I joined a crowd of 50 for the Yale Democrats’ first presidential debate watch party. We were crammed into the Saybrook TV room, spilling onto the floor, in the corners and out of the door. Old members and new faces came together to watch this monumental moment.

Going into the much-anticipated debate, our members expected different outcomes. A number expected a calculated shift in Donald Trump’s attitude, toward a less volatile, more “presidential” style. Would this debate give credibility to Trump? Some of us were particularly frustrated by the double standards in viewers’ expectations of the candidates. Hillary Clinton LAW ’73 needed to be relatable but not pandering, genuine but not overly sincere, confident but not forceful. The bar for Trump was low: he needed only to show up and avoid spewing his typical fear-baiting word vomit.

The 90 minutes reflected what we had been seeing for the last few months of the campaign. Trump was cliched and demagogic, whereas Clinton was calm and insightful (even shimmying). Trump refused to listen or engage on key issues, while a prepared Clinton detailed her proposals to tackle some of our greatest challenges.

By the end of the debate, it was clear that there is only one candidate qualified to serve as President of the United States. Clinton’s lifelong record of fighting for progressive, pragmatic policy changes which address the concerns of everyday American showed that she has what it takes to be president. In stark contrast to Clinton’s dedication to the wellbeing of the American people stood Donald Trump, who time and again showed us that he doesn’t fight for anyone except himself.

hillary

 

The first presidential debate emphasized that we cannot afford to be overwhelmed, disillusioned or cynical this election. America needs a president who will work to ensure that everyone has an equal shot at success. Change is never easy, and progress is never quick. But this hard truth is precisely why Hillary Clinton is so well equipped to be president: She’s spent her adult life securing hard-fought reforms in areas such as equal rights for Americans with disabilities, access to healthcare and early childhood education.

This country cannot afford the implications of a Trump presidency. Our choice in November impacts every policy and every person in America. The debate exposed two diverging paths for America. Donald Trump wants to launch this country into a future where the realities of climate change are ignored, millions of our neighbors and friends are torn away from their communities and deported and women and LBGTQ+ rights are nonexistent. Trump is a bully who shouts “wrong” to silence disagreement.

In contrast, Hillary Clinton believes in a country where we embrace a bright and optimistic future, where we challenge ourselves to do better and where we demand opportunity and justice for all. Hillary’s administration will be composed of leaders who will challenge her and welcome, not silence, debate over the issues that affect all of us.

We create the next chapter of the American story through our actions today. Going into the next debate, think about the future you want and the vision that both candidates offered in the first. Hillary Clinton is the only candidate who has what it takes to implement policies that will tackle the most pressing issues facing our nation.

This November, your vote, no matter what anyone tries to tell you, will make an impact. Reject fear, reject cynicism and put your faith in our nation’s finest values. Behind a Clinton ballot stand the best and brightest who will work tirelessly to uphold this nation’s promise of dignity, justice and equality before the law.

On election day, Americans must reject Donald Trump and his demagoguery, xenophobia and blatant misogyny. We, the people, must elect Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Nicholas Girard is a sophomore in Ezra Stiles College. He is the Registrar of Voters for the Yale College Democrats. Contact him at nicholas.girard@yale.edu .

Illustration by Julia Shi.