[update below] [2nd update below] [3rd update below] [4th update below] [5th update below] [6th update below]
I just finished watching the debate on YouTube, on this Monday afternoon. Qu’est-ce que vous voulez que je dise? Clinton was excellent and from beginning to end. She killed it, point barre. Who were the nitwit pundits who said that she is a “weak candidate” (which I have read so often that I’ve lost touch of the number of nitwits who’ve said it)? As Michelle Goldberg titled her instant analysis, Hillary “was a model of grace and poise throughout a disgusting ordeal.” To call the debate disgusting is to put it most mildly. It is beyond comprehension how pundits—of whom there are a certain number—could declare that Trump somehow “won” it, or at least scored a tie, and to assert that Hillary did not do what she had to do, that she failed to take advantage of this or that opportunity, or whatever. Bollocks. Trump was more odious and reprehensible than two weeks ago at Hofstra, if that’s possible, and demonstrated for the 870,000th time that he doesn’t know anything about anything—having to do with policy and the institutions of the US government—and that he is a complete and total idiot and for whom literally every thought he utters is incoherent and/or an outright lie. Watching the debate in the faculty lounge at the ICP between classes, I put it on pause at one moment—when Trump was railing on with ignorant bullshit about Syria, ISIS, and Mosul (a city he had likely not heard of before his debate prep and couldn’t locate on a map even if one threatened to blow up the Trump Tower)—telling a bemused colleague that the French have no idea of the calamity that has befallen the American political system, that Marine Le Pen is Aristotle compared to Trump and that I would vote for her in a nanosecond over the GOP’s unspeakable candidate if a gun were put to my head. My god, I would even vote for (gulp) Sarkozy if presented with such a Sophie’s choice. Trump was indeed deemed by certain pundits to have “won”—or at least “stanched the bleeding”—because he uttered a few more grammatically correct sentences—with subjects and predicates, and verbs, adjectives, and prepositions properly aligned—than in the first debate. The bar has been set ever lower in American electoral politics. The ‘banana republicanization’ of the United States.
On America becoming a ‘banana republic’ if Trump wins and has Hillary prosecuted and thrown in the slammer, as he promised last night, see the comments by Slate’s excellent Jamelle Bouie, Vox’s Ezra Klein—who wrote that “[a]t Sunday’s debate, Donald Trump revealed that he is not running to be America’s president so much as its dictator”—WaPo’s editorial board, and, above all, the libertarian Niskanen Center’s vice president Will Wilkinson, who, in a NYT op-ed, concluded with this
[Trump] said, in a widely watched televised presidential debate, that if he became president, he would put political opponents in cages. That’s dictator talk. But it’s not Mr. Trump’s open contempt for the norms of liberal democracy that made my blood run cold. It was the applause that came after. It is the fact that it’s no longer assured that you automatically lose a presidential debate in which you promise to jail your political rival.
Trump’s deplorables loved what he said. And those deplorables—a.k.a. the Republican Party base—are a sizable portion of the American electorate. Large numbers of Americans out there—almost all Republicans—want a dictator, preferably fascist. Even if the bottom falls out from under Trump and Hillary ends up winning in a landslide—a now plausible hypothesis that I scoffed at even a week ago—Trump will still receive a minimum of 45 million votes, probably more. That’s a lot of Americans who are fine with dictatorship. Chilling, en effet.
As for the Republican Party’s craven politicians, on whom abuse is being rightly heaped, see Jamelle Bouie’s excellent commentary, “The horror is everything the GOP could tolerate about Trump, and why: Republicans supported his vision of a whites-only America until he posed a threat to the voters the party needs.” Bouie discusses, entre autres, Trump’s breathtaking words on the Central Park Five. And à propos if one missed it, see the piece by The Guardian’s Oliver Laughland of last February, “Donald Trump and the Central Park Five: the racially charged rise of a demagogue.”
One nice thing about the GOP’s Trump disaster is the prise de conscience by a minority of right-wingers who are appalled and sickened by the orange haired one, including columnists George Will and and Jennifer Rubin, whom I heretofore disdained but are now fun to read (e.g. see their latest here and here). Also TWS’s Jonathan Last, who had a pithy post-debate comment. One conservative friend of mine is so revolted and repulsed by Trump that she informed me the other day that “[she is] beginning to sound like an unhinged Sanders supporter” and that this election “has actually radicalized [her].” Sois la bienvenue ma chère!
One group that is also coming around is heretofore Hillary-hating gauchiste Bernie supporters—and believe me, I have many such friends, real life and virtual—who have, as I have been noting on my Facebook news feed, been ever less critical of Hillary, when not downright positive in their attitudes toward her—and to the point where the latest Wikileaks dump, that revealed excerpts of Hillary’s speeches to Wall Street, provoked little to no reaction. Tant pis, Julian Assange and Vladimir Putin. Bad timing and too late. C’est bien. (As for my assessment on the email revelations, I largely agree with Kevin Drum and Matthew Yglesias).
C’est tout ce que j’ai à dire, pour le moment au moins.
UPDATE: Former NFL player Chris Kluwe, who spent most of his career as a punter with the Minnesota Vikings, has an absolutely excellent, fantastically written, must-read piece in Vox, “Dear Donald Trump: I played in the NFL. Here’s what we really talk about in the locker room.” Lots of great lines, e.g. on how Trump has “plummet[ed] past the morass of gross incivility into the abyss of depraved sociopathy.” Every Trump supporter should be obliged to read Kluwe’s piece and to the very last word.
2nd UPDATE: Conservative pundit Michael Gerson, who served in the Bush 43 administration, has a great column in The Washington Post on the Trump debacle, “Republicans deserve their sad fate.” I don’t agree with the bit about the Democrats in the 1990s but will let that slide.
3rd UPDATE: Slate associate editor Laura V. Anderson has a nice post (October 12th) on Slate’s “XX Factor: What Women Really Think” blog, “Forget this ‘Hillary is unlikable’ stuff. Hillary is downright inspiring.”
4th UPDATE: The New Yorker’s John Cassidy has a good commentary (October 12th) on the WikiLeaks dump, “The illuminating but unsurprising content of Clinton’s paid speeches.”
5th UPDATE: I watched Trump’s October 13th speech in West Palm Beach on C-SPAN, all 49 minutes of it. The face of American fascism. Ça coupe le souffle. For a shorter demonstration (under two minutes) of Trump’s fascism—and of the profound danger he poses—watch this.
In case one missed it last May, do read my favorite neocon Robert Kagan’s WaPo column, “This is how fascism comes to America.”
6th UPDATE: If one didn’t see Michelle Obama’s great speech yesterday (October 13th) in Manchester NH—certainly the best of the campaign and by anyone—watch it here.