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Before the first Presidential debate of the 2016 contest, the University hosted a panel discussion of six University affiliates in Richardson Auditorium to provide the University community with a better context for the debate.

Panelists included Dean of the Woodrow Wilson School Cecilia Rouse, politics professor Amaney Jamal, politics department chair Nolan McCarty, classics professor Dan-el Padilla Peralta ’06, and former congresswoman Nan Hayworth ’81. Panelists introduced themselves and described their interests and opinions on what to look for in the debate as well as what they were wondering about that night.

Students, faculty, and community members filled the seats and filed in well after the billed beginning of the event.

In a hall around three-quarters full, audience members actively responded to candid speeches from each panelist about the forthcoming debate. Several panelists made riffs on Republican nominee Donald J. Trump.

Jamal, after noting that she wants to see how Trump will deal with Muslim and Middle Eastern issues, said that “there was a lot to learn from him on how to construct walls.”

Rouse said that Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton has a “whole bucket of policy” but that “on the Trump side, his website is a little sparser.” This comment earned laughs from the crowd.

She said she wonders whether he will maintain some of his previously-stated stances, including banning all Muslims from the United States. She also questioned if the Muslim issue is a liability for Clinton.

Rouse offered an economic perspective on the panel.

“Polarization reflects fundamental economic insecurity that Americans feel,” Rouse said. She added that economic insecurity comes from anemic growth and growing economic inequality, noting that the top 0.1 percent hold 22 percent of the wealth today. She said there is a growing gap between the top and the bottom, but that “rising tides lift all boats” and policies should therefore be “aimed to amend the economy.”

Audience members noted this stark contrast as well.

“The thing that stood out to me is that 0.1 percent of the population holds 22 percent of the wealth,” Daniel Shepard ’19 said. While Shepard didn't have expectations for the debate, he said he is curious to see Clinton’s strategy and if “she stoops down to [Trump’s] level.”

Other panelists noted that although there is often a large amount of hype surrounding debates, the events often do not predict or radically influence election results.

“It’s very difficult to make predictions, especially about the future,” McCarty said, citing the unpredictable effects of debates on past elections. McCarty noted that candidates typically prepare for debates but that this election is a new style of politics and is therefore uncharted territory.

In response, Jamal said that this “uncharted territory” can have an effect. She noted that it can be demoralizing for much of the population to see the free world stooping to standards that aren’t commonly-held American values. Islamophobia affects communities, she said.

Hayworth, a former congresswoman and the first and only female physician ever elected to Congress, said that values are critical but that they cannot be listed on a website — and that they dictate how a candidate might react in the moment.

“Policies reflect fundamental values,” Rouse said, agreeing with Hayworth. Hayworth added that she hopes candidates’ internal voices reflect “all our values.”

On a projector screen following the panel, the debate was projected for audience members in Richardson Auditorium. While many other watch parties were held on campus, few attendees of this event departed after the panel’s end.

The panel took place at 8:15 p.m., and was co-sponsored by the Office of the Dean of Undergraduate Students and the Department of Politics.

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