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The Most Important Moments of the Final Debate

By Gabe Geytsman, Political Analyst

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On October 19th, Republican Presidential nominee Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton visited Las Vegas for the final Presidential debate, in what would be one of the final side-by-side appearances by the candidates. Here are the most important moments of the debate for both of them:

Donald Trump:

Let’s begin with the obvious headline that most news establishments went with after the debate: Trump’s refusal to honor, potentially, the results of the election. Democrats and even his fellow Republicans alike have criticised Trump for his rhetoric which condemned the election as “rigged”, which they allege undermines democracy by eroding faith in democratic institutions. Trump, contrarily, insists that the media is rigged against him and that there are other issues of voter fraud; some of those concerns were legitimized by Project Veritas and Wikileaks revealing underhanded tactics by the Democratic campaign. On the whole, however, there have only been 35 credible instances of voter fraud, and elections remain very difficult to rig. This rhetoric has launched a wide spectrum of debate, about many topics.

Some claim that the vote-counting machines are in favor of the Democrats, because the company that makes them is in the influence of George Soros, a Clinton backer; others allege they are in the favor of Republicans, arguing for “redshift” in prior elections in which exit polls show better numbers for Democrats than actual vote counts. Some people point out that a Democratic contractor/political consultant admitted to voter fraud and “busing people around for the last 50 years” (Scott Foval in the Project Veritas investigations) while others point to the sheer difficulty of achieving large-scale electoral fraud, because the machines are constantly watched and always offline (the Atlantic, in a series of Tweets).

This kind of debate sets the scene for a vindication of Trump’s ego if he loses, while simultaneously fracturing whatever cohesion might remain between people on both sides of the aisle; on the other hand, it might be revealing actual electoral fraud. A controversial topic indeed.

Notwithstanding his self-harming comments on refusing to honor the results of the election, Trump had a relatively good night. However, he let Clinton off the hook in many instances where a more astute debater would pursue her. He allowed her to direct the conversation away from the damning Wikileaks information released to Vladimir Putin-related conspiracy theories. He let her get away with not answering the question about returning the money from the Clinton Foundation. His slightly improved temperament and solid espousal of conservative positions might help consolidate the Republican vote, but his indiscretions might hurt him even more.

Hillary Clinton:

Hillary Clinton’s most important moment, and, indeed, the most important moment of the entire debate, and what might be the most important single moment of the election, was her response to the question moderator Chris Wallace brought up regarding DC v. Heller, a famous and often-referenced case in the gun debate. Chris Wallace quoted Clinton as saying that “The Supreme Court is wrong on the second amendment”, and asked her to explain her remarks. Clinton went on to say that she was disappointed with the outcome of the case, which she insisted was all about proper storage of guns to protect toddlers; she went on to repeat the line about toddlers dying due to improperly stored guns two or three times.

The problem is that that is entirely false. The DC v. Heller case affirmed the individual right to firearm ownership as a whole. The District of Columbia did not merely have a law prohibiting improper storage of firearms; DC had a full ban on handguns. In the case petitioner Dick Heller, a member of law enforcement, applied for a handgun permit to have a handgun at home and was denied; he brought a case on Second Amendment grounds that he had a right to a firearm. The majority opinion, written by the late Antonin Scalia himself, affirmed his position. The dissenting opinion argued that the Second Amendment only gives one the right to own firearms in connection with the militia, which, in contemporary terms, is the National Guard.

So if Clinton meant that the Supreme Court was wrong on the Second Amendment, then she does not believe in private gun ownership, and can appoint up to three young liberals (in addition to the existing two young liberals) to form a 5-justice young liberal majority, which would overturn DC v. Heller at the first opportunity it gets within its potential 3 decade dominion.

Clinton otherwise encountered several windfalls from Trump, who was easily agitated after some verbal elbows were thrown by Secretary Clinton. The first was when he called her a “nasty woman”, which certainly won’t help his plight among female voters. The second was when she called him a Russian puppet, and all he could come up with was “no, you’re the puppet. You’re the puppet.” She was able to satisfactorily sideline discussion about Wikileaks by bringing up the likely Russian nature of the hackings, which, of course, does not negate the extensive corruption detailed in the Wikileaks’ most recent releases.

While overall the debate might be a tie or a slight victory for either candidate, the fact of the matter is the Clinton entered the debate with a mighty 6 point lead in nationwide polls and a commanding position in swing states; this debate was not a monumental game-changer that Donald Trump needed. It can thus be called a Clinton victory, though a scorched-earth one at that. All Clinton needed to do was run out the clock, on the debate and on the entire countdown to election day, and Donald was unable to meaningfully alter the state of the race.

Also, don’t forget what Clinton said about guns, because it’s looking like she’s going to be our next President; and don’t forget about Trump’s claims of a rigged election, because it looks like he’s not going to be our next President –and he might twist Clinton’s victory into a pyrrhic one.

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Gabe Geytsman, Assistant Senior Editor

This senior somehow ended up being Assistant Senior Editor. Gabe formerly held the post of Political Analyst in his junior and sophomore years. He enjoys...

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The Most Important Moments of the Final Debate