Who REALLY Lost The First Debate?

Photo: Courtesy of CRNC.
Alex Smith is the national chairman of the College Republican National Committee. The views expressed here are her own.

Heading into the first presidential debate, I was feeling hopeful.

Finally, after months and months of campaigning, we were going to see Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton go head-to-head. The outcome of the election could hang on how millennials, like me, judged their performances.

As the largest and most diverse demographic in this country, we will be crucial in determining who the 45th president of the United States. In fact, President Obama captured a historic majority of millennials in 2012, propelling him to a second term in the White House. If you counted only voters age 30 and above, Mitt Romney would be our president today. Our generation had the power to reverse the decision that the rest of the electorate made.

Donald Trump was asked tough and fair questions, but the same cannot be said for Hillary Clinton.

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Like many other millennials that tuned in, I saw the debate as a platform to judge the candidates in a fair and balanced manner. We expected to hear enlightened policy discussions that could inform our votes. We hoped to see how the two candidates would be able to stand up to the pressure of primetime, answering questions that are crucial to moving our lagging nation in a positive direction.

But what I saw unfold was extremely disheartening.
Photo: AFP/Getty Images.
NBC's Lester Holt moderated the first debate between presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.
Donald Trump was asked tough and fair questions, but the same cannot be said for Hillary Clinton. Instead, we saw a theme that is recurring in this election: the media, and, in this case, moderator Lester Holt, protecting the Democratic nominee.

What millennials saw Monday was not an even playing field. They saw the same game that had been played in the Democratic primaries. Like Trump, Democratic primary candidate Bernie Sanders was challenged by moderators, while Clinton’s toughest challenges came from Sanders himself.

Fast-forward to the first debate of the general election. Nothing has changed.

Hillary Clinton’s career as a senator and as secretary of state — the cornerstone of the experience she touts in her candidacy — has been mired in controversy. Holt failed to challenge her when it came to her “extremely careless” handling of classified information, her aides that were granted immunity from prosecution before ultimately refusing to testify in the investigation of her private email server, and her failures in the handling of the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi. Not to mention questions surrounding Clinton Foundation donors' access to her during her tenure as secretary of state.

Hillary Clinton’s career as a senator and as secretary of state — the cornerstone of the experience she touts in her candidacy — has been mired in controversy.

But let’s move past those and focus on her run for the presidency.

There are plenty of instances from Clinton’s time on the campaign trail that deserve more scrutiny. First and foremost, her campaign's lack of transparency during her health scare over the weekend of September 11th, and the subsequent week away from the campaign trail. In that case, the reason she left the event went from her being overheated and dehydrated to an acknowledgement that she had been diagnosed with pneumonia days before.

And let’s not forget Clinton’s comments about putting the coal industry out of work. Last but certainly not least, any moderator should ask Clinton about why she called millions of Americans “deplorables,” simply because they support Donald Trump for president.

Monday night was the personification of media bias and rigged politics.

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Lester Hold didn't address any of these questions. Of the 13 questions he did ask, four could be classified as “hit questions” directed at Donald Trump.” Holt also interrupted Trump significantly more times than he interrupted Clinton.

The millennial generation does not accept the old way of doing things. We have seen the effects of the top-down system that has prevailed in Washington over the last almost-eight years and the rigged game that politicians play to keep their power — many of whom have a personal stake in keeping one of their own in Washington.

Monday night was the personification of media bias and rigged politics. We saw the old media protect the old guard of Washington for its own self-interest. Millennials want nothing to do with these games. We see a bright future, with fresh, new solutions to the problems that politicians continue to apply old, failed policies to. We want bottom-up organic growth, not top-down policies driven by Washington. We want our leaders to be open and transparent, not closed and aloof.

In short, we want the games to end and the true discourse to begin.


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