Pur Autre Vie

I'm not wrong, I'm just an asshole

Monday, October 10, 2016

The Debate

I want to make a point about last night's debate.  Hillary Clinton just withstood the most visceral, brutal attack I've ever seen in American politics.  Donald Trump assembled a group of women who have accused Bill Clinton of sexual misconduct, did a tawdry press conference with them, and invited them to the debate.  (He tried to get them into the area reserved for the candidates' families, but the commission refused.)

Then during the debate he threatened to jail Hillary Clinton if he is elected.  I'm going to say that again:  he threatened to jail Hillary Clinton if he is elected.

For those who don't remember, I want to remind you that in the 1990s there was an entire industry devoted to smearing the Clintons.  You might think I'm exaggerating.  I'm not.  You can see a little bit about how it operated here.  The goal was to destroy the Clintons by hook or by crook.  It was nasty, relentless, and totally unconcerned with the truth.  Donald Trump is reaching back to that playbook, replicating the tactics the Republicans used to try to humiliate the Clintons.

To repeat myself:  as far as I know, no one in American politics has ever been put through this kind of ordeal.  Donald Trump is conducting himself like a thug, and it is disgraceful.

I say all of this because I think in many ways our institutions aren't built to handle a menace like Trump.  After the debate people immediately started talking about who won, and because Trump didn't take as many hits as he did in the first debate, people were saying he beat expectations and/or won outright.  (I'll note that polls showed him losing, in some cases by a lot.)  This is the natural way to think about a presidential debate 99% of the time, and that is exactly what Trump is counting on.  Trump is counting on voters not to understand how far out of bounds his behavior was, and he's counting on the media not to tell them.  He's counting on things like this:
This is important because to be completely honest many voters have trouble putting things in context and so they take their cues from journalists and political leaders.  This is why a lot of people are worried about "normalizing" Trump.  That is certainly scary—the reaction to his behavior should be utter revulsion—but I want to make a different point at the moment.  I think many Democrats are disappointed that Clinton didn't thrash Trump the way she did in the first debate.  Certainly that would have been nice.  But consider that she just walked into a debate where her current opponent had made common cause with her old tormentors and brought her husband's accusers into the room (and, if they had been allowed, would have brought them into the family box).  Consider that she had to share a stage with a man who promised to put her in jail if he wins.  Threatened to make an Aung San Suu Kyi out of her.  Hillary Clinton just withstood something that would break almost anyone else, and she kept fighting.

We must rededicate ourselves to defeating this fascist, misogynist thug.  There are fights that she can't fight and things she can't say—we must say them.  The fact that Clinton is still standing and still fighting after a despicable effort to take her down should give you heart.  Don't be discouraged by the fact that the debate doesn't seem to have been a blowout.  Make the election a blowout.


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