If you were one of the Americans who tuned into the entire first 2020 Presidential debate, bless your heart. Calling it a debate brings shame upon all the high school and college debate teams around the country, and it was at times unbearable to keep paying attention. However, for those of you who went the distance during one of the longest ninety minutes I can remember, the end result of this chaos is unavoidable. You don’t need to watch your favorite talking head on TV or listen to talk radio to understand how you feel and what to think, because you experienced this along with millions of other Americans. You know how you felt and what you thought when you were listening to the answers and claims and misdirections and interruptions, and that’s what’s most important.
We don’t need two more of these debates to tell us what we’ve already seen and heard for ourselves — Trump is an abject failure, he is ill-equipped for the presidency, and it would be a catastrophe to allow him to stay in office for even one second after his first term ends.
Recall for a moment the iconic “I want the truth!” scene in the movie A Few Good Men. Today, we are demanding the truth from Trump, and have been since he announced his candidacy in 2015. And as he has continuously proved incapable of rising to that request these last few years, we saw plainly on stage yet again that Trump just can’t handle the truth. There was not a single cogent response from him in that ninety minute travesty. He couldn’t answer a direct question without bringing up something completely unrelated to the topic, rambling incoherently about God-knows-what, spreading nonsensical information with no factual backing, or most frequently, simply talking over his opponent and even the moderator. The last time I saw something flail around that much was driving past a car dealership with an inflatable tube man outside.
This is just absurd, and it’s important that everyone begins to understand the possible reality of a second presidential term with Trump leading the charge. There was not much distinguishable between some of Trump’s responses and what you would hear from QAnon conspiracy theorists and extreme-right-wing conservatives, both groups of people who wouldn’t know a fact if a bald eagle draped in an American flag flew down and dropped it in front of them.
How can we seriously consider a man to be the leader of our country who, before this debate even took place, claimed that his opponent takes performance-enhancing drugs, wanted his opponent’s ears checked for listening devices, falsely asserted that mail-in voting is rife with fraud, and infamously refused a peaceful transition of power if he loses the election? Trump has such a sensitive, threadbare ego; to him, there cannot be a legitimate reason why he might lose at anything, so something nefarious has to be at play if he actually does lose because his ego just won’t accept it. He did this in the 2016 election when it seemed he would lose, and he’s doing it again in 2020 now that he’s consistently down in the polls. That nerve was exposed perfectly during the debate when the subject of being smart came up, and Trump couldn’t resist, comparing universities and made-up class ranks to “prove” he’s smarter than his opponent.
Were you looking for policies and plans from the Trump camp during the debate? A fool’s errand. With healthcare, he didn’t have a plan when he was a candidate in 2016, he didn’t have a plan after the individual mandate from the Affordable Care Act was removed, and he still doesn’t have a plan nearly four years into his presidency, even though he’s actively pursuing to eliminate the ACA in the Supreme Court. To hear Trump tell it, his plan is always coming just over the horizon, but if you still believe that at this point, I’ve heard the real estate market for basement apartments in Venice is booming.
Climate change? Aside from the fact a solid contingent of his base doesn’t believe humans are driving it and/or that it is even a real thing, all he’s done over the past four years is leave a global climate accord signed by nearly every single country, get rid of regulations that protected our air and water (and by extension, Americans), and saying things like “I don’t think the science knows, actually.” He claims to want clean air and water, but again, he has no plan on how to make that happen, and his actions showcase the exact opposite.
The ongoing pandemic? Well, he really doesn’t want to talk about that during these debates in the first place, but what is he actually doing? Disagreeing with and undercutting his lead science experts, making light of wearing masks, claiming the vaccine is coming right around the corner — sound familiar? — and that the military is waiting on standby to distribute it to the masses immediately. He’s either ignorant to or knowingly leaving out the fact that the vaccine would need to be mass produced before widespread distribution, but chalk that up to yet another plan I would have loved to learned about, but was left wanting.
Let’s not forget that Trump essentially absconded from pandemic responsibility — he literally said “I don’t take responsibility at all” in reference to virus testing concerns — and instead put state governors in charge, as opposed to providing a unified federal response. Also, his private admissions about the deadly nature of the coronavirus and its severity compared to the flu enhance the incredulity of his public statements like “when it gets a little warmer, it miraculously goes away,” and “one day, like a miracle, it will disappear.” And as for the ongoing affect the pandemic is having on the average American, didn’t you hear that our economy is booming and the stock market is rising and lots of people told Trump he was doing a great job and that he’s already making America great again and that his opponent would have let millions of people die if he was in charge? I guess there’s no need to worry about it — I’m sure that all checks out.
Racial division and inequality in this country? What a laugh. Not only did he fail to even begin to address how to fix it, he exacerbated it. (Spoiler alert: that’s actually his plan.) Starting off by calling those who seek to educate others about racial difference and insensitivity as “racist” and that they teach people to “hate our country” — he’s previously called these programs “anti-American,”— he cannot and will not even feign concern about the oversized role that far-right organizations and white supremacy play with this issue. We already know from his own administration and intelligence agencies that the far-right and white supremacy is the biggest terrorist threat to America, and that over the past two years, 90% of the terrorism-related deaths in our country were the result of far-right attacks. However, leave it to Trump to place all the blame at the feet of antifa and the left, providing literally the only example of an antifa-related death in the last 26 years while ignoring the over 330+ deaths caused by far-right/white supremacists in that same time frame, including the two people killed by a Trump supporter in Wisconsin just one month ago. He couldn’t even disavow and condemn white supremacy when asked directly by the moderator, and what’s worse, he empowered the far-right fascist organization the Proud Boys to “stand back and stand by” — which members of that group were more than happy to embrace — while also adding that “this is not a right-wing problem.”
There’s so much more to highlight, but you get the picture. There’s never any substance or evidence or foundation to support what Trump claims — it’s all smoke and mirrors, and this was yet again on full display during the debate. Trump only paying $750 in federal income taxes? It was actually millions of dollars, and he’ll prove it to you, just as soon as his taxes are done. (Where have we heard that before?) Climate change making things worse in places like California? That’s just silly, Californians just need to manage their forests better. Trump not committing to a peaceful transition if he loses the election? That’s just because “there’s fraud” with mail-in ballots, and Democrats “cheat” and tried to “do a coup” and “spied on him” and “the impeachment hoax”, so “his supporters” need to go to “the polls and watch very carefully” because “if he sees tens of thousands of ballots being manipulated,” he “can’t go along with that.” (Lots and lots of citations needed.)
It’s embarrassing to be presented with so much bluster and lies from the person in charge of our country and recognize that all he has in his arsenal are appeals to emotion that prey on American ignorance about a whole host of topics/issues. He does this so much that it’s sometimes hard to catch all his hucksterisms and non sequiturs, and because it’s a full-time job to verify everything he says, it’s easy to unwittingly accept some of them as true because you can’t keep track of his shotgun blasts of misinformation.
It’s equally as embarrassing to listen to Trump supporters and how they believe him on so many things, yet when presented with evidence to the contrary, they’ll just handwave it away, call it fake news, or use whataboutisms to protect their house of cards. They do this because Trump has been modeling that behavior for them for years, but more soberingly, it’s so much easier for them to avoid actually admitting that they were taken for a ride by cold-blooded grifter. So, whenever they’re confronted with the real possibility they were duped, they’ll bend over backwards to double, triple, and quadruple-down on the accepted deception rather than deal with the harsh reality of their misguided allegiances.
Honestly, the whole thing would actually be pretty sad if it didn’t put the rights, well-being, and future of Americans at risk; instead, it’s just incredibly dangerous. Trump is a pitiable character; along with his aforementioned ego, he has legendary insecurities, is incapable of apologizing for anything — it’s always someone else’s fault — and never acts outside of his own personal interests. He throws people under the bus like a person takes out the garbage. If a person says anything remotely critical about him, it’s a lie or they’re jealous or a failure or seeking attention or hate America or stupid or *insert character attack here* — it’s his version of the elementary schoolyard retort: “I know you are but what am I?” He also believes himself to be the smartest person in whatever room he just walked into, which is why he is impossible to reason with. Trump claims to know more about and be better with the following than everyone: drones, technology, visas, ISIS (more than even his generals!), windmills, renewables, loving the Bible, the military, equality, respecting women, and debt, along with so much more.
Despite having no redeeming qualities whatsoever, Trump’s cult of personality has hoodwinked millions of Americans into believing his claim from the 2016 Republican National Convention that only he can fix the country. The wholesale — and undeserved — benefit-of-the-doubt they provide allows him to make increasingly frightening claims and chip away at the foundation of American democracy without consequence. At the same time, he projects his own actions and motivations onto his opponents, making them the scapegoats, giving him a reason to obliterate political norms, and becoming his rallying cry to save his supporters from the certain destruction of the country at the hands of the “enemy.”
At this point, there’s no question who the next President should be, and that person is not Trump. It was incredibly telling that the only thing he could functionally accomplish during the debate was to create as much chaos as possible to muddle the conversation, especially in his position as the incumbent. Anyone who watched that debate and thought that Trump carried himself in a presidential manner or gave lots of great answers to the questions he was asked is as much of a lost cause as Trump himself — full stop. There have been innumerable examples of disqualifying behavior from him before and during his term in office, and it reads as willful ignorance on the part of those individuals that they continue to support such a contemptible person in the face of said examples.
The American presidency deserves much better than what it has right now, and so do the American people. so in the words of Trump’s opponent: “Show up and vote.” There is nothing left to debate.