A divided nation watches the debate

This article appears in the Election 2016 feature series. View the full series.

The American electorate seemed to be divided into two parallel universes as people watched the first presidential debate. Trump and Clinton supporters seem to have been watching two very different debates as both saw and interpreted the candidates according to their own point of view. One Clinton supporter spoke of how nice it was to see Clinton smiling much of the time. A Trump supporter was annoyed because Clinton was always smirking.

Even though there is some evidence that polls may be moving a bit after the debate, it is also true that most people in the nation have made up their minds as to who to support on November 8 and are not amenable to changing their decision. One group sees Donald Trump as unfit to be president, and another group believes Donald Trump will make America great again.

It has to be said that Trump did pretty well during the first 20 minutes or so of the debate. He made two important points that are resonating among many voters, especially in states like Ohio. His argument on how trade deals have resulted in the loss of manufacturing jobs is the same argument made by Sen. Bernie Sanders and is accepted by many. He also focused on the fact that Secretary Hillary Clinton has been in politics for 30 years and has yet to fix all the problems we have. Arguments can of course be made against both of these points, but he prosecuted his case well -- and many agree with him.

The areas where the rest of us find Trump unfit to be president are temperament and national security. He lost focus after the first 20 to 30 minutes and found the need to respond every time the moderator or Clinton pressed him about an uncomfortable issue such as his tax returns or his comments about women. Such comportment seems unseemly for a commander-in-chief.

Trump's continued push back on Alicia Machado, a former Miss Universe, about her weight problem, during a number of late night tweets reflect his inability to back down even when he is doing harm to his own chances of winning. Many wonder what this may mean as to how he may deal with foreign leaders.

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Such concern has been manifested in the mainstream press. Donald Trump's only endorsements have been from the National Enquirer and the New York Post, which is owned by Trump's son-in-law.

The Arizona Republic, a conservative newspaper, has never endorsed a Democrat in its 126-year history. It has now endorsed Hillary Clinton.

USA Today has never endorsed any candidate for the presidency in its 34-year history of publication. While it did not endorse a candidate this year either, it made clear that it found Donald Trump unfit to be president. It urges its readers to vote, but not to vote for Donald Trump.

Additionally, many members of the Republican establishment who are not currently seeking office have come out for Hillary Clinton or have indicated they cannot vote for Donald Trump.

Yet, Trump voters make clear that they do not care about any of Trump's controversial remarks. Some say they happened many years ago and he was an entertainer. Some don't believe he means the things he says, and many just hate Hillary Clinton. Still others have cultural and moral issues with Democrats.

Because this is not an ordinary election to be decided by economic preferences and policy choices, I feel compelled to state clearly my concerns. It matters who we select to fill the role of president. Take another look at what is going on in the Philippines.

We are a divided country. We see things differently. We have seen this in terms of our dysfunctional government over at least the past decade. The divisions are wide and deep. I believe the election of Donald Trump would do major damage to our country and to our standing in the world. He is unpredictable, and yet he is predictably erratic. He doesn't work well with others. His approach to governance seems to be antithetical to American democracy. What this country would look like after four years of a Trump presidency is impossible to imagine, but it doesn't look promising.

I believe a Hillary Clinton presidency offers an opportunity to begin a healing process. First of all I believe even Congress is tired of its inability to get things done. Clinton has a history of working across the aisle to achieve mutual goals. She has strong ties with many Republicans in government despite the divisive campaign rhetoric. She is truly moderate in approach and will compromise. It is my sense that Congress will compromise with her.

Finally, I think Hillary will be a good and strong president. She is of course a flawed individual as we all are. Yet, she is nowhere near the monster she has been turned into by her opponents. Every so-called scandal, such as Benghazi or her emails, has been spun into something far worse than it is in actuality. If you look at some of the signs being held by Trump supporters at their rallies, you will know what I mean.

I suspect the American people will be pleased and perhaps a little closer together after four years of a Clinton presidency.


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