Trump and Clinton on race and police in first presidential debate

 

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Essential question

How might presidential debates affect how the electorate decides to vote?

Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump faced off Monday night in the first of three presidential debates leading up to this year’s election on Nov. 8.

Over the course of the debate, moderator and NBC anchor Lester Holt asked the candidates to share their plans for addressing a number of issues facing the nation, including continuing conflicts between police and African American communities.

“Unfortunately, race still determines too much,” Clinton began. “Often it determines where people live, determines what kind of education in their public schools they can get and yes, it determines how they’re treated in the criminal justice system.”

Clinton pointed to her campaign’s criminal justice reform platform and said she would focus on two key areas — working to restore trust and respect between the police and communities of color and tackling the “plague of gun violence” in inner city neighborhoods, which is a leading cause of death for young African American males.

“Everyone should be respected by the law, and everyone should respect the law,” Clinton said. “Right now that’s not the case in a lot of our neighborhoods.”

Trump highlighted his endorsement from the Fraternal Order of Police and a number of other police groups around the country and said his plan would restore law and order in some of the nation’s most violent neighborhoods.

“We have gangs roaming the streets, and in many cases they’re illegally here — they’re illegal immigrants,” Trump said. “We have to bring back law and order.”

Trump referenced Chicago’s extremely high rate of gun violence and gun deaths and suggested employing a program similar to New York City’s controversial stop-and-frisk, which a judge ruled unconstitutional in 2013.

“Right now our police, in many cases, are afraid to do anything,” he said. “African American communities are being decimated by crime.”

 

Key terms

stop-and-frisk — the practice by which a police officer initiates a stop of an individual on the street, allegedly based on reasonable suspicion of criminal activity; stops and frisks occur at a high rate in communities of color and were ruled unconstitutional in New York City

criminal justice — the system of practices and institutions of governments directed at upholding social control, deterring and mitigating crime, or sanctioning those who violate laws with criminal penalties and rehabilitation efforts

Questions: 

 

Warm up questions (before watching the video)

  1. Did you watch the first presidential debate on Monday, September 26? If so, what issues were raised in the debate

  2. What is the point of a presidential debate?

  3. What are some issues that matter most to you?

 

Critical thinking questions (after watching the video)

  1. What were the main differences between Clinton and Trump’s responses to the question about healing the racial divide in America?
  2. Try to answer this question as a political scientist, leaving personal opinions aside: Who do you think gave the stronger response to the question of race and policing? Why?
  3. What do you think the candidates have to do to improve for the second presidential debate on October 9, 2016?

 

Extension activity

How important is fact checking in the presidential debates? We talk to students all the time about doing their research, using high quality sources and making sure their information is correct. Yet the issue of fact checking the candidates has become increasingly important and even controversial in Election 2016.

Talk with your students about the importance of getting the facts right. Check out this video The facts behind debate talking points like stop-and-frisk and trade deals by PBS NewsHour’s political director Lisa DesJardins in which she discusses the importance of fact checking.