The Final Debate
Last night was the third and final time presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump stood on stage together to make their cases to the American people about why they should be the next president of the United States. The election is in just over two weeks, on November 8.
If you’re in elementary or middle school, this is likely the first presidential election you’re really studying so you may not have much to compare it to. But many older and experienced political experts, and Americans in general, are saying they’ve never seen anything like this election.
Last night reinforced that.
Although it’s generally believed to be the best performance by both candidates, and many important issues were discussed, the takeaway, as reported by just about every major news outlet, has been Mr. Trump saying that he might not honor the outcome of the election if he loses.
That’s pretty much unheard of.
Here is the exchange:
Chris Wallace, debate moderator: Mr. Trump … I want to ask you here on the stage tonight, do you make the same commitment (as his vice presidential running mate, campaign chair, and daughter have) that you’ll absolutely accept the result of the election?
Donald Trump: I will look at it at the time. I’m not looking at anything now, I’ll look at it at the time …
Chris Wallace: But, sir, there is a tradition in this country, in fact, one of the prides of this country is the peaceful transition of power and no matter how hard fought a campaign is that at the end of the campaign, that the loser concedes to the winner. Not saying you’re necessarily going to be the loser or the winner, but that the loser concedes to the winner and the country comes together in part for the good of the country. Are you saying you’re not prepared now to commit to that principle?
Donald Trump: What I’m saying is that I will tell you at the time. I’ll keep you in suspense, okay?
Hillary Clinton: Well Chris, let me respond to that because that’s horrifying… That is not the way our democracy works. We’ve been around for 240 years. We’ve had free and fair elections. We’ve accepted the outcomes when we may not have liked them, and that is what must be expected of anyone standing on a debate stage during a general election.
Mr. Trump has been claiming in recent days that the election is rigged and unfair.
Is the election process perfect? No. But the national election is actually run by the states making it unlikely that the election could be “fixed” at voting stations in every state. Plus, over half of governors overseeing the elections in their states are Republican, the party Mr. Trump represents. On the “liar” scale, Politifact gave him a “pants on fire” grade on his “rigged” election claim . Voting experts have for the most part debunked it as well. And you can read a more general election report here from The Electoral Integrity Project .
Some people, including President Barack Obama, believe that Mr. Trump is making early excuses if he loses. President Obama said, “I have never seen in my lifetime, or in modern presidential history, any presidential candidate trying to discredit the election and the election process before votes have even taken place. It’s unprecedented. It happens to be based on no facts … You start whining before the game’s even over? If whenever things are going badly for you and you lose you start blaming somebody else then you don’t have what it takes to be in this job.”
Mr. Trump is also claiming that the national media is biased toward Hillary Clinton. There is potentially a bit more merit to this claim according to a Center for Public Integrity report.
Throughout the process of this election, there are people who have both agreed and disagreed with Mr. Trump’s political views. That is reasonable.
Further, Mr. Trump has also made some very unkind comments about certain groups of people. Some supporters are able to look past them, some have not been able to.
But there is a sentiment that yesterday Mr. Trump went beyond both the political and personal, taking aim at the heart of what defines us as Americans — faith in the founding values of the United States.
Experts are predicting that what Mr. Trump said last night may hurt his chances of getting elected.
More importantly, it may have consequences for us as a country. Traditionally after the election is over, a losing presidential candidate makes a concession speech that sends the message to his/her supporters – sometimes almost half the country – that the campaign is over and it’s time to move on and unite again as a country. The concern is that if Mr. Trump loses and refuses to do this, the country could remain divided both at home and in the eyes of the world. And that wouldn’t be helpful.
The idea of the United States is that even if we disagree, we’re Americans first … Democrats, Republicans, and Independents second.
On Thursday, the day after the debate, Mr. Trump expanded on his position at a rally saying that he would accept the election results … if he won.
Here is a letter from then outgoing Republican President George H. W. Bush to the newly elected Democratic President Bill Clinton wishing him success and good luck. It may be a bit hard to read so the transcription is below:
When I walked into this office just now I felt the same sense of wonder and respect that I felt four years ago. I know you will feel that, too.
I wish you great happiness here. I never felt the loneliness some Presidents have described.
There will be very tough times, made even more difficult by criticism you may not think is fair. I’m not a very good one to give advice; but just don’t let the critics discourage you or push you off course.
You will be our President when you read this note. I wish you well. I wish your family well.
Your success is now our country’s success. I am rooting for you.
Here is a video about how the election works.