This debate was a weird one to even have. We’re all pretty clear on the fact that Trump is not qualified to be President of the United States. Even the people who love Trump know he isn’t qualified to be President. They support him because doing so is a fuck you to everyone who believes we should choose a qualified candidate who might be non-white or non-male over any random straight white guy. Trump supporters are the cultural descendants of the people who were emotionally invested in Bobby Riggs. Only perhaps more racist.
It was also a weird debate to have because the Republican Party, which didn’t give a rat about the racist things Trump said or the misogynist things he said or the unconstitutional things he said or the crazyballs conspiracies he repeated or his utter lack of understanding about foreign policy and domestic policy and how any part of our government works, finally hit their limit when Trump said something despicable – and criminal – about women in crude enough terms to make people notice. Because Trump finally managed to shock a chunk of the people who had brushed off the previous rains of his bile because as reasonably wealthy straight white non-Muslims, they knew they were never going to be all that affected by anything he did.
But Past Trump, Hot-Mic Trump, found their limit. He found the immediate limit of most women and a huge chunk of men. (A few predictable dirtballs said har, har, that’s just fellas talking pussy-grabbing like always, and a few jelly-livered Republican politicians said that yes, that was a bad and disgusting and criminal thing, but hey, let’s wait and see how things shake out before we actually withdraw our endorsements. Wow, has that ever become a party of principle-free scumball cowards. But, again, we already knew that.)
So the RNC stopped printing Trump’s campaign materials and essentially gave up on winning the presidency, apparently deciding that screw it, they would just depend on the obstructionism of a gerrymandered House and try again in four years with someone who is better at calling Hillary Clinton a nagging, murderous cunt in a subtler and more genteel way.
But political inertia is a beast, so we still went ahead had this thing where we knew one candidate has actually prepared and studied and worked for the debate and the job and we knew – had basically had it confirmed – that the candidate who bragged about introducing himself to women with a quick sexual assault had spent his whole prep time trying to figure out how hard he could Mean Girl the other one about her husband’s past conduct.
And we went through with it, and in doing so we normalized it, and so here we are. We just watched one of the lowest and ugliest moments of our politics in living memory. And our press and our debate formats helped it right along. Our pundits continue to talk about whether the candidates seemed friendly enough or too stiff instead of scoring them on whether they were fucking lying or not. We went into this debate with Terribly Important People right, left and center saying that Mike Pence had won the Vice Presidential debate because he told repeated, unambiguous, easily refuted lies with such a calm demeanor. That’s the standard.
And so Trump didn’t even bother to think up new lies this time. He still said he would show his taxes just as soon as that routine audit was done, still pretended that he’d never said climate change was a hoax, and still claimed that he’d never supported the Iraq war. He even went with a lazy “no, that wasn’t debunked” at one point. And he just flat-out made random things up about ISIS, Syria, and four years during which Hillary Clinton was apparently still secretly the Secretary of State after she’d left office. If you’re going to lie to a nation, at least put your back into it. And pundits, if you know he’s lying, stop fucking acting like the fact that he seemed to be on tranquilizers this time made it OK. The only proper response to “How did Trump do?” is “He cannot make his case with real facts. That’s pathetic. He loses.” No, you can’t fill six hours of ratings-pumping masturbatory chatter and pointless Giuliani spots with that, but that is, in fact, where a responsible media should stand firm.
As for the rest of Trump’s performance, as soon as you hit kindergarten, you learned that if you did something awful, pointing at another kid and whining that he did something worse was not an acceptable defense. You still got punished for what you did and got caught at. And yet Trump has never learned that lesson. He used that nursery-school whine of “But Hillary…” Over and over and over. It was, other than lying, reminding Clinton of her husband’s infidelities, and lurking behind her like a third-rate slasher movie villain, Trump’s only strategy for the debate.
This is, again, the debate in which the pundit class says he improved his performance.
And then, of course, there are the statements that should be direct and immediate disqualifiers for Trump. (I mean, of course, the direct and immediate disqualifiers this week.) He dismissed his bragging about walking up to women and grabbing their genitals as “locker-room talk,” as though the fact that he has routinely boasted and sniggered about sexual assault with other dirtsacks makes it somehow OK.
And Trump promised to jail his opponent if he wins. As though that were a selling point. Why not brag that he’ll have his enemies assassinated? And subversive books purged? Trump has already made it very clear that he does not care for a free press. He doesn’t just admire dictators; he wants to become one. And I don’t care how full of blowhard bull he is: Threatening to jail people who oppose you politically is not an area to joke around with. We had actual pro-torture war criminals leave the White House before Obama. And, maddening as it was, they were not prosecuted for that, in large part because jailing your political opponents is not a road we want to go down.
So no, let’s stop pretending that Trump made up ground or is getting better at this. Or that being marginally less scattered and flailing means that he is in any way approaching being an acceptable candidate. He’s disqualified. He’s out. Lying is not the same thing as making your case. Sexual assault is not normal and cute. Racism and bans on an entire religion are still appalling. And threatening to jail your opponent is not a thing that people who want a prominent position in a free nation get to do.
So no, Trump did not win that debate. On-air people should stop pretending that he might have just to make the race exciting again. Republican pundits should stop pretending he did just so they can be team players and jolly along with him just like good ol’ Billy Bush. Trump does not know things. He has no sense of what making policy involves. He is unable to think or act strategically. He does not care about preserving fundamental freedoms. He continues to be a sickening bigot and misogynist, and he has by his own account very probably behaved in a criminal fashion towards multiple women.
And I didn’t even get to the fact that he spent his second debate night mucus-snorting straight into the microphone.
Trump loses. He is an objectively terrible human being. He wants to be at the top of a dictatorship, not a democracy.
If we’re going to keep having these things, it’s time for the talking heads to stop calling them like this is a real race. Trump is in no way acceptable as a candidate. It’s time our politicians and newsfolk got responsible enough to say it.