On Wednesday October 19, the final debate of the 2016 presidential election took place at the University of Nevada. The St. Mary’s chapter of Pi Sigma Alpha, the National Political Science Honor Society, hosted its viewing session of the debate in Cole Cinema. Beginning an hour prior to the actual debate, the gathering brought together leaders of campus political and activist groups: C.J. Robinson of STARS– campus group for the LGBTQ+ community, Simon Kolbeck of the College Democrats, Peter Vicenzi of the College Republicans, Charles Hutchinson of the campus Libertarians, and Gillian Justice of Feminists United for Sexual Equality, or FUSE.
When asked about their opinions on the upcoming election, all shared sentiments reflected in a Gallup poll reporting double-digit unfavorable ratings for both candidates. Robinson’s verdict that “neither candidate seems like a good choice” echoes the sentiment that Americans will be casting their votes against rather than for a candidate. After the audience-led panel discussion on the role of gender in the election, the future of renewable resources, and a contingency plan for foreign policy, the time had arrived to kick off the final debate.
The night began in a fairly mild-mannered fashion, but did not last very long. After GOP nominee Donald Trump profusely used the word “puppet,” Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton quipped, “I know you are, but what am I?” marking the start to a heated evening. The final debate most closely resembled a real debate as both candidates presented significantly different visions for America’s future. The salient issues of abortion, immigration, and the Supreme Court elicited strikingly disparate answers from the candidates.
The death of Justice Antonin Scalia earlier this year has opened a vacancy on the Supreme Court bench, giving the next President the responsibility of appointing a new Justice. Unless a Justice is impeached and convicted by Congress, resigns, or retires, the appointment is for life, making any appointments to the highest court of the land one of the most influential decisions the President can make. Clinton put forth her strong belief in appointing a Justice that represents all Americans while Trump reiterated the necessity to appoint a Justice that supports the Second Amendment. Clinton argues that Second Amendment rights and logical gun-control laws are not mutually exclusive.
The two candidates’ clashing ideologies did not end with appointing Justices. After Fox News’ Chris Wallace wrestled a lukewarm response from Trump on abortion, saying that the Justice he plans to appoint will be pro-life and thus overturning the landmark case of Roe v. Wade, Clinton reaffirmed her support of the 1973 decision and of late-term abortions when the pregnancy poses serious risk to the life of the mother.
On the issue of immigration, Trump continued his saga with the infamous “wall” Mexico is purportedly going to fund, emphasizing the need to get “bad hombres” out of the country. Contrarily, Clinton plans on moving the nation on a path to comprehensive immigration reform.
Despite the obvious difference in beliefs, the most striking aspect of the third debate was Trump saying that he may not accept the result of the election. This type of outrageous statement has become common in this election. Threats on behalf of Trump to jail opposition have tarnished the 2016 election beyond simple attack ads and mudslinging, leading voters to wonder whether future elections will begin to produce unfavorable candidates or if the 2016 election is an anomaly in a political system designed to ensure only two parties thrive.