Trump and Clinton Duke It Out Onstage: a Moderate’s Post-Mortem
So the first presidential debate is history now, and the republic survived. The verbal slugfest garnered more viewers than any of its predecessors, and it was a remarkable spectacle on several counts:
- A female contender entered the ring for the first time in U.S. history
- After a reasonably impressive first round, the male contender punched himself out in response to his opponent’s quick left jabs
- The female contender looked poised, perky and well-prepared (some say a little too well-prepared, contending that she had been fed the questions a week in advance by partisan network brass)
- The male contender had an unaccountable case of the sniffles, undermining his perpetual pose of macho bravado
- The male referee appeared to favor the female contender
- The female contender forced the male contender to the ropes several times, trapping him into admitting that he paid no federal income tax, discriminated against blacks early in his career, and even (say it ain’t so!) dissed a Latina beauty pageant winner for packing on some extra poundage
- The male contender landed several punches (trade agreements, ISIS, 30 years of “bad experience”) without staggering his opponent
- Neither contender delivered a knockout blow, but the female contender earned a decision on points
- The male contender insisted that he won, then blamed a faulty microphone for his underwhelming performance
Of course, it was only the first debate. Obama slept through his first debate with Mitt Romney and stormed back to win re-election. But Trump will always be Trump, and Mrs. Clinton is just too clever for him.
Unless world-class hacker Julian Assange derails the Clinton Express with a damning election-eve revelation of criminal hijinks, we can probably look forward to inaugurating the first-ever female U.S. president this January. That’s not such a bad thing. Our current male politicians have been, with a few decent exceptions, an embarrassment to the venerable sex that invented philosophy, the electric light bulb and the eight-track tape player.
I respect Mrs. Clinton’s intelligence and preparedness for high office. I even like her compulsively bright-eyed public persona: she’ll always come across as the smartest kid in the class, she knows it, and I admire her unwillingness to hide it. I oppose her positions on numerous policy points, but on the whole I prefer them to her opponent’s irresponsible, scattershot (and frequently scatterbrained) approach to the issues.
So why, I wonder, was a small but obstinate part of my brain rooting for Trump to acquit himself in the first presidential debate? Could I be an irredeemable male chauvinist? Am I a covert member of Trump’s downtrodden white supremacist cheering section? Do I harbor a national death-wish — or at least a desire to see American politics transformed into yet another grotesque reality show? (Too late; it’s already happened.)
Here’s how I’d explain it. In common with so many less-educated Americans, I’m increasingly hostile toward the global elite that pulls the political strings in Washington and elsewhere. This self-appointed ruling class straddles political lines; the Clintons and Bushes alike are members in good standing, along with those pampered denizens of Wall Street, Davos, Bilderberg and other richly carpeted sanctuaries for the top one percent of the one percent.
For all his storied wealth and bluster, Trump is still an outsider. He looks like an outsider; he talks like an outsider; he thinks like an outsider. (Of course, the same could be said of Hitler, so outsiderness alone is no qualification for leadership.) For a purported billionaire, Trump has something approaching a common touch: in his case, the ability to tap into that uniquely American strain of vulgar grandiosity… the driving need to be (as Frank Sinatra once sang) “king of the hill, top of the heap, A-number one.”
Trump is loose; he’s unsubtle; he’s the anti-Hillary. I could imagine him being more at ease than his opponent at a black church gathering or a firehouse dinner. For an autocratic braggart and bully, he can be endearingly self-deprecating. He makes comical rubbery faces to put his fans at ease.
Trump also emits sparks of danger and unpredictability, which appeals to people who like danger and unpredictability. By contrast, Mrs. Clinton is eminently safe and predictable; she’s been given the Goldman Sachs seal of approval.
And what about the nominees’ shared penchant for playing with the truth? Trump is a blatant and perhaps pathological liar; no mystery there. Mrs. Clinton is merely a master of devious behind-the-scenes manipulation. She doesn’t lie so much as create artful deception.
Would I vote for Trump? Not unless he happened to be running against Attila the Hun. But an admittedly primitive, puerile, contrarian part of me was eager to see him rattle the complacent Mrs. Clinton and her sniffish progressive minions. He didn’t. Not yet, anyway.
Of course, anything could happen between now and November. But this much is fairly certain: no matter who emerges on top when the final votes are tallied, America is in trouble.
If Clinton wins, we’ll be looking at four to eight more years of unofficial oligarchy, with an unsettling undercurrent of white anger in addition to all our chronic black anger. If Trump wins, we’ll be looking at four to eight years of… TRUMP.
Rick Bayan is founder-editor of The New Moderate.
All material copyright 2016 by Rick Bayan.