The U.S. election and the second presidential debate

12/10/2016

The electoral debate that took place at the University of Washington in St. Louis has showed once more the strengths and weaknesses of both candidates, as well as the deep differences between themselves and their corresponding parties.

The debate was, in the main, a dialectical conflagration defined by a certain tension, less than expected if we consider the scandals from last days. Mostly after the release of a video from 2005, in which Trump makes some comments with sexual content about women and which has led several republican leaders –who had been critical of the magnate right from the start- to withdraw their support.

Nevertheless, there are some matters of its content that turn out to be positive to understand the positions of both Clinton and Trump. The highlights were Trump attempts to appeal to Bernie Sanders supporters, who mistrust Hillary Clinton, wielding the recent release by WikiLeaks of several speeches by the candidate praising some of the most prominent Wall Street firms; the clear differences between both candidates about taxation, free trade and foreign policy issues; and Trump efforts to escape the scandal caused by his comments about women, taking up Bill Clinton past scandals.

In most cases, the differences between both candidates are not new. Thus, Trump’s rejection of health programme known as Obamacare versus Clinton’ defence of it; his opposition to free trade agreements covered by the loss of American jobs, as in NAFTA – where the magnate highlighted that it was signed by Hillary’s husband- or the TPP; and tax measures that Trump has come near- probably because of the pressure from some outstanding leaders from his own party- gradually to Republican Party’s orthodoxy with regard to a minor tax burden, versus Clinton’s posture of achieving a higher tax revenue from higher incomes.

The approaches on American exterior policy were particularly interesting. In this regard, both candidates were ratified in past postures. In Trump’s case, to defend the improvement of the relations with Russia and to acknowledge that the Syrian regime fights ISIS, or to criticize the poor results of the American interventionist policy of recent times, with Iraq and Libya at the front, both interventions supported by his rival. Likewise, he avoided some of his most absurd and incoherent proposals, like taking oil from Iraq.

For her part, Hillary leaned on past postures –not all of them, by the way, coinciding with president Obama’s preferences, in spite of her intents of identifying herself with him- with regard to a more vigorous posture towards Russia, whom he accused of stealing some of her mails and of closeness to her opponent in the race towards the White House, or in her defence of giving ammunition to Sunni rebels and Syrian Kurds and even fixing a no-fly zone, as she had said in her memories and several critical statements about Obama’s external policy.

In the end, we are in front of a not so decisive debate that has allowed Donald Trump to save face facing the major problems of his campaign, with a better performance than the first one but without being able to have most ensuing polls giving him the victory. Nevertheless, the debate will help, for U.S. electorate, to set the future trends of the presidential election in which both candidates are fighting their unpopularity, their scandals and their own weaknesses off in their attempt to hit the presidency of the world’s most powerful country.

Translated into English by Clara Ayuso