Reactions to the 1st Presidential Debate

The Politics of Color asked scholars to comment on the 1st 2016 Presidential Debate as part of its relaunch. POC is the official blog for the flagship journal of the REP Section of APSA – Journal of Race, Ethnicity, and Politics. Moving forward, we invite scholars, graduate students, and practitioners from all disciplines to contact the blog’s editorial team to contribute to future posts.


the Editorial Team


Two Different Conversations, One Debate

BY: IVY A.M. CARGILECalifornia State University, Bakersfield

The country witnessed a debate consisting of two different conversations in the first of three presidential debates for the 2016 election. While Clinton appeared prepared for the debate and had substance to her answers, Trump managed to respond by rehashing his old stories from the campaign trail. From Clinton, we heard ideas for strengthening the economy. Conversely, from Trump we got anecdotes about companies like Ford and Carrier leaving the U.S. for Mexico with no follow up explaining how these kinds of exits can be prevented. Based on how Trump chose to answer several questions, it felt like the audience was being bombarded with adjective after adjective as a way to qualify the different “solutions” he had for the various problems facing the nation that he was asked about. While there were some interesting exchanges between the candidates overall, the debate was disappointing. I was appalled that after 90 minutes there had been no direct questions asked regarding issues affecting the Latino community. There was no discussion about immigration or anything resembling inquiries about the racist rhetoric that has come from Trump and his campaign.

The Center for American Progress notes that for the 2016 presidential election 13 percent of all eligible voters are Latino. This marks a 2 percent increase from 2012. Knowing this, coupled with the mobilization of Latino voters that is happening, mainly from one campaign, it is baffling how a community that will have so much voting power in this election was completely ignored during the first debate. The closest we got to hearing about any issues affecting Latinos and other communities of color, i.e. the African American community, was when Holt asked about the current racial tensions the country is experiencing. Trump’s response felt like such a throw-back to the 1990’s due to his bad explanations around “stop and frisk” policy – a policy that was actually ruled unconstitutional. In reality, those references were clearly aimed at certain segments of his support base that continues to adhere to notions of White supremacy. In line with the distinction in previous answers between the two candidates, it was reassuring to hear Clinton attempt to broach the issue of race. As she discussed the existence of implicit racial bias, not just among police officers but in society more broadly, it felt like a small victory considering the neglect of any issues important to African Americans and Latinos. At this point, it is unfortunate that all we can do is hope, that if the remaining two debates do go forward, that at least one of them will have questions that will allow communities of color to get answers as to which candidate will provide more substantive representation.


Power to the people: Are racial and ethnic groups going to abandon America’s two-party system?

BY: TWYLA BLACKMOND LARNELL, Loyola University Chicago

I cannot believe that this race is this close! It’s Donald Trump for goodness sake. But, a considerable number of minorities are not at all satisfied with the Democratic Party. They are particularly upset with the legacy of the Clintons in American Politics, especially in the areas of social welfare and criminal justice, and unhappy with Hillary Clinton being the DNC’s presidential candidate. For them, and rightfully so, Bernie Sanders lost to HRC represented a win by the establishment and a lost for the social revolution. Watching Twitter erupt during the debate was eye-opening. Many (very popular) people of color social media commentators were strongly promoting two options for minority voters: vote for Jill Stein or don’t vote at all. Seriously! Forget the many who fought and died for the right to vote. Not to mention that any vote not for HRC is a vote for Donald Trump. His agenda doesn’t seem to support the social, economic, environmental, or political interests of racial and ethnic groups. He supports “Stop and Frisk”! Hillary Clinton has not been a notable advocate of minorities’ rights. In comparison to Trump, I’m pretty sure that she can make a stronger claim for the minority vote. Many people of color simply do not trust Hillary. Her comments during last night’ discussion on minority rights did not seem to help. She and the DNC have to find a way to show a real commitment to the minority policy agenda. This group of disenfranchised minorities (given the lack of a candidate they support) is not small. For them to completely abandon the 2016 Presidential Debate would be disastrous for the Democratic Party and probably propel Donald Trump to the White House. This, however, is not new to American Politics. We recently watched a group of disenfranchised conservations run further to right splintering the Republican Party, which facilitated the development and success the Tea Party. For a long time, the Democratic Party has taken the “black and brown vote” for granted. Are we witnessing a sizeable number of minorities officially splintering from the Democratic Party and moving further to the left? What’s going to happen next? Will the DNC bend to the will of these groups and promote more progressive policies favoring their interests? Will we witness a stronger presence of a third party composed of young people, people of color, and socialist? Feeling really nervous about this Presidential Election.


Reaction to the first presidential debate


Both candidates performed as I expected; Mr. Trump was mostly on the defensive, while Secretary Clinton remained poised and demonstrated how well she prepared for the debate. However, there was a fair amount of accusations between the candidates which took time away from a more thorough discussion of the issues that Americans care about including issues facing people of color in the U.S. Although I was pleased that both candidates were asked to address their policies relating to the economy and national security, I was disappointed that more issues related to race and ethnicity were not featured. I was especially disappointed that neither candidate addressed the ongoing problem of police shootings of black men given the incidents that occurred last week in Tulsa, Oklahoma and Charlotte, North Carolina.


A Missed Opportunity

BY: RAUL MADRID, JR., Claremont Graduate University

Monday’s presidential debate and the theatrics surrounding it brought approximately 81 million viewers to their television sets. To be sure, round one of the debates from this election cycle garnered the most sets of eyes on network television save for the Super Bowl. With so many potential voters tuning in, it is important to take a moment to focus in on one of the more outlandish comments made during the event – one that received almost no attention from the media. During the debate, in advocating for a nationwide stop and frisk program, Donald Trump offhandedly noted that “stop and frisk” was successful in New York because it took guns away from bad people. Going further, Trump argued, “[…] illegal immigrants have guns and they shoot people.” While the idea that unauthorized immigration causes crime to increase has been thoroughly debunked in the extant literature (Martinez, Stowell, and Lee, 2010; Ousey and Kubrin, 2009; Wang, 2012), an overwhelming majority of Americans perceive that immigrants are more likely to cause higher crime rates (Alba, Rumbaut, and Marotz, 2005). The notion that immigrants cause crime seems to be a product of stereotypes rather than facts, however (Decker, 2010; Martinez and Lee, 2000). By not calling out Trump on his empirical mistruth, Hillary Clinton missed a dynamic opportunity to set the record straight. What is more, Clinton also lost out on a chance to make further inroads with the Latino community, and with Millennials who she desperately needs to foster more goodwill with. While Millennials seem to be supporting Clinton over Trump, it is younger Millennials who need more persuading. Clinton should theoretically attract young voters (and she largely does), but a recent FiveThirtyEight report demonstrates that Clinton has much work to do with the 18-24 demographic[1]. It should also be noted that a recent Pew report showed that 76% of Millennials agree that immigrants strengthen the country (Jones, 2016). By allowing Trump to make such an outlandish claim without retorting in any fashion, Hillary Clinton may have tossed away a golden opportunity.



Those interested in contributing should send an email to the Politics of Color editor, Chris Haynes at the University of New Haven (email: or associate editors, Allan Colbern and Stacy Greene at the University of California, Riverside and University of California, Los Angeles (emails: and