Tonight, America will get to see the first presidential debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. If predictions hold, there is an expected audience of over one hundred million people.
On one hand, the anticipation leading up to this debate is a culmination of a media-styled hyperbole campaign that purposefully flooded the airwaves for the better part of 16 months with the theatrics and racism of Donald Trump. As a whole, the media has failed America with the lack of sustained, critical coverage of Trump on what a presidency under this unstable man would look like. The media has fed Trump’s narcissism, provided notable but brief coverage on his rampant lies and avoided framing Trump’s ascension as a reflection of America’s vulnerabilities and moral contradictions.
On the other hand, the potentially record breaking size of the debate audience is a great opportunity for Hillary Clinton to rattle Trump, confront white fragility and expose the sham of his presidential run. It’s a heavy burden that comes with risks and inevitable criticism from a media that seeks controversy and balance to a fault. But the reward is much greater. Hillary would excite her base, look presidential in comparison and prod Americans to seriously reevaluate their thoughts and reasons behind any consideration of Trump.
For some, Trump’s persistent appeal to white voters on the grounds of continuing white domination and non-white subordination will generate a reliable voting bloc. But there are many Americans that can be convinced Trump is totally unfit to be President of the United States. Hillary must focus on reaching those voters in this first debate.
Hillary’s opening statement should be bold, direct and immediately grab the attention of the audience and Donald Trump. It seems vitally important in tonight's debate that Hillary focus on Donald Trump's incitement of racial violence, hatred and bigotry. She must remind voters of the relentless negativity of Trump's campaign, and make it clear to everyone watching that he is putting racism on the ballot. She must highlight Trump's electoral strategy of provoking white anger, and speak directly to white Americans about the damage they could do by voting for him. Clinton must also expose Trump for his highly questionable business practices, rampant sexism, and bigotry, and she must attack his slogan of "Making America Great Again" by contrasting it with his erratic, undignified and un-presidential campaign.
It is likely during the debate that Trump will attack Clinton over issues like Benghazi and the email scandal. She must be ready to speak to these issues forcefully, and counter him with facts and not rhetoric.
By framing and executing the debate this way, Clinton lays the foundation for convincing Americans that they can rise above the nastiness of what the Trump campaign represents.
Clinton is an imperfect candidate with her own flaws and unfavorable perceptions that have dogged her campaign. But she is a woman of great intellect with a life of public service and has done more good than bad. She must own both.
It won’t be difficult for Hillary Clinton to show America that she is highly qualified to become President of the United States. However, she must do more than this and use the first debate to show Americans that the ugliness of Donald Trump does not have to be an extension of themselves.