Well, I feel like I just saw American electoral politics step past a line it can never really come back from, yet again. Thanks, 2016.
Hillary Clinton didn’t have a good night Sunday in the second presidential debate. Her answers on her emails, her Wall Street speeches, and her “basket of deplorables” comment were pretty unsatisfying, to say the least. She didn’t take Donald Trump to task on his hideous behavior towards women as much as she could have, and she seemed stilted and off her game.
Lucky for her, though, her opponent is a giant orange man child who can’t string a sentence together, lies through his teeth about everything, is clueless on the basics of American government, and threatened to send his attorney general after her, and even arrest her, if he won.
Yeah, that happened. Clinton had said that it was good a man with Trump’s temperament wasn’t in charge of the country, and Trump countered, “Because you’d be in jail.”
That last part there, that’s the sort of thing a two-bit dictator would pull, not an American president. That kind of threat is the vicious “Lock her up!” chants that happen at pretty much every Trump rally and coming into the debate hall, it’s the kind of thing that Nixon tried to do, and it’s both wildly unethical and undemocratic.
For that alone he deserves to be buried in an Electoral College landslide. But he showed in so many other ways that he’s completely unfit to be president that the entire debate started feeling like a farce.
Trump essentially admitted that he had used his massive $900 million plus loss in 1995 to pay no taxes for many years, gaming the system in a way that infuriates everyone who isn’t a millionaire. He displayed shocking ignorance about what a single senator can do while in office, and how the actual legislative process works. He dismissed his disgusting 2005 comments about women as locker room talk that he’d never actually acted upon, which is offensive to all the grown men who never talk like that, and to our intelligence.
He also seems to have no knowledge of the world, which would be a real disaster for a president. He seemed to have no idea what is going on in Aleppo right now, saying that the city had “already fallen” when, in fact, the fight is still raging.
Trump parroted Russia’s party line by saying that the Syrian rebels could be bad guys, that “we don’t know who they are,” all while downplaying his own affinity and ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin’s regime.
He thought that the combined forces of the Kurdish Peshmerga and the Iraqi army, supported by American troops, should stage a “surprise” attack on the city of Mosul—which is impossible. The Mosul offensive is not a raid, it’s about capturing a major city and the huge territories around it one inch at a time. It’s less Pearl Harbor than the Battle of Berlin, if you want a comparison. But Trump has no clue, and doesn’t care.
I could go on and on. The man is so obviously ill-suited to be the leader of the free world that I’d rather see one of those creepy clowns who hang out in the woods in the Oval Office.
And yet on Election Day he’ll probably get around 45 percent of the vote, if not more. What does that say about us? What does that say about the state of our democracy? How do we look ourselves in the face on November 9th?
What keeps me up at night is wondering what’s going to happen once this election is done.
Is it now normal to threaten to jail one’s opponent? Is it normal to make up facts and bluster and complain when caught? Is it normal to whip up such hate and fear of one’s opponent that they literally fear for the future of the republic if they’re elected?
Democracy is a fragile thing. It’s simple to disenfranchise people, to set district boundaries to benefit certain people or parties, and to sit in a legislative chamber and bring the business of government to a screeching halt over nothing. And, as we’re seeing, it’s easy to take every norm we thought was inviolate and throw it out the window in order to win.
This debate was dark. Clinton may represent a status quo no one is thrilled with, but Trump is the representation of the hate and fear and fury that burns at the heart of our country.
I’m very afraid of where we go from here.
Susan Bigelow is an award-winning columnist and the founder of CTLocalPolitics. She lives in Enfield with her wife and their cats.
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