The most exciting and disappointing moments of an election year are the presidential debates. Exciting, because it’s the first time voters can really juxtapose the presidential candidates’ ideas against each other, making their decision a little more informed. Disappointing, because it never goes as expected.
It is not, however, the creative arguments set forth by each candidate, but rather their images, that really settle in the hearts and minds of voters.
It was difficult to analyze the political arguments made by either of the parties at the debate because both lacked substance. What can be analyzed is the physical presentation of each candidate. Facial expressions, tone, hand gestures, eye movements, and respect for formalities carry crucial information about a candidate’s personality.
When arguments become muddled, these observations are easy to notice and remember. Watching last week’s presidential debate was like going on a blind date with Clinton and Trump. In the first fleeting moments of getting to know a person and deciding their romantic worthiness, we most often notice their mannerisms.
Generally speaking, Hillary Clinton seemed to have the better image last week.
Several major news outlets, including the New York Times and the Washington Post, announced Clinton as the winner of the debate, saying she was confident and prepared.
According to Politifact, Donald Trump made false claims at least eight times, while Hillary Clinton lied at least two times, making Clinton supposedly the more truthful of the candidates. Trump was also rude and interrupted both his rival and Holt many more times than Clinton did.
In terms of rhetoric, both Clinton and Trump’s arguments were essentially equal, but clearly on opposite sides of the political spectrum. Trump claimed he was the better choice because Clinton is corrupt and deceitful, while Clinton declared herself the morally good choice because Trump is racist and sexist (among other reasons).
In the end, however, neither candidate put much effort into polishing their own image, and instead threw their resources into sabotaging that of their enemy. This form of argument is timeless in American politics, possibly because it is difficult to make oneself look better than everyone else in a politically equal nation.
Hopefully, the next two debates will provide a better portrayal of the candidates’ policies.