How To Argue Hillary Clinton Won The First Debate (Without Being Condescending)

Now that the days the following the first debate are upon us, it's becoming clear that the opinions about which candidate won are quite a bit more mixed than triumphant Hillary Clinton supporters might have expected at first. According to a number of online polls on mostly, but not always, conservative-leaning websites, Donald Trump won the first debate. Despite the general agreement among the more rest of the news media that the debate was actually a romp for Clinton, what those online polls can tell us is that there are a lot of American citizens — and possible voters — out there who think that Trump came out on top.

Fine, you might be saying; let's just all hope that there aren't enough of them to swing an election. But this is not a year where we can enjoy the luxury of being complacent. And what if some of them are your friends, family, lovers, neighbors, colleagues, or random internet acquaintances? You, yes you, can step up and try to change their minds. Remember – the first debate often decides who they'll vote for in the end. So, if you want to convince them to agree with you, there are a few things you can do.

We know it's a difficult task, though, and there's a great danger of coming across as biased and condescending – which will not help your point. Here are some strategies you can take to avoid that, and hopefully bring another person over to Clinton's column.

Choose A Lie & Tear It Down


One of the criticisms of Clinton's performance is that it came across as canned, and that at times she seemed to use memorized phrases full of buzzwords. This is one of the main points that Trump supporters are leaning on, because they can then say that he, on the contrary, came across as authentic and straight-shooting.

What we know from PolitiFact and other fact checking studies, of course, is that Trump spent basically the whole debate lying. Pointing that out, however, won't help you when you're talking to a Trump supporter, because it plays right into the narrative of Trump as a force against the evil media who's trying to take him down.

Instead, choose a couple of easily disprovable lies of Trump's and ask your friend to respond to those specifically. Take just a few of his comments on global warming, for example:

With all of this actual evidence that Trump still hasn't bothered to delete, it's somewhat amazing that he chose to say that he never called it a hoax. You, however, can use it to your advantage. With proof of a few blatant lies, there's a chance that his image might tarnish a bit.

Bring Up The Taxes

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The strange moment in the debate when Trump appeared to admit to paying no taxes is one that has the potential to dog Trump for the rest of the election, even if it hardly stood out from the rest of the exchanges in the debate. Trump's statement in response to Clinton's suggestion that he didn't want to release his tax returns because he hasn't been paying income taxes was hardly a defense; instead, he merely said "that makes me smart." A self-styled billionaire not paying taxes because he's found all of the right loopholes in the tax code isn't smart; it's exploitative.

Expectations, Expectations, Expectations

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In the run up to the debate, basically everyone agreed that while Clinton had to be perfect, Trump just had to not degenerate into penis talk. He didn't do that, so sure, he won the debate, right? But make your Trump-supporting friend unpacks that for you. If he goes into his first debate with expectations this low, what will the expectations be like when he goes into his first meeting with Vladimir Putin? What happens when he has to give a State of the Union speech, or, god forbid, a speech in the wake of another national tragedy? The stakes are higher then, but the expectations won't be. He's going to be the same person as the president as he is now. Do they want that?

It's Sexism, Plain & Simple

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The basis of any opinion that Trump won is sexism — but just like Clinton can't act the same way as Trump can on stage without losing support, you can't rant and rave about sexism without immediately losing the person you're trying to convince.

The key to your approach has to be subtlety. Put yourself in the shoes of a woman trying to combat mansplaining. Easier said than done, of course, but many of us have been there and made it to the other side. This is another case when concrete examples can help you, this time concrete examples of Trump's actions.

Take, for example, all the times when Trump interrupted Clinton, and ask what your friend's reaction would be if the places had been switched.

Take the absurd moment at the beginning of the debate when Trump asked if he could refer to Clinton as "Secretary Clinton," and ask their reaction if the roles had been switched.

Take Trump's complaints about Clinton's attack ads, and ask their reaction if the roles had been switched.

The rudeness, condescension, and whininess (evidence of weakness, right?) those moments betrayed would all be unacceptable coming from a woman. You'll have to push a little, but you can do it — anyone claiming that these moments weren't proof of an overwhelmingly sexist political culture that Clinton has to fight against is remarkably out of touch. Hopefully at the end of the discussion, you will have convinced another person that Trump embarrassed himself — and in doing so, you'll convince another person not to vote for him in November.