Preparation vs. Braggadocio: The Debate

After weeks of buildup, anticipation, and guessing how the first presidential debate would go, it finally happened. Last night both Trump and Clinton took the stage at Hofstra University and for ninety minutes the citizens of the United States, as well as million’s around the world, were able to get an isolated look at our two candidates for president. Both campaigns worked diligently to set expectations prior to the debate, and from the start it was clear that neither campaign lied about what they had done. Trump looked loosely prepared but mostly off the cuff, Clinton looked like she had spent weeks preparing for every possible scenario.

Lester Holt began the debates by giving the rules to the audience and explaining how the debate would be held. There were 6 different 15 minute sections. Each section began with a question for each candidate that they had two minutes to respond too and then the rest of the 15 minutes were freeform. There was some anticipation as to how the candidates would physically respond to one another on stage, if they would even shake hands or if they would hug. When it began Clinton came out, shook Trump’s hand, and told him “It’s good to see you Donald.”

Clinton, throughout the night, worked to get under Trump’s skin and expose his temperamental problems. Right away, from addressing him as Donald multiple times, calling Trump out for receiving a 14 million dollar loan from his dad to start his business, and attacking his conduct as a businessman it was clear that her strategy was working. Though Trump looked calm for much of the first half of the debates, he could not help from interrupting her to try and ‘correct the record’ after each of her quips towards his personal acumen.

To Trump’s credit, the first 40 minutes or so of the debate were incredibly even between the two candidates. Trump looked poised and passionate when talking about trade issues, he was able to pull specific cities and voters out as examples, and it was easy to tell that Trump legitimately cared about these issues. Trump’s single greatest strength in this campaign has been jobs, and he made sure to hammer that in over the first half of the debates. Clinton looked like she was struggling at times, defending both President Obama, and her husband President Clinton’s records.

Trump was also able to deliver a great moment when he said that he would release his taxes if Clinton released the emails that she had deleted, which provoked applause from the audience. Clinton met the email question head on; however, as she admitted that she made a mistake and would do it different if given the chance, basically stopping any subsequent attacks at that point.

While Trump hammered the issue of jobs Clinton made sure to appeal to fact-checkers watching the debate to call him out on his lies. There was a weird back and forth between the candidates where Trump would say something and Hillary would call out fact-checkers to correct him, and then Hillary would say something and Trump would whisper “wrong” into the microphone. One of the many things that stood out from the night was how often Trump interrupted Clinton, almost as if he was heckling her at his own debate. Five Thirty-Eight surmised that Trump interrupted Clinton over 20 times throughout the debate, and VOX counted over 70 times that Trump made an interruption, be it behavioral or audible, throughout the debate.

The debate was riddled with moments that would have defined the election in any other cycle.Though Trump held his own well against Clinton in the first half of the debates, there were so many moments that are worth repeating purely because of the absurdity. Trump repeatedly made claims about how much money he made in 2015, even going so far as to say that his friends expressed shock at how little he made in 2015 compared to a usual year for Trump. He said that even if he doesn’t get to the White House in the election he will get their anyways because of the hotel he built next-door, and he said that stop-and-frisk had not been ruled unconstitutional. Though none of this was surprising for Trump, it did help keep the first half of the debate from really going Trumps way.

The debate took a turn for the worse for Trump when Lester Holt directly accosted him for questioning the citizenship of President Obama for years as he headed the birther movement. Trump refused to apologize for his racist comments and campaign to delegitimize the president of the United States. In fact, he doubled down. Claiming that it was a good thing he was able to get Obama to produce his birth-certificate. He also avoided answering why he continued to question Obama’s citizenship for years following it being produced. Trump tried instead to blame the Clinton campaign for starting the rumors and then became completely derailed after that did not work.

As the debate moved from the economy and jobs to race and finally national security, Trump became increasingly unhinged. After Lester Holt pushed Trump for his birther comments, he completely unraveled. Trump became visibly agitated, red-faced, and angry. He was drinking water non-stop, which he heavily criticized Marco Rubio for, and he licked his lips awkwardly after every gulp. Trump was sniffing constantly, leading some on social media to joke that he had done cocaine before the debate. His body language was terrible; Trump was leaning on the lector and sighing heavily throughout the night. In addition to all of this, as the debate moved forwards, Trump’s arguments became increasingly incoherent.

When Lester pressed Trump on issues of National Security and Nuclear weapons in particular, it was clear that he was unprepared and out of his element. It’s almost impossible to actually discern what Trump meant to say during the latter half of the debate because he jumped all over the place in his answers. From blaming China for hacks attributed to the Russian government, to calling on Sean Hannity to defend his positions on Iraq, Trump floundered about as he desperately searched for an answer to Lester Holt’s questions. Steve Schmidt, a Republican operative, flatly stated after the debates that there was no way you could intellectually say that Trump was coherent.

One particularly alarming moment during the national security section of the debate was when Trump spoke about the policy of first-strike in regards to the use of nuclear weapons. First-strike is where the US would use nuclear weapons pre-emptively. It did not appear that Trump understood that, in his answer he contradicted himself multiple times and did not seem to grasp what first-strike actually meant. Trump alternated between agreeing with Obama’s policies and refusing “to take anything off the table.” The commander-in-chief needs to understand the policies they talk about, particularly when it comes to the threat of nuclear war, Trump massively failed to grasp the importance and nuance of national security questions and it was clear in his composition and responses throughout the debate.

While Trump looked good in the beginning of the debate and unraveled in the second half, Clinton looked good in the beginning and continued to look stronger and stronger throughout the debate. By the end of the debate it was clear that Clinton was going to come out on top. At one point Lester Holt asked Trump to defend saying that Clinton did “not look presidential” and Trump responded by saying that he didn’t think she had the stamina to be president, not that she didn’t have the look. Clinton’s response was perhaps her strongest moment of the debate:

“As soon as he [Trump] travels to 112 countries and negotiates a peace deal, and a cease fire, a release of dissidents, an opening of new opportunities in nations around the world, or even spends 11 hours testifying in front of a congressional committee, he can talk to me about stamina [then].”

By the end of the debate Clinton had found, for lack of a better term, her swag.

Clinton was able to show her humanity in the debate. From moments like her shoulder shimmy and expression “whoooo… ok” after Trump flatly declared that his strongest asset is his temperament, to drilling into Trump for his racist business practices, birther-ism, and support of racist policies like stop-and-frisk, Clinton was able to rope-a-dope Trump into mistakes while coming across genuine and caring. Because Trump spent so much time interrupting her, shouting at her, and lying about her, it was much easier to empathize with her than him. Clinton needed to humanize herself in this debate. She succeeded.

Overall, the debate went great for Clinton and terrible for Trump. Even places like Fox News were critical of Trumps performance after the debate ended. Nevertheless, only time will tell if the debate will make any difference in how the voters think about the two choices that they face. It is unlikely that the debate pushed the needle for anyone that had already made up their mind for either Hillary or Trump; however, in an election with more third-party voters than usual it is likely that this debate helped push some people away from a protest vote. Trump did nothing during the debate that would alleviate people’s fear of him; however, Clinton did a good job of illustrating the difference in qualification and quality between herself and Trump. If anyone benefits from this debate it will be her.

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One issue with writing about the debates is figuring out how much time to spend going through the lies of each candidate. I decided to focus mostly on style in this response because, although the debate was riddled with inconsistencies, the established media did a great job of fact-checking and because their resources are so much greater was able to do a much more thorough job than I ever could. I have linked several of these fact-checking articles to the bottom of my post so that people can go through them as they have time and see for themselves which candidate can’t separate fact from fiction.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/fact-checker/wp/2016/09/27/fact-checking-the-first-clinton-trump-presidential-debate/

http://www.nytimes.com/2016/09/27/opinion/campaign-stops/the-lies-trump-told.html?action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=opinion-c-col-right-region&region=opinion-c-col-right-region&WT.nav=opinion-c-col-right-region

http://patch.com/illinois/chicago/follow-politifacts-live-fact-check-presidential-debate

The Muddy Cup

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Last week I had a latte made with beans that were very lightly roasted, resulting in a very light and refreshing drink. This week I decided to take it even further. There is a beautiful little café down the road from my apartment called “The Muddy Cup,” they make a lot of really cool artisanal little drinks. One of the things that they do, which I have not yet tried anywhere else, is make drinks out of white coffee beans.

White coffee beans are produced by baking the beans at low temperatures, which produces a bean that is white-ish with a lightly tanned coloration. Normally beans are roasted. When white coffee beans are used to make a drink it produces a much nuttier flavor profile. In fact, it tastes more like a rich, nutty tea, than it does a latte.

The latte is different than any other coffee drink I’ve ever had. It tastes nothing like coffee. The nuttiness is extremely noticeable in the drink, and it is much lighter than a normal latte. If you like tea than you will like this drink.

I do not think that I will try a white bean latte again. I like the light, non-acidic profile, but the nuttiness is a little overwhelming. As a self-professed lover of all things coffee I think the thing I miss the most with this drink is any sense that I am having a cup of Joe. I recommend this latte for those people who like tea and want a delicious caffeinated boost, but don’t like the way that coffee tastes. It’s worth a try even though it’s not my personal favorite.

Setting the Stage: The First of the Presidential Debates

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Tonight, at 9pm eastern, the first of the Presidential Debates will kick off. Lester Holt, of MSNBC, is the host. According to MSN over 100 million people are expected to tune in for the “Humbling at the Hofstra,” as billionaire and Trump-antagonist Mark Cuban so eloquently dubbed it. For weeks political pundits, bloggers, and the campaigns have talked about what might happen, what to expect, and who might win. With the debates less than a few hours away the wait is almost over. There is a lot to look for in this debate, each candidate is vastly different from their opponent, and the future of our country hangs in the balance. The stakes could not be higher.

One thing that has stirred up controversy of late is whether or not the moderators, in this case Lester Holt a registered republican, will act as fact-checkers. Both Clinton and Trump have faced relentless scrutiny over their transparency and truthfulness, or more aptly, their lack of. It is important that the debates be constrained by the truth. Politifact has reported that 70% of the statements that Trump has made they rate as ‘mostly false,’ while they score Clinton as 28% ‘mostly false,’ which is not great but is within the realm of normal for political figures to score with Politifact. One interesting caveat is that most of Trumps lies have something to do with propping up how great he is, or how he is the only one who can fix something. There is therefore real cause for concern that neither candidate will allow themselves to be restrained by facts.

In an election that has become almost entirely about personality rather than policy this is especially alarming. Presidents are, first and foremost, the leaders of our country. They decide the policy direction and focus that the country will take. If we do not hold our leaders to a standard of truth and honesty than how can we expect them to be real leaders? Policy is not successful because of the way a politician makes a person feel, or react, they succeed because the facts on the ground allow policy makers to draft legislation that addresses issues apparent in those facts. We cannot have a President who thinks of the truth as a fluid, flexible concept.

On one hand we have a candidate in Trump who 3 out of every 4 things he says are verifiably untrue. Meanwhile, Clinton is touted as a policy wonk that can pull statistics out of her pocket with ease, yet 1 out of every 4 statements she makes are equally untrue. How can anyone feel, in that context, that they can trust anything that either person says?

Because there is so much unprecedented uncertainty as towards the truthfulness with which the debates will be handled it is more important than ever for the moderators and for the media to hold the candidates responsible when they will not hold themselves accountable for the truth.

Over the last few weeks both campaigns have worked hard to lower expectations for the debates. Trump, on Fox & Friends, said that he does not believe that Lester Holt should correct his or Hillary Clinton’s ‘facts’ during the debate, stating that Lester Holt “has to be a moderator” and not a fact-checker. Trump has approached all aspect of the debate with an equally cavalier attitude. His campaign reports that he has prepared by holding informal Q&A sessions with his advisors, talking with his cohorts over cheeseburgers and diet coke, building a psychological profile on Clinton, and stirring up controversy over the legitimacy and fairness of the debates.

What can we expect from the Trump campaign given what we know? Trump is at home in front of a camera. As a reality TV star Trump knows how to work an audience and how to work controversy in his favor. He is, for better or worse, extremely at home in a setting of confrontation. He easily mopped the stage during the primaries of his opponents; however, there is an enormous difference between debating people that you largely agree with and debating 16 or 17 people vs. a singular opponent that you do not agree with. Trump thrived during the republican primaries because he never had to stand and face a single opponent that he had to talk policy with. He was able to stay quiet when he was out of his element and jump in with a witty remark or attack when he thought he could. Trump never had to answer tough policy questions because the republican debates were largely held in agreement over policy, division over style. Trumps bombastic approach and larger-than-life personality drowned out his opponents and drove him to the front of the pack.

The general election debates are way different than primary debates, however, not the least because they are held in front of muted audiences in front of a single moderator and single opponent. There are real policy disagreements between both candidates, which let the moderator facilitate a discussion more closely focused on the issues.

Trump has not shown any familiarity with policy specifics over the course of his campaign; however, he has shown an uncanny ability to play the media and coverage to his advantage. Over the course of this debate Trump will likely try and keep his rhetoric relatively muted. Trump will try to make the debate an argument over style, not substance, because that is where he does his best. The one time that Trump stumbled during the Republican Debates was when he confronted Carly Fiorina and she came back saying “I think women around the country heard very clearly what he said,” which resonated because of the sexist attacks he had made towards her and others, including Fox’s own Megyn Kelly. One major thing that Trump needs to avoid is coming across as a bully or as a sexist when he attacks Clinton during the debates.

There is no question that Trump can win this debate. The standard that he is being held to is incredibly low. Any other electoral cycle would have seen him withdraw in shame over the many things that he has said in public over the course of the last year and some. The way that some people in the media are talking about it, all Trump needs to do to win this debate is show up on stage and not defecate his pants. There is no doubt that he will spout untruths with reckless abandon, that he will attack Obama and Clinton, and that he will avoid talking specifically about anything policy related. Trump will likely come out to this debate presenting his business boardroom personality, not the side he brings to rallies. And that is a real concern for the Clinton campaign. If the narrative coming out of the debates is that Trump looked ‘presidential’ then it doesn’t matter if Clinton honestly answered policy questions and talked about the issues, Trump will look victorious.

Trump has shown this side before. When he went to visit the Mexican President the media gushed over how ‘presidential’ he looked. They showered him with praise for doing nothing other than holding himself together for a few hours. Time and time again Trump has succeeded in tricking people into believing that he has more depth then “build the wall” and “I alone can fix it.”

Clinton faces a tough task in tonight’s debates. She is a veteran of many political debates, and is often regarded as a seriously tough debater. She is extremely studious, she’s been trained as a lawyer, and she knows policy better than almost anyone in the public eye. The Clinton Campaign has touted how much preparation they have been doing for these debates. They have acknowledged the difficulty of preparing to debate an opponent such as Trump. Clinton, as a woman, faces a whole array of issues in debating that Trump does not need to worry about. If she doesn’t smile or come across as happy than she will be criticized simply because she is a woman. If she comes out and is too focused on policy than people will attack her for that as well. She needs to come out and present to the American Public a version of herself that is human; she must connect with the audience on an emotional level if she is to win.

Clinton must use the debates as a chance to make a case for millennial voters to vote FOR her and not just against Trump. She must be able to give a palatable answer for why she used a private server during her time as Secretary of State. Clinton needs to acknowledge her imperfections and make a case for why she is the only choice for President of the United States of America.

As an experienced politician and debater, Clinton will likely try to draw out and provoke a reaction from Trump that exposes his fragile ego and quick temper. She is prepared and should make every effort to expose the real weakness in policy knowledge that Trump has, forcing him to explain his positions to the American people in detail would be an incredible achievement for her. If Trump resorts to name-calling and bullying behavior like he often did throughout the republican primaries, than Clinton will win the optics of the debates.

Rarely have the debates changed the course of an election. Even more rare is for policy to be the thing that people remember from a debate. People remember particular moments of style above all else. From Gore sighing dramatically, to Romney’s binders of women, it only takes a moment for a debate to be lost. Tonight it will be important for Clinton to avoid any such moment. Whether it is a roll of her eyes, to a quick impromptu laugh, Clinton needs to tread carefully in how she expresses herself. Clinton’s primary focus should be building the case for why Trump is temperamentally and historically unfit for the office of POTUS, and then allowing him to demonstrate exactly why.

Tonight’s debates are amongst the most highly anticipated of all time. There are more undecided voters than ever before. More and more American people are expressing disgust with politics as usual and the choices that we have. Tonight may not be a referendum on which person the American people would ideally like for president. But the truth is that either Clinton or Trump will be the next President of the United States of America. Tonight is the opportunity for the American people to come to terms with that and decide which candidate’s platforms and policies most closely align with their own.

Hopefully tonight’s debates will be constrained by the truth. Regardless of the candidate, people should require their leaders to hold the truth near and dear to their heart. It should not be optional, and it is certainly not subjective.

The wait is nearly over. Let the debate commence.

What Will It Take?

Hopeful, excited, exhausted, these are some of the many emotions that were probably running through Terence Crutcher’s mind as he drove home from his music classes at community college. The father of four was likely thinking about telling his kids all about his first day of classes, going to church with his family, and hanging out with his friends to relax. He was just a regular guy, working to improve his family and his lives. As he drove home his car broke down and stalled in the middle of the road. As it happens the police ended up coming into contact with him. He was a man who could be any of us, the only thing that made him different on the 17th of September, a Saturday, was the color of his skin. Crutcher is a person of color and on the 17th that meant that the police killed him, instead of helping.

On Monday footage was released that showed the shooting, and the aftermath, of Terence Crutcher, shot on Saturday by a white police officer. One of the clips was shot from a helicopter hovering above the scene. In the clip you can see Crutcher with his hands in the air as he walks towards his SUV, in seconds he is shot with a Taser and then shot by a gun, before being left to bleed out. In the video there is no discernable reason for the use of lethal force. There were multiple armed police officers on the scene, Crutcher had no gun, and seconds after being tased he was shot dead. The video is all you need to see to know, for a fact, that there was no justifiable reason to use lethal force to stop Crutcher.

There is a man dead today that should not have been killed. He was executed in the street, by the police, for no reason. Another victim in a long line of those gunned down by those pledged to protect them. The truly alarming thing about the entire incident is, of course, how utterly predictable it was. Every week it seems like another story breaks of the police killing another person of color for nothing. The police officers that are responsible are put on administrative leave, the police promise to investigate, and at some point the officers are acquitted or charges are dismissed. There is no justice; there is no accountability for these murders. That’s what they are, after all, murder; nothing more, and nothing less.

We need to be candid here; there is a serious problem in America today. People of color are being gunned down in the streets by the very men and women that swear to defend them. Black Lives Matter has become a rallying call amongst activists, especially in the millennial generation. It seems that every single week there is another breaking story of a person of color getting shot within a matter of seconds of interacting with the police force. I have no doubt that working as a Law Enforcement Officer is an extremely stressful, thankless, and difficult line of employment. Does that mean, however, that the police should be granted exemption to the very laws that they swear to uphold when they resort to lethal force in situations that by no means necessitate it? A rhetorical question, to be sure, and perhaps hyperbolic, but the answer is simple nonetheless. The law is the law is the law. The reason that law works, in theory, is because everyone is held to its standard regardless of their stature or position in life. This is no longer, and arguably has never been, the case in the United States of America. We put ourselves on a pedestal as “the land of the free, and the home of the brave,” but we don’t expect our police to be brave while dealing with the public and we don’t protect the freedom of large swaths of our population to not be summarily executed in the street by poorly trained, trigger happy cops.

The United States has a long and sordid history with race. Our constitution, arguably the single most revered document in American culture, explicitly held the value of African American men as 3/5th of that of their White counterparts. Our country was built on the backs of slaves. It took a civil war, the only in our history, to end this. Even then, issues of race were far from resolved. From the Jim Crow era to the vicious racism of the Civil Rights Movement, race has historically not been something that Americans are great at dealing with. When the brutal beating of Rodney King was seen across the airwaves of the world in the early 90’s, followed by the subsequent acquittal of all involved officers, the reaction was historic, and palatable. People around the world were finally exposed to what people of color have known for centuries, that their lives are not valued, nor are they entitled to the same treatment, that the rest of the citizens of the United States enjoy. The riots that arose from the beating of Rodney King illustrated how tense issues of race still were in America. Unfortunately, instead of triggering reform in police forces across the nation, the violence that the riots produced allowed ‘white’ America to comfortably ignore the extremely real issues of police brutality towards people of color.

Now, with the prevalence of smartphones and how quickly information can be flashed around the entire world, it is becoming more and more common for video of these violent police encounters to surface. It is easier than ever for people to communicate and organize. More and more it is becoming impossible to continue to ignore the injustice that our brothers and sisters of color are faced with day in, day out.

Now, there is no question that a large percentage of law enforcement is composed by good, hardworking, and restrained individuals. The sentiment that ‘Blue Lives Matter’ is in theory a fine thing to say, however, the murder of police is as far from institutionally protected as can be. The murder of people of color, by the police, conversely, has been institutionally protected since the conception of the United States of America. This must change. It is for this reason that ‘Black Lives Matter’ has become such a rallying call. Because black lives matter too, they are just as important, just as American, and have just as much a right to life as the rest of us.

Being a police officer is not an easy or safe job. That is not a question. According to the Bureau of Labor, however, it doesn’t even crack the top ten most dangerous jobs in America. The same report shows that police deaths have been steadily declining over the last 40 years. New York City, one of the most active law enforcement cities in the world, had only one officer killed by a firearm in the line of duty over a five year period, from 2008 to 2012. Police may feel that they are under attack across the country, as NYC Police Commissioner William Bratton said to NBC’s “Meet the Press,” however, that is simply not held up by the facts on the ground.

America sends thousands and thousands of combat troops around the world each year; all of them are constrained by the terms of engagement, which prevent them from firing on individuals before being fires on themselves. These are our combat soldiers, the 18 year old men and women that we send into the most volatile, stressful situations that anyone could possibly imagine. Yet we expect them to justify, fully, every single time that they fire their weapon at people. When they cannot justify the shots they are prosecuted to the fullest extent, often ending up in military prison.

There is no conceivable reason that the police, tasked with protecting American citizens, not conquering them, are allowed more freedom to use lethal force than their military counterparts. Whether it is the training, culture, or resources of police forces across the country, it is time for law enforcement to answer for the reckless lethality with which they treat people of color in the United States. There is no question of IF there is a problem, it exists. Now is the time for the United States, and the police who swear to protect its law, to redeem itself for centuries of racial abuse and refuse to stand for the continued execution of people of color around the country.

When Colin Kaepernick sat down to protest the treatment of people of color the United States collectively lost its mind. When Terence Crutcher was ruthlessly gunned down in the streets of Tulsa those same voices made nary a sound.

When will it be enough?

Slate Coffee Roasters: The Hipster Latte

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My first impression of the latte was, quite frankly, that it is incredible. The foam top is even and thick, over an inch at my estimation, and consistent. Its flavor is distinguished and creamy. Both the espresso and milk shine through, neither overwhelming the other. The top holds its shape well throughout consumption as well, which lets you enjoy the foam for the entire time.

The latte itself is, not surprisingly, excellent too. The espresso was made with a blend of two individual strains of coffee beans, a washed coffee from El Salvador and another bean from Colombia. It is chocolaty, nutty, and creamy, tasting more like a hot chocolate than a latte. Slate Coffee Roasters always roasts their beans very lightly, which lets a lot more of the flavor profile to be released in the drink and produces a very light and soft flavor profile that has none of the usual acidity of a latte. The light roasting process also preserves more of the caffeine within the coffee been, which produces a much stronger cup of Joe!

I was very happy with my choice of drink this morning. The latte was smooth and delicious to the very last drop. There is no doubt in my mind that I will be back for another at some time in the not so distant future.

Thanks Obama! – As Clinton is sidelined by pneumonia, player one enters the game…

Several hours after nearly collapsing at the 9/11 memorial the Clinton campaign released a statement that “she felt overheated so departed [the memorial] to go to her daughter’s apartment, and is [now] feeling much better.” After scrutiny and questioning by the media, the Clinton campaign clarified that Hillary had been diagnosed with pneumonia on the 9th of September, a Friday. Dr. Lisa Bardack, Clinton’s personal doctor, had advised Clinton to “rest and modify her schedule” following the diagnosis, which Clinton obviously did not listen to. Dr. Bardack saw Clinton after she nearly collapsed on 9/11 and said that she had simply been dehydrated early, adding that “She is now re-hydrated and [is] recovering nicely.” The Clinton campaign subsequently announced that Hillary would be taking a few days off from the trail and that surrogates such as President Clinton, Vice President Biden, and President Obama would be making appearances in the upcoming days in her stead.

It is often said in politics that the worst gaffs are those that confirm suspicions already held by the electorate. Hillary Clinton spent weeks being hounded by controversy over her health and transparency with the media and the American public. After she stumbled during the 9/11 memorial, and her campaigns reluctance and obfuscated responses to questions arising from the quick departure, the media was quick to jump on her for not telling the American public about the pneumonia diagnosis when it happened. This campaign season has been one marred by controversy and half-truths. Clinton has spent much of it defending her poll numbers on likability, trustworthiness, and transparency, which has left her without an affirmative message to galvanize the American electorate behind.

As Clinton was sidelined by pneumonia, the lack of a physical presence by Clinton to act as the foil to Trump, her campaign demonstrated the weakness of running without a positive message. The election cycle has become a twenty-four hour, seven days a week affair. The process of running for President of the United States of America takes well over a year and is an extremely visible process. This particular cycle’s vitriolic rhetoric, combined with a deeply fractured American electorate has produced an election that has become more about personality than policy. Clinton has enjoyed an almost uninterrupted lead in polling since the Democratic National Convention in August, however, that lead has been steadily falling as time passes and Trump begins to control himself on the National scene.

Enter player one. As Clinton’s poll numbers tightened and Trump looked poised to reframe the debate over the presidency, President Obama came to Philadelphia in order to campaign on behalf of Hillary Clinton. The president was all too happy to come to the city of brotherly love, where he is historically well loved. He looked happy, relaxed, and confident as he took to the podium. A friendly audience and warm reception was hardly the only reason for the President’s high spirits, however, as the U.S Census Bureau released two reports on Tuesday detailing that the economy has done very well lately under the stewardship of President Obama. Obama’s arrival and demeanor underscored an important aspect of the 2016 Presidential Race, presidential elections need to be taken seriously because of the vast impact they have on the lives of the citizens of the United States.

The Census Bureau’s two reports: Income and Poverty in the United States: 2015; and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2015 outlined three specific examples of how the economy has done well under President Obama. The most high profile of which is that the median household income in the United States rose 5.2 percentage points from where it was in 2014. The first such increase since 2007, which is good because it means families have more cash on hand and can subsequently spend more, which encourages more economic growth. This therefore represents a major step towards revitalizing the United States economy. In addition to this the bureau reported that the percentage of people without health insurance was down from 10.4 percent in 2014, to 9.1 percent, which represents a decline of 33 million people to 29 million. This is not only good because it means that more Americans are getting the healthcare they so desperately need, but it also means that healthcare providers will be more competitive, as the bureau reported. Finally, the reports detailed that the countries poverty rates fell by more than 1.2 percentage points to 13.5 during 2015. This represents 3.5 million fewer people who were below the poverty line in 2015 than in 2014. The largest such decline since 1999, the last time a Clinton sat in the Oval Office.

Trump has spent much of his time running for President bashing the military, people, and economy of the United States. He’s said that “our military is a disaster,” that it is “in shambles,” and that the U.S “generals have been reduced to rubble… to a point where it’s embarrassing for our country.” The Republican Party is traditionally known for it’s over the top patriotism and embrace of the military, however, not only does Trump buck this trend, he completely annihilates it. Not only does he attack the strength of the U.S military, despite being ranked far and wide as the number one military in the world by globalfirepower.com, but he also attacks the families of those who have sent their children to die fighting for the United States of America. Trump has attacked immigrants in the U.S, he’s attacked people of color, and he’s attacked journalists. There are few who are safe from his ire.

The rhetoric that Trump uses paints an America that is struggling, on the verge of collapse, and surrounded by foes that are salivating at the opportunity to crumble our great democratic experiment. Trump spoke with J.D. Hayworth of Newsmax and told him that “[America] has no growth right now… the country’s a disaster.” He made the economy a central tenet to his campaign, claiming that he will bring back jobs, grow the economy, and save millions of people in the country from the humiliation of unemployment. These are all great goals to aspire too; however, Trump claims that we are not on the right track right now, and that “only [he]” can fix it. The facts of the matter are that Trumps rhetoric on the military, on the U.S, and particularly on the economy are not matched by the facts on the ground.

Our military is as strong as it has ever been, our country has better relations than it has had in the past, and our economy is doing better than it has in years. Unemployment is down, more people have health insurance, and people’s pocketbooks are growing for the first time in a generation. The vast majority of people when asked how they are personally doing, say that things are improving for them. The dumpster fire that Trump sees when he looks at the United States is simply a figment of his imagination.

This election cycle has been defined by its negativity. It is true that both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are historically unlikeable, that the American electorate does not feel it can trust either candidate, and that the vitriol of Partisan Politics has never been more clearly on display. For over a year the American people have watched as a shrinking field of candidates hammered one another for every conceivable difference of opinion. As they have hurled insults at each other, floated wildly deranged conspiracy theories, and relentlessly attacked the other’s character. It is no surprise, then, that people are fed up with the negativity and cynicism. Obama entering the campaign trail as a surrogate for Clinton, with his approval rate steadily climbing at around 58%, breathes fresh air into a campaign cycle dominated by anger. President Obama serves as a poignant reminder to the American people that elections matter. They are not simply contests of personality. They matter, and they matter a lot. The successes of the Obama administration highlight just how much impact a President has on the country.

It is important not to look at these reports, and at Obama’s approval rating, as a way to discount the very real fears and troubles that Trump has tapped into during this electoral cycle. The American people do not feel confident about the leaders of this country. People do not feel like they are doing better, despite the stats showing an upward economic swing. Voters do not think the opportunity and economic security that their parents had is afforded to them or to their kids. There is a lot of fear and distrust around immigration and trade deals. Racial tension is boiling up around the country and white power group’s ranks are swelling as the alt-right finds itself with a venue to espouse themselves to the American public.

These are real issues that are not going to disappear after November 8th, it is important that they are not discounted. Whether or not Trump wins, the electoral coalition that he has built, and the sentiments and attitudes that he has stirred up, are here to stay. These issues must be addressed head on if our democracy is to remain healthy for future generations. They are not going away, no matter who wins.

Clinton needs to take her stumble on 9/11, and subsequent days off of the trail, and use it as an opportunity to reset this campaign. Obama, this last Wednesday, breathed fresh air into the Clinton Campaign. The Census Bureau gave them the ammunition they need to put together a powerful affirmative message that they can use to galvanize people behind her as a candidate in her own right, rather than as an alternative to Trump. The economy is doing well and getting better, the Democratic President is widely liked, and more people have access to health insurance than ever before. Clinton needs to go out there, remind people of all the things she’s done and worked on, and show them what a leader that we can all rally around looks like.