Donald Trump wore a blue tie, Hillary Clinton LAW ’73 wore a red pantsuit and Michael McGarry, a legislative councilman from Hamden watching the presidential debate in Cask Republic, wore tweed.
Monday marked the first presidential debate of an election year that has divided Americans, but the Yale and New Haven communities came together over the spectacle of two presidential hopefuls going head-to-head on national television. NBC’s Lester Holt moderated the debate, which took place at Hofstra University in New York.
Debate-watching parties scattered across Yale’s campus and New Haven drew modest crowds. Viewers fell on all sides of the political spectrum, including Bernie Sanders supporters, Clinton fans, Trump voters and even some who watched for pure entertainment.
With less than two months before the general election, Trump and Clinton met on the national stage to discuss a host of important voter concerns including income inequality, race relations, climate change and the meaning of a presidential temperament.
A record-breaking 100 million viewers were expected to watch Trump and Clinton Monday night, but Yale students and locals alike anticipated the debate would change few minds.
“We saw exactly what we have seen for the past few months,” said Voter Registrar of the Yale College Democrats Nick Girard ’19. “[The candidates] have stuck to exactly what they have been saying for a long time.”
Although the debate was the first between the Democratic and Republican nominees this election cycle, students interviewed said the issues, and the rough-and-tumble political mudslinging from both sides, remained largely unchanged during Monday’s debate.
Calling it “a polarized election,” Girard emphasized the irreconcilable differences between the parties’ nominees and the policies they champion. Fellow member of Yale Dems Daniel Vernick ’19 agreed that prior to the debate, both Trump and Clinton had made their positions clear to the public.
Monday’s debate merely accentuated their respective pre-established values and beliefs, Vernick said.
Victoria Hewlett ’18, who joined the Dems in Saybrook College’s television room, said the presidential debate evoked a “general sense of dread,” citing the community’s high rate of dissatisfaction with both major party nominees.
“This debate proves that Donald Trump is volatile and dangerous for America,” Vernick said. “We cannot afford his fascist values.”
The Yale College Republicans hosted their own watch party in Linsly-Chittenden Hall.
McGarry, standing in the doorway of Cask Republic, peered up at a television during a watch party Monday night. He said that in downtown urban centers like New Haven, most voters fully support Clinton, but in the greater New Haven area, voters are more likely to support Clinton simply because they dislike the Republican alternative.
McGarry said that because she is a woman, Clinton is under greater public scrutiny than Trump, citing recent concerns about Clinton’s health as evidence of this disparity.
“The bar for [Trump] is so low,” McGarry said. “So long as he does not talk about his genitalia, he is presidential.”
The Yale College Democrats are holding a voter registration drive on Cross Campus today.
Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly described an item of clothing worn by Hillary Clinton.