Donald Trump’s 2005 comments about him having the ability to kiss and grope women’s genitals with impunity were ubiquitous last night on the stage at Washington University in St. Louis, sight of the second presidential debate between Trump and Hillary Clinton. There seemed to be room for little else, including the plight of Black America.

The townhall style forum has been widely characterized as the most sleazy and petty presidential debate in U.S. history, with Trump adopting a debate playbook perhaps crafted by the shadowy, so-called, “alt right,” movement, as he flailed wildly to somehow salvage his burning and crashing campaign. He labeled Clinton a liar, the devil, and said “she has hate in her heart.”

Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton speaks as Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump reacts during the second presidential debate at Washington University in St. Louis, Sunday, Oct. 9, 2016. (Saul Loeb/Pool via AP)

Neither Donald Trump nor Hillary Clinton dealt with the specific issues confronting communities of color during their second debate in St. Louis on Oct. 9. (Saul Loeb/Pool via AP)

However, about 10 minutes into the exchange with Clinton, Trump tossed out his well-worn campaign lines describing his dystopian view of Black Americans “living in the inner cities.” “It’s devastating what’s happening with our inner cities,” Trump said. “The education is a disaster…jobs are essentially non-existent. What do you have to lose? It can’t get any worse,” Trump opined.

Then moments later Trump name checked Baltimore (if my recent social media activity is informative, most Baltimoreans would prefer Trump keep the name of our city out of his mouth) and other cities, not to offer specific policy solutions to combat poverty, faltering public schools and gun violence, but to simply bolster his argument all Black and Brown people are “living in hell.”

“We are a divided nation…You look at Charlotte, you look at Baltimore, you look at the violence that’s taking place in the inner cities — Chicago,” Trump said.

That was about it from Trump as far as any specific references to Black America or the issues that proliferate our communities as he quickly turned back to engaging the prurient, decades old fantasies of America’s political ultra right wing as he attempted to ravage Clinton and re-litigate the 1990’s.

Despite being perhaps rattled by the image of four of her husband’s accusers (invited by Trump) who have leveled sexual abuse allegations against him, Clinton attempted to offer some depth to the challenges disproportionately confronting Black Americans. She talked about her time as a lawyer, “working against discrimination against African-American children in schools and in the criminal justice system,” Clinton said.

However, the closest we heard either of the candidates come to discussing the plague of mass incarceration, which imperils mostly Black and Brown people, was Trump’s declaration that he would, `lock up,’ Clinton if he indeed becomes the 45th president of the United States.

Perhaps, last night’s debate was the darkest moment in the history of American political discourse. But, if the stunning lack of specifics offered by Trump and Clinton about the specific issues confronting communities of color are any indicator, the next four to eight years could be dark and dire for Black people, Brown people and poor people in America.

Sean Yoes

AFRO Baltimore Editor