As most of the country and maybe the world knows, the first debate of the United States general election campaign is coming up fast, on Monday, September 26. The stakes couldn’t be much higher and pressure is mounting not only on the candidates, but on the moderator who will ask the questions. This election season has already seen its fair share of moderator drama, from Megyn Kelly’s feud with Donald Trump, to Chris Wallace’s assertion that debate moderators aren’t the “truth squad,” to widespread criticism of Matt Lauer’s performance at the Commander-in-Chief Forum.
With all that in mind, The Brooklyn Ink hit the neighborhoods to ask people what they thought this first debate’s moderator, Lester Holt of NBC, should ask the candidates. Here’s what some people would like him to address.
BEDFORD STUYVESANT: Kyla Massey, 30
“What is the larger plan for the new generation of consumers? We are entering into, and creating, the golden handcuffed society, where people are forced into service jobs like retail. Especially, students. Student consumer debt is on the rise as they go to school and then are not promised or guaranteed jobs in their field, post graduation. The baby boomers are older and don’t have this to worry about. So, what is the larger plan to help the new age of consumers with debt, especially, students?”
GREENPOINT: Cristina Ferrerio, 30, a wine consultant and a Democrat
Ferrerio said she has become “hyper-observant” of the refugee situation, partially because her parents have lived most of their lives in exile from Cuba. “It’s an emotional journey that hits home.” It’s something, along with healthcare and education, Ferrerio would like to hear the candidates asked about because, “[none] of Trump’s stances are developed enough” and “Hillary is relatively evasive on certain topics.”
RED HOOK: David Frederick, 52. An MTA sweeper/maintenance, and a Democrat
Frederick said that he’d like Trump to be asked about claims about things he says he wants to do, “but never says how.” Specific questions, such as: “There are problems between police officers and black communities. How will you change all that? How will you develop a program to build trust between police officers and the community?”
He’d also like to ask Trump how he plans to be patient and tolerant. “You want to work alone, but this is one job you can’t do alone. How will you work with others?”
PARK SLOPE: Roman Barry, 27, and Tasha Kayatsky, 28.
Roman and Tasha want to hear Lester Holt ask challenging questions about “the real issues,” not just exist in the room while Trump and Clinton exchange impassioned generalizations. Both agree that foreign policy is one such issue. “We want questions about foreign policy, because Trump doesn’t know what he’s talking about.”
Roman is especially concerned about the United State’s use of military force abroad, and how such force affects innocent civilians. “There are a ton of problems in the world—nuclear weapons, poverty, famine, the exploitation of third world countries. We test new products on people. What’s their stance on stuff like that?”
BAY RIDGE: Marcin Smok, 32, a construction site supervisor
Although Smok, an immigrant from Poland, can’t vote because he only has his green card, he said that if he could, like a lot of people, he would use his vote as a “lesser evil” move. To him, abstaining from voting is not the answer.
Smok also thinks that the two-party system in the U.S. is limited and “ridiculous,” and points to most governments in Europe as working examples of political systems with many parties that run a variety of candidates with a variety of viewpoints. Thus his question for the candidates: Do you think the two-party system can evolve into something different? Why does a candidate need to get 15 percent in the polls to get into debates?
DUMBO: Jette Stewart, 18, a makeup artist who just moved to Brooklyn and is an undecided voter who liked Bernie Sanders.
Donald Trump has no history in politics, she pointed out, and brands himself as a successful businessman even though he has filed for multiple bankruptcies. This is what she would ask: “Mr. Trump, do you plan on running our country as a business or as a nation?”
WILLIAMSBURG: Catie Newman, 28, a yoga and pilates instructor and a Democrat
Clinton: “How are you going to make it less of man’s world?” As a gay woman, the issue of women’s rights is very close to home for Newman, and she wants to know what Clinton will do to push forward women’s rights in the United States.
Trump: Newman is unsure of his motiviations. Her question: “Do you give a shit about anything besides yourself?”
BENSONHURST: Gentian Sako, 39, business owner
Clinton: “You are a perfect example of a perfect combination of hypocrisy and lying together with a good conscience and smug attitude—How do you manage to combine these so well?”
BENSONHURST: Muhammad Imran, 30s, a senior networking engineer
Imran wants to ask both Hilary Clinton and Donald Trump: “How do you achieve zero unemployment rate? There are so many robberies. If you don’t have a job, you rob people. I’d never walk in this park at night, it’s not safe, I have my phone and other stuffs with me.”
CROWN HEIGHTS: José de Jesús García de Jesús, 62. He is retired.
José is a resident non-citizen and wondered at first if he should voice his opinion, since he cannot vote. But he does have questions for the candidates: “How would you help the minority? How can you give sources of work to the minority when there are few? Why don’t you give migrant status to the minority when they are already in this country and you should be helping them with that? (translated from Spanish).
CROWN HEIGHTS: Joseph Reiter, in his 30s, He works at Friends and Lovers bar and is a Democrat (who preferred Sanders)
Trump: “If you were president, how would you insure the security of certain groups in the U.S. that you have already identified as problems for United States way of life?” Reister believes that Trump creates a certain hostile climate, but then, “How do you make sure lynch mobs don’t attack those you singled out?”
To Hillary: “How does international trade influence migration and vice-versa? How do policies regarding one affect the other? How does making a policy regarding human migration affect international trade?”
PARK SLOPE: Reinaldo Andres Espinal, 28, a Democrat (Bernie Sanders variety).
Espinal, who goes by “Andres,” says he wants to see Lester Holt ask both candidates about national security, an issue weighing heavily on him and other New Yorkers in light of last week’s explosion in Chelsea. “Trump seems safer in terms of national security. We need to protect the border from terrorism, but I feel like there’s other ways.”
DOWNTOWN BROOKLYN: Mike Gordon, 70, a retired schoolteacher and a Democrat
“I want to ask Donald Trump why he doesn’t release his tax return. I want to know what he is hiding.
“For Hilary Clinton, I think she should give a final resolution on the personal email issue before she can never talk about it again.”
GREENPOINT: Steve Levine, 29, a comedian and a Democrat
“I’d like to hear more about the emails,” Levine said, before clarifying that he was kidding. What he wants to hear more about are topics that have been touched upon, but not in much depth: “Tax returns…using charity income for lawsuits.”
DUMBO: Dennis Bookman, 23, a construction worker who lives in Brownsville and is undecided.
Donald Trump: Why after saying years ago you’d never run for president, did you wake up one day and decided to become a president?”
Hillary Clinton: “Are you sure you’re able to do everything you’re promising? Because you could have helped your husband do these things while he was in office.”
BEDFORD STUYVESANT: Veronica Hill. 48, from Crown Heights
“What do you plan on doing to improve overall living for low income Americans? We need better education in the neighborhood and especially, better education for low income children.”
BENSONHURST: Joan C (she asked to withhold her surname), 70s, a retired school secretary, switched from Democratic to Republican
Joan wants to ask Hilary Clinton, “Why do you let everybody in this country without checking them out? I don’t mind immigrants. My mother was an immigrant, she came here, she worked hard, but now there are bad people coming here, they hang in the park during the day, they get drunk, and they do bad things here. You need to stop these people from coming in.”
WILLIAMSBURG: Zack Sabre, 29, a professional wrestler and a Democrat
Clinton: “What practical structure is in place to ensure healthcare for everyone? It’s a service a successful capitalist country should offer.” Sabre said he grew up in Great Britain, a country with a free healthcare system*, and wonders what Hillary could do, if anything, to build on Obama’s legacy and make affordable healthcare a natural part of American culture and society.
Trump: Sabre said he is shocked by the Trump rhetoric. His question for him: “Was he dropped on his head as a child?”
RED HOOK: Lisa Ruiz, 50, a homemaker and a Democrat
Lisa would like Trump to be asked if he could enable an atmosphere where more police could come to the neighborhood and treat the people as human beings and not as criminals. She wants to know how he will show respect to all races and people?
She felt she’d like to ask Hillary about how she can prove that she’s strong enough to run the country as a woman because “So many people doubt she can do the job just because she’s a woman. So I want to ask her, if it came to a point where there is war, how will you handle that? What will your response be?”
WILLIAMSBURG: Alana Rosenblum, 35, a nanny and a Democrat
Clinton: As a nanny, Rosenblum wants to know what Clinton would do to improve the lives and health of the next generation: “Will you be able to follow in the footsteps the Obamas have in food and education? In terms of providing more nutritional food in schools?”
Trump: “How did you get here? …. Reality TV has taken over real life.”
CARROLL GARDENS: Jason Allen, 33, a computer support analyst
Allen is concerned about the details, or lack of them, in Trump’s policies. “Ask Trump specific questions on how he plants to implement any plans that he has for immigration, health care, jobs, and for African Americans. We need to know what specifically his plans are.”
Clinton: “What, specifically, are you planning on doing for us? What will she capitalize on from the Obama imagination?”
DOWNTOWN BROOKLYN: Stephanie Mazza, 45, a mental health professional and a Democrat
“I want to know how they personally manage the stress. If the president is able to handle it very well, he or she can become our role model. And they will also better solve the problems like terrorism and hurricanes.”
RED HOOK: Karen, 44, publishing operations
Speaking about Trump, Karen said, “I want Lester to be a journalist and do his job and challenge him. Don’t let him do the celebrity thing or whatever it is he does. For example, he wants to bring back stop-and-frisk all over the country for law and order. I don’t think it was such a good policy to begin with. Ask him about that.”
* CLARIFICATION: Due to an editing error, this item originally attributed a characterization of the British health care system to Zabre that he did not say.