Debate #2 Recap: America’s Political Super Toilet Bowl
A Night in St. Louis, Misery
Monday, October 10th, 2016
by Reed Galen
Welcome to the American Singularity.
Here’s how much we’ve lowered our expectations in American politics. A candidate, Donald Trump, coming off arguably the worst debate performance in presidential campaign history manages to avoid self-immolation and we say that he “won” the night. Because he managed to execute on some of the basic tactical maneuvers of a one-on-one debate, Donald Trump’s campaign “staunched the bleeding” and “live to fight another day.” Both of those may be true, but his off-kilter performance did nothing to change the fundamental direction or dynamics of the race.
Hillary Clinton held serve most of the evening. Working an alternate tack from her first performance, she apparently decided to take the incoming fire from Trump, and volley the attacks in the cool, efficient manner of a prosecutor. First, they should have kept up the needling of Trump that so affected him during last month’s debut. He was marginally more disciplined, but that was because he was on the attack.
Rather than focusing on the revelations of his feelings toward groping women and hammering him repeatedly on them, she allowed the trauma that nearly ended Donald’s campaign to wash away in a four minute back-and-forth in which she calmly reminded people of her opponent’s chauvinism and Trump lamely called it “locker room talk” and dodged the question on whether he’d actually done the things he so gleefully bragged about.
Clinton’s coolness under fire also made her seem disconnected from the answers she was giving. The email answer is still bad, but she’s now too married to the bad decisions to do better. While I do not doubt the sincerity in her attempts to be sincere, even on a stage surrounded by voters, Clinton answers questions as if she’s reading off the morning talking points. As have been noted ad nauseum, she is not good at this. Being a candidate is not her core competency; her command of the issues and details of policy make her seem 100,000 times more qualified for the presidency than Donald Trump.
Donald Trump is a facade. There is little difference between the man and the signs that hang from his myriad buildings. They’re garish, over-sized and lacking in much more substance than the plastic and lightbulbs that help them light up whatever city they’re in. It is a false glow, signifying little more than his singularly gigantic ego. The Donald has about has about as much business being leader of the free world than do the letters that signify Trump Tower’s presence in Manhattan.
Trump also had perhaps his two biggest fascisti moments of the campaign. First, he threatened to prosecute his opponent from the stage. Now, his argument was a good one. If he had couched it in terms of “if I was president” rather than “when I am president” the statement would have been less striking. But President Trump wouldn’t stop with Hillary Clinton. With an army of federal prosecutors suddenly at his disposal, it is easy to see how he would use them to his personal and political advantage.
When asked questions about is Muslim ban, and directly questioned by a Muslim American, he blithely said that rising anti-Islamism was too bad. He then pivoted to the scale of the problem of radical Islam and offered a solution to the young woman in the audience. If you want to be in this country, if you want to be an American, get ready to start ratting out your neighbors. This is the type of “extreme vetting” to which Donald Trump is referring. Muslims may be the first group who must prove their loyalty under a Trump regime but they would be far from the last.
Donald Trump may have “energized” the Republican base, but the base is not his problem. The Republican Party has a much bigger problem now then just Trump’s flailing and foundering candidacy. For the Establishment, younger conservatives or center-right voters, as Dandy Don Meredith would say, “Turn out the lights, the party’s over.” (H/T Adam Clymer.) If Republicans of all stripes, ages, regions and demographics have decided that Trump is the type of person or personality that they are now looking for in a presidential nominee, count me and millions of others out.
The GOP apparatus has stuck by him despite his total lack of common decency or remotely conservative political outlook. Republicans sacrificed their dignity and credibility on the altar of Trump this year and the curse will last for years to come. Staunch conservatives like Governor Mike Pence may try and cleanse themselves of what they today, explicitly and implicitly support in a Trump candidacy, but that shame will not wash off, no matter how much they wash themselves in the blood of American conservatism or even common decency.
Last night’s debate didn’t end Donald Trump’s campaign and it didn’t ensure Hillary Clinton’s victory. What it did was subject us to another 30 days of brutal ugliness, non-sense and ad hominem attacks. That in and of itself would not be unusual for a presidential campaign. The glide path of our political process is decidedly southerly, and St. Louis’ misery helped push us into a new political epoch of which few, if any of us, should be proud.
Copyright 2016. Jedburghs, LLC.
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