From the frontline at the second presidential debate
Everything that happened when the debate came to WashU
WashU’s passion has been revealed, and shockingly, it’s not our sports teams.
Yesterday, we hosted the second presidential debate between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. Nearly 400 students were lucky enough to witness the town-hall style event up close, although the whole college was abuzz.
I spent the day exploring campus, which featured FOX, CNN, MSNBC, C-SPAN, countless student groups and activists, and the secret service (that’s new).
While Hillary Blue was everywhere, several students arrived more creatively prepared for the debate, some more seriously than others.
The DUC, WashU’s beloved student center, was more lively than I’ve ever seen it in my three-plus years here.
Student groups rose to the occasion, and channeled their energy into sending their messages meaningfully (though they may have just been there for the free food).
These students received a grant to create local issue awareness art. In St Louis, extensive gentrification to make way for the NGA’s billion-dollar-move has been at the expense of historically black neighborhoods is a hot button issue – decades-old churches, homes, and schools have already been torn down. The grass used to create the structure was taken from one of the lots in a neighborhood scheduled to be torn down.
“We want to build awareness about this local issue while everyone is so nationally focused,” they tell me.
The Muslim student organization created the “Proud Muslim” campaign, in which members reached out and tried to meet as many passerby as possible. “Lots of the conversation is about Muslims, not with them. We’re cool people, come talk to us!” (Were cool, can confirm.)
Our decidedly-liberal campus was decked out with “Love Trumps Hate” and “Stronger Together” signs, but I did speak with a few folks who were not on the same page.
“Donald definitely won the debate,” Charles, a student tells me. “He was very successful in staying on course with the policies. For domestic policy, she hasn’t gone to the inner cities to help create a lot of growth. She hasn’t done anything. She comes back, she asks for their vote, and she doesn’t do anything for them.”
“Trump is the best candidate on all the issues,” explains Colby, who I met in the Public Expression Zone. “Illegal immigrants are the demographic which takes the most advantage of welfare. They take the most welfare.”
He then informed me that resources were limited and my future child would be born into crippling debt because of third world immigrants. Concerning Trump’s comments about women during the recently leaked footage, Colby defends Trump by saying: “We all say things. I know I’ve said plenty of things!”
Based on the response from the majority of students, however, “just saying things” is Trump’s main move, and it’s not working for them.
“Hilary Clinton had a wonderful showing in the debate tonight,” says a student sporting a “Make America Grope Again” sign. “I really like what she did pertaining to his remarks about women. She let the audience asks those questions. She took a step back and allowed Donald to explain himself.”
“I don’t think he responded to that very well,” agrees another student, referring to Trump’s 2005 “locker room talk”.
“Those comments were specifically addressed and he redirected to something totally off-topic, ISIS, which I think is poor form and shows that he didn’t prepare.”
So who won the debate, according to the Bears?
“Hillary! Definitely Hillary,” two girls responded with a laugh. “Hillary has more experience with this kind of debate anyway, so she had the upper hand going in. I think Trump was flustered by this kind of debate.”
Niamh O’Grady, a pre-med student at WashU who was one of the lucky few who won tickets to see the debate in person, agreed with this outcome. “I think that Hillary won because of her focus on her policies and not just getting back at the other candidate and calling everything a disaster.”
Although the audience was instructed to stay quiet and respectful during the course of the debate, Niamh tells me the bubble burst during some “comebacks” from Trump and Hillary. Emotions ran high, and watch parties all over campus erupted with cheers or boos within minutes of each other.
For example, when Trump answered how he would protect Muslims from Islamophobia by essentially saying it was on them to pursue a solution, the rage in the room was palpable.
“We have to be sure that Muslims come in and they report when they see something going on,” said Trump.
Within seconds, shouts of approval filled the student center when Hillary responded: “We are not at war with Islam.”
Although political opinions were not all aligned, the sense of community pulsing through campus was unforgettable. The energy and passion from the student was tangible, and it was clear something very special happened yesterday at WashU. Red or blue, I think all students felt lucky to be a part of it.