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Presidential Debate Recommendations

Like many others, I was deeply disturbed by much of what I heard (and saw) during the presidential debate on September 26. From Donald Trump’s difficulty breathing to his repeated interruptions, lies, and dodges of even the softest questions, the Republican nominee was way less than impressive. And, while I thought Hillary Clinton exhibited far more poise (perhaps due to her actual preparation for a debate) and a much greater grasp of the issues of which she spoke, there remained many things I wanted to hear a lot more about. As someone interested in creating a more peaceful and just country, I am listing three topics I would like to be addressed in more detail during the next debate.

First, I heard very little about war and militarism. Trump asserted that ISIS formed because the U.S. does not have enough of a military presence and vowed to help the country regain its’ “winning temperament.” Clinton’s comment that the U.S. needs to work with its allies to acquire better intelligence was a good start, as was her acknowledgement of the successful diplomacy with Iran by Secretary of State John Kerry, but neither candidate elaborated on their inclination to use troops and/or drone attacks in places like Pakistan, Somalia, and Yemen.

Neither discussed the importance of increasing resources for veterans but otherwise cutting military budgets, despite the U.S. having a military force greater than the next 15 countries combined. According to Vision of Humanity’s Global Peace Index, the U.S. is 103rd out of 163 nations due to its excessive militarism (among other factors). Given that both candidates supported the war in Iraq (even though Trump lied about that during the debate and was even called on it by moderator Lester Holt), it is hard to imagine either as anything but hawkish in this regard. I believe we should push them to take a stand on decreasing military expenditures and engagements, as well as to explain how our continued activity in many countries does not violate international human rights law, as surely seems the case.

Second, gender inequality was shockingly missing from the debate. Sure, Clinton noted her advocacy for equal pay and denounced Trump for his poor treatment of women, but neither offered specifics regarding how to increase women’s presence in politics, the corporate world, or other institutions in which we are sorely underrepresented. Likewise, neither mentioned the many forms of violence endured by women in the U.S on a daily basis. Catcalls, sexual harassment, domestic violence, sexual abuse, and commercial sex trafficking are intractable problems in the U.S. yet none of these issues were mentioned. The 2015 Global Gender Gap Report ranked the U.S. 28th of 145 in regards to gender equality. Data is clear that gender inequality is bad for women, men, and for the society as a whole, as it results in reduced productivity, emotional and physical health outcomes, and more. Given that Clinton has said she isn’t hesitant to “play the gender card,” even asking to be “dealt in” for doing so, I think it is fair to probe her on these issues. And Trump can only stand to repair his image among women, so he would be well-served to think deeply about reducing gender inequality before the next debate. Providing he elects to prepare for that one.

Third, neither candidate focused on education during the debate, barring Clinton’s brief mention of the cost of college. Given that our public schools are as segregated as they were when Martin Luther King Jr. was alive, funding is ridiculously disproportionate, testing and test preparation takes up as much as twenty percent of instructional time in some schools, many offer nothing in terms of comprehensive sexual education, and school grounds increasingly resemble militarized fortresses or prisons, there is much that needs our attention.

In sum, perhaps instead of spending time rehashing that President Obama is indeed a U.S citizen born on U.S. soil, maybe the next debate can include having the candidates describe how they intend to make the country more peaceful and just.

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Laura Finley, Ph.D., teaches in the Barry University Department of Sociology & Criminology and is syndicated by PeaceVoice.

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