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Must reads: Presidential debate edition

Tonight, it’s the debate of the century: Secretary Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump go up live against each other at 9pm Eastern (find out how to watch here), moderated by Lester Holt of NBC. It may be the most watched presidential debate in US history as the two candidates are virtually matched in the polls, in a delicate dance that suggests this is another election year in which the decision may come down to the Electoral College, not the will of the people. It’s time for a look at the state of the US election, the better to prepare ourselves for tomorrow’s debate aftermath. If you’ve spotted any coverage you love, be sure to drop us a line in the comments!

And be sure to tune in to @GlobalComment on Twitter tonight for our live commentary…

Trump campaign says media should not be ‘fact-checkers’‘ (Think Progress)

One of the primary functions of the media is to act as a purveyor of information, including factually accurate information or discussions of when information is not factually accurate. With a serial liar campaigning for president, the media has faced a tough challenge (and fact checkers are getting a great deal of overtime). Now, the Trump campaign evidently thinks the media should not do one of its primary jobs — despite the fact that Trump is notoriously quick on the trigger finger with defamation suits. If facts don’t matter, Donald, why are you so concerned when people say things about you in the media?

Indeed, covering Trump’s lies has become a beat of its own during this campaign. News channels have taken to factchecking the candidate in real time, overlaying his speeches with labels like ‘falsely,’ or parentheticals with the accurate version of his statements. It is widely anticipated that Trump will repeat some of the lies he has made on the campaign trail during Monday’s debate.

Hillary Clinton for President‘ (New York Times)

A Clinton endorsement isn’t a surprising move from the Times editorial board, but this one is notable in its comprehensive, thoughtful case for a Clinton vote. This is not a perfunctory ‘vote for the lesser of two evils’ endorsement, but an affirmative discussion of everything Secretary Clinton has to offer the United States, and the world.

Mrs. Clinton has shown herself to be a realist who believes America cannot simply withdraw behind oceans and walls, but must engage confidently in the world to protect its interests and be true to its values, which include helping others escape poverty and oppression.

Election Update: The Case For And Against Democratic Panic‘ (FiveThirtyEight)

For a man who made his name in the business of electoral polling analysis, Nate Silver is having a rough year in an election that appears to be determined to defy all previously existing polling norms and models. His thoughtful analysis of the current polling situation, and how Democrats should feel about it, is worth a read.

There’s also not much consensus among pollsters about where the race stands. On the one hand, you can cite several national polls this week that show Clinton ahead by 5 or 6 percentage points, the first time we’ve consistently seen numbers like that in a few weeks. She also got mostly favorable numbers in “must-win states,” such as New Hampshire. But Clinton also got some pretty awful polls this week in other swing states: surveys from high-quality pollsters showing her 7 points behind Donald Trump in Iowa, or 5 points behind him in Ohio, only tied with him in Maine, for instance. The differences are hard to reconcile: It’s almost inconceivable that Clinton is both winning nationally by 6 points and losing Ohio (for example) by 5 points.

The Problem With Poll Watchers‘ (Pacific Standard)

Nearly every state in the US allows private citizens to conduct poll challenges, questioning whether someone is lawfully allowed to vote in an election. This fact has been leveraged as a voter suppression tactic in the past, and it will be in November as well, not least because Donald Trump has been actively recruiting a poll watching army. If that doesn’t worry you, it should.

Voter challenges ‘can play out in very ugly ways, particularly where you have challengers who position themselves inside polling places for the sole purpose of targeting voters on unlawful and discriminatory grounds,’ said Kristen Clarke, executive director of the D.C.-based Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, a non-profit group that works to combat racial inequities. ‘The rules vary state by state, but what is almost universal is the fact that there aren’t many safeguards for voters who are subject to challenges.’ In California, Ohio, Texas, and Alabama, poll observers cannot directly question a voter’s eligibility at the polls. That’s also the case in Oklahoma and West Virginia, both of which go a step further by banning watchers from polling places during voting hours.

Lessons from the debates of the past‘ (The Economist)

In decades of covering presidential debates, the Economist has had ample time to pick up some critical insights. The question of what helps people ‘win’ debates is usually a subject of hot discussion — as indeed is the question of whether debates have a meaningful influence on the election — but this is a battle that isn’t won with facts and logic.

Readers bracing for the first presidential debate between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, to be held at Hofstra University on Long Island, may see a pattern emerging, and one that is more alarming for the Democrats than for the Trump camp. For the lessons of the Reagan debates, visible moments after they ended, was that a candidate can mangle facts and botch details and still win if a debate performance conveys a far simpler message: this is someone presidential.

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