What topics will be covered in the presidential debates? Here are 7 topics that need to be addressed

This Monday’s debate will see presidential candidates Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton go head-to-head for the first time as they field questions that fall under the vague categories of national security, achieving prosperity in America, and the nation’s direction. Given the candidates’ wildly different approaches to issues that relate to these broad, overarching categories, there are certain, specific topics that need to be covered during the debates to highlight how strongly Clinton and Trump contrast.

Questions regarding national security, for example, should address the candidates’ opposing approaches to terrorism, gun control, and racial profiling, while questions looking into “America’s direction” should probe the candidates’ vastly differing plans (“vastly different plans” as in one of them has one, the other doesn’t) to take on college debt and affordability, or solutions to widening income inequality.

The debate’s three categories are woefully broad, but they give plenty of leeway to tackle controversial issues the candidates differ critically on. It’s important for all the Jill Steins of the world to see that Trump and Clinton might share in wealth, privilege, and whiteness, but that’s pretty much it. That being said, the debate, which airs this Monday from 9-10:30 p.m. EST pretty much everywhere, should really dive into these topics.

Gun control

Gun control
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In the wake of the fatal San Bernardino shooting, Trump proposed making guns even easier to obtain, and eliminating gun-free zones even at schools. Paradoxically, his own hotels and resorts are gun-free zones, but hey, when has anything about the man ever really made sense? The candidates should have to answer for statistics that reveal more guns exponentially equate more violence, and how gun control measures in other industrialized nations have largely addressed issues of gun-related violence.

Should gun control come up as the candidates tackle national security, it would offer Clinton — who supports extensive background checks, waiting periods, and denying gun sellers immunity — a chance to clarify that, contrary to what most conservatives seem to believe, she isn’t coming for anyone’s guns or attempting to eliminate the second amendment.

Terrorism at abortion clinics

Anti-Abortion Activists March In Washington
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Following the Paris terror attacks, San Bernardino, and more recently, the New York bombing (which, according to Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson, no one was hurt by), questions about terrorism will inevitably pop up as Lester Holt forces the candidates to talk national security. And while Trump will surely dive right in to sweepingly blaming Muslims for every societal ill that comes to his mind, one national security topic almost no one seems willing to explore is domestic terrorism targeting abortion clinics.

In the months leading up to Robert Dear’s shooting attack on a Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood, a record number of abortion clinics saw arson and other intimidation tactics in response to the release of misleading anti-choice propaganda videos. These attacks on women’s access to health care embody a national security threat, just as attacks ISIS claims responsibility for do, and deserve just as much attention.

Racial profiling

Donald Trump Addresses The Scottish Parliament Over a Proposed Wind Farm Site
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Over the past year, Trump has twice suggested placing a sweeping ban on Muslim immigration, creating a registry for American Muslims across the nation, and recently, reinstating “stop and frisk” policing known to have racist implications.

Inspiring Trump’s proposals over the past year were terror attacks rendering Trump’s base psychologically vulnerable enough to buy into his rhetoric, while a June Supreme Court decision ruling on allowing evidence from illegal stops to be used in court sparked a dialogue on police racial profiling. For her own part, Clinton has never used rhetoric anywhere near Trump’s and condemned his Islamophobia, but remains ambiguous about her own plans to address national security threats without the use of racial profiling.

College affordability

Clinton and Sanders worked together to create a plan that would make public college tuition-free for families with incomes under $125,000, and Clinton currently has a plan to make community college tuition-free for all. In contrast, Trump’s campaign has suggested that community college is already “damn near free,” (yes, really), and I’d love nothing more than for Lester Holt to put this huge ideological difference on full display for Trump-leaning millennials everywhere.

College affordability, student loans, and debt are among the most crucial political issues for millennials, and it would only be appropriate for the issues of this generation to emerge during the part of the night in which the candidates discuss America’s direction. It’s difficult to imagine any positive future that includes a generation of people who are trapped in loans or unable to find jobs because they were unable to afford college.

Raising the minimum wage

Trump has uttered only the most conflicting statements on the minimum wage, expressing ardent support for lowering it, and then doing a 180 degree turn to appeal to his base of poor white men by suggesting raising it. While Clinton supports raising the wage, her previous hesitation regarding the Fight for $15 consistently earned her criticism.

Questions about the minimum wage as the candidates inevitably talk about the economy, would offer both candidates the opportunity to clarify their stances. After all, the minimum wage is a crucial issue when it comes to addressing wealth inequality, and helping those who work 40 hours a week and still live in poverty.


Donald Trump Holds Campaign Event In Pennsylvania
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While I don’t doubt Trump’s previous calls for banning Muslim immigration will come up in some way as the candidates discuss national security, his rhetoric regarding Mexican immigration was precisely what earned him the support of bigots around the nation from the get-go. One of Trump’s leading claims is that Mexican immigrants “steal” jobs from white American workers, and it would be great if as moderator, Holt forced him to answer for all the statistics that contradict those claims.

It would be impossible to discuss achieving prosperity in America, one of the three debate topics this Monday, without talking about all Americans’ access to jobs, and while Clinton has made it clear that she supports paths to citizenship, it would be helpful to know of her plans to economically empower immigrants.

Family leave

Trump’s childcare plan aroused fierce controversy earlier this month when many pointed out that, in offering maternity but not family leave, Trump was not only making clear his backdated outlook on gender roles, but discriminating against non-heterosexual households. Maternity leave without the option of family leave has also been known to cost women jobs and promotions. A dialogue about women, the economy, and the gender wage gap, cannot be had without discussing paid leave and how maternity leave encourages workplace discrimination.

Clinton, for her own part, has a plan for family leave, but it’s one she’s never been too vocal about. Discussing how to help women and families achieve prosperity in America will hopefully offer her the chance.

Reproductive rights

Sen. Patty Murray Discusses Komen's Turnaround In Their Planned Parenthood Funding
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It’s obvious why family leave and its relationship with the gender wage gap would come up in a debate which will emphasize economic issues, but reproductive rights are central to discussion of America’s direction and achieving prosperity. How will women who don’t want to be mothers but are trapped by their biology pursue their career ambitions? How will the unplanned pregnancies of low-income families affect America’s future?

Access to contraception and abortion rights speak to our perceptions of women, and whether or not we understand that they are autonomous human beings. Trump and Clinton differ dramatically on abortion and women’s health, and this debate’s categories offer a solid opportunity to make Trump answer for the disproportionately negative effects his stances would have on women and the economy at large.