I saw Trump soaring with a momentum that scared the wits out of me. The debate was therefore very crucial to me. I was fearful that Trump could have the ample opportunity to revel in the art of promising to bring the moon to the ocean for the American electorate. Thus, for many of us who believe that decency, poise, honour, ability, capability, knowledge, experience, temperament and vision matter in politics, the fact that Clinton thrashed Trump in every aspect of the debate was a great relief.
Televised presidential debates between contending candidates of the dominant Democratic and Republican parties have – except 1964, 1968 and 1972 elections – become a routine. The debates afford the two candidates the chance of winning over undecided voters, who in the main are capable of swinging the electoral tide. The American electorate is customarily segregated into the camps of the two dominant parties – and traditionally protective of their candidates. The votes of these categories of voters are predictable. It is as difficult to persuade them to jump ship as it is difficult for Manchester United fans to be moved by Arsenal’s beautiful game. There are, however, neutrals who want to be convinced before casting their votes. To these independents the debates matter. The debates go beyond the communicative capabilities of the candidates. The ability of the candidates to communicate their perspectives on controversial or crucial issues matter; but the debates mean much more. They are meant to let the electorate know the candidates and assess their respective agenda and preparedness for the oval office.
In the debate of Tuesday 27th September 2016, Trump seemed empty, coming short in his views on the issues thrown up by the questions he was asked. He had no concrete answer on what he would do for Americans as president, obviously low on knowledge about current events, as revealed by his rehearsed but flawed data and answers on race, domestic security and matters that have been constitutionally laid to rest – like his proposed stop and frisk to combat internal terrorism. Far from being a character fit for the job, Trump was dismal. He was discourteous, he heckled and sniffed; he interrupted Clinton and spent a considerable time drinking water, and yet turned around to accuse Clinton of not having the stamina for the job. Contrary to his accusation, Clinton demonstrated how prepared she was for the debate and for the job, as seen in her opening remarks, which, to my mind, characterized her performance at the debate.
The 98-minute debate, which was moderated by Lester Holt, the anchor of NBC Nightly, centered on achieving prosperity and securing America. The first question was an offshoot of the central question of how to achieve economic prosperity for Americans. The moderator wanted to know what the candidates would do to put more money in the pockets of Americans, “since income inequality remains significant, and nearly half of Americans live from paycheck to paycheck”. Hillary’s answer was introspective and acceptive of the fact that there are certain institutional and structural economic imbalances that need some tinkering. In her words, Americans “need new jobs, good jobs with rising incomes” and must therefore invest in Americans and their future; which “means jobs in infrastructure and advanced manufacturing, innovation and technology, clean renewable energy and small business because most of the new jobs will come from small business.” She also emphasized the need to make the economy fairer which should start “with raising the national minimum wage and also guarantee, finally, equal pay for woman’s work.” Experts related to Clinton’s call because, in the first place, Congress is said not to have increased the minimum wage since 2009. One analyst also noted that “the latest Census income report, full-time, year-round working women earned 80 percent of what men earned in 2015. Lots of factors go into that wage gap, including hours and jobs worked, as well as interruptions in women’s careers due to maternity.” Clinton also called for companies to share profits with their workers. Her logic was that if you help to create the profits, you should be able to share in them. With specific reference to women, she advocated for employers to support women who struggle to balance family life and work. She would want paid family leave and affordable health care and debt free college education. She concluded that her proposals could be achieved by having the wealthy pay their fair share and close the corporate loopholes.
Donald Trump’s answer on the same question was a rehash of his blame game. In his incoherent and jerky statement, American jobs “are fleeing the country. They’re going to Mexico they’re going to many other countries. You look at what China is doing for country in terms of making our product, they’re devaluing their currency and there’s nobody in our government to fight them.” An economy and policy observer spotted the lie in Trump’s claim and mentioned the fact that “Obama has brokered an agreement with Chinese President Xi to reduce hacking, and IP theft — and cybersecurity experts who monitor intrusions from China say that attacks are in fact down.” To his claim that thousands of jobs are leaving Michigan and Ohio for Mexico and China, experts called on the electorate to note that “unemployment in Michigan is 4.5 percent; Ohio rate is 4.7 percent. Both are better than the national average of 4.9 percent.” Trump also claimed that Ford was leaving Michigan but Ford CEO, Mark Fields, said zero jobs would be lost in Michigan because Ford would build two new vehicles at that plant. The vacuous nature of Trump’s answer is dramatized in his words, when he said Americans “have to stop our jobs from being stolen from us. We have to stop our companies from leaving the United States and with it, firing all of their people. All they have to do is take a look at carrier air-conditioning in Indianapolis. They left fourteen hundred people. They are going to Mexico. So many hundreds and hundreds of companies are doing this. We cannot let it happen. Under my plan I will be reducing taxes tremendously from thirty five percent to fifteen percent for companies, small and big businesses.” Fact checkers have observed that “Trump wants to cut income tax rates while capping deductions for the wealthy. He would also reduce the business tax rate to 15 percent and eliminate the estate tax. The conservative Tax Foundation estimates that his plan would reduce federal revenue by $4.4 trillion to $5.9 trillion over the next decade, which is a lot, but down from $10 trillion in his original plan.
Some of that could be offset by economic growth, but even using “dynamic scoring,” the foundation says the planned cuts tax will reduce Federal revenue by $2.6 trillion to $3.9 trillion over 10 years. (The higher figure is if the 15 percent business tax rate is applied to “pass-through” entities.) The biggest beneficiaries of Trump’s tax cuts are the wealthy. The top 1 percent of earners see their after-tax income rise by between 10.2 percent and 16 percent. Overall savings would be less than 1 percent.”