We’re Not Gonna Take It
The debate was dark, it was hideous, it was ugly, and it was abusive.
Asked afterward just before her plane took off by the press if anything surprised her, Clinton said “Nothing he says surprises me,” (or something similar). Then she corrected herself, observing that while she expects him to lie — and noting that Politifact has found he lies more than any other candidate, something like 70% of the time — he seemed to have surpassed himself in the debate. She described it as “an avalanche of lies.” (Post-debate fact-checkers agreed.)
It seems clear that the Clinton camp made the decision not to challenge all of his lies during the debate, or the torrent of abuse Trump unleashed. Indeed, how could she have challenged it all — it was unrelenting, and it looked and felt like an assault. Engaging specifically on any particular line of attack, especially the ugliest ones, would have sucked her in and had her debating on his terms, by his rules. I think it was politically wise for her to do that, and, instead of merely repeating in her mind Michelle Obama’s wise words (as I expect she’s had to do many times now), “When they go low, we go high,” she said them aloud, and did not engage in the disgusting spectacle.
But my God. My God. Watching him disrespect her repeatedly, watching his abusive attacks, as he menaced over her and paced back and forth with a thundercloud scowl on his face, sniffing repeatedly, I felt like I was watching a man barely holding back from a physical assault. It was like watching an abuser or the Salem witch trials. I felt that I was being made a witness to abuse, and it was sickening.
Clinton’s ability to stand there poised, and not retaliate in kind, and remain Presidential, bordered on the superhuman. But I wanted, I needed, I was desperate, for her to eviscerate him, which did not happen. I believe that but for the advice of her team and her own political savvy, she would have done so, but she held back, because she felt she had to, to avoid being drawn into his cesspool. Watching her face settle into an expression of quiet steel as she endured that onslaught of disrespect and attempt to humiliate her, I felt an anger rise within me so deep that I lack the words to describe it. I can only say it was and remains primordial.
It had been triggered by the preceding 48 hours in which his bragging about sexual assault — and casual dismissal of it as mere locker room talk — had resulted in Kelly Oxford’s tweeting about her “first assault” and had garnered 9.7 million impressions in 24 hours. In a secret pro-Hillary FB group, women still too traumatized to share their abuse publicly in 140 characters poured out harrowing stories of sexual predation starting from their childhoods — a litany of violent sexualized attack and silencing by grandfathers, uncles, friends, friends of siblings, friends of their parents, boyfriends, and schoolmates. This outpouring of stories about what women are made to endure as a result of the rape culture that Donald Trump has used and abused and been a beneficiary of and exploited is what preceded what I knew, from press stories, and from his own non-apology, was likely going to be a grotesque sideshow of gaslighting and deflection by attacking Clinton on the basis of her husband’s alleged actions years ago.
After all that has been revealed about this man, and after that 48 hours, for him to get up on stage without an ounce of humility or decency or humanity and even try to engage with or take responsibility for his own decades of abhorrent behavior, then weaponize both his own physical presence and his misogyny against the first Democratic female presidential candidate, was not only an actual act of abusive verbal assault on Clinton, it was an act of abusive verbal assault on all women. That is what it felt like to me, and from the reaction I have seen from all my female friends, I am not alone. I don’t know if you men can understand fully what this looks like to us. His assault on Hillary Clinton was the rabid response of a caged male animal fighting with every last breath for its privilege to dominate, sexualize, silence, objectify, and humiliate women with impunity.
And I will tell you that I was and I remain in state of absolute and total fury. And neither I nor the rest of us are going to take it. We are not going to take having this racist abuser as our president and we will not be silenced by his threats or those of his supporters. When Hillary Clinton stood there like a statue composing her features into the mask of self-protection that she needed to wear, she had tens of millions of women standing metaphorically beside her, in a rage that you cannot imagine, and if we had had knives, we would have plunged them into his diseased heart. He was there, an avatar of millenia of abuse, and she stood there, taking it all, for us, not risking her presidency by getting angry or rising to the bait, enduring his despicable, desperate, debased and indecent attacks, not so much for herself, but for all women, everywhere, so she can shatter that glass ceiling and cut his hating ego into shards. We saw what he did. And we saw what she did and had to do.
He did not “win” this debate with his attacks and it was not a draw, and it is disgusting to even talk about the debate in those terms. This man’s performance was a disgrace and further exposed what a threat to women he is from start to finish, and we will not forget it and we do not excuse it and we will not allow him to be president.