Bath Debating Society’s first debate was on the most extraordinary presidential campaigns history; Trump vs Clinton.
The motion for the debate was simply “this house would vote Trump” and hundreds filled the lecture theatre to try and understand how any sane individual could attempt to make the case to vote Trump.
In a refreshing twist, attempts were made to focus on the policy of the two candidates over their characters however like all discussion on the matter, the focus soon shifted to the vilification of the individuals involved. That biggest let down of the debate was without a doubt the lack of engagement between the speakers. While their arguments were strong, they did not challenge the core substantives of their opponents arguments.
The debate was opened by Dr Matthew Alford who focused entirely on foreign policy, sniping one neo-con Clinton disaster after the next. The two pillars of his argument suggested that Trumpian foreign policy would be: less interventionist and less likely to lead to a nuclear war. Whilst admitting that Trump was ‘not a nice man’ he insisted that his actions were more theatrical than malicious.
Chair of Democrats abroad William Barnard, led the opposition with a lucid and comprehensive policy take down of Trump. We were left doubting nearly all of the candidate’s “flawed and misguided” policies, but the finesse of Barnard’s speech lay in his character assassination of Trump as he argued that the latter’s unpredictable temperament and dubious character made him unfit to be President.
Following this, and standing to rapturous applause Dom Tucker, who had already canvased grassroots support from his housemates, unleashed a policy heavy, well researched yet passionate speech for voting Trump. The US political and economic status quo is broken, he argued, and old school Clinton promises nothing original that will fix it; Americans need to break with the old ways and vote for Trump. In a tri-pronged approach Dom analysed Trumps’ tax, education, and healthcare policies making a convincing argument that BME communities especially would benefit. He argued that with such policies America would be more efficient, meritocratic and have more liberty. “You might not like him, but his policies are better” he insisted.
Credit to the man, no one on the opposition’s side attempted to rebut his in-depth argument on policy. The debate was concluded by Dr Aurelien Mondon who strayed away from the policy debate instead focusing on the mainstreaming of racism in the public sphere that Trump had allowed. He listed a litany of racist remarks made by Trump and closed with the chilling phrase, “if you vote trump you cannot say that you did not know”.
Although the speakers focused on policy, personality was the focus of the audience in the Q&A and led to an overwhelming majority of votes rejecting the motion.
In the age of celebrity politics and immersive media coverage this sadly seems to be the way that all political debates are going. Both candidates are the least popular in US election history and for many in America the choice really is between the lesser of two evils.
We are told that the political infrastructure of America will insulate it from Donald Trump and it will most likely be a Clinton victory, but, as this debate showed, is that even such a great thing?