I truly dislike instant political analysis. It encapsulates everything that is wrong with our culture today: speaking without listening, analyzing without thinking, and shouting instead of speaking.
Therefore, I decided to wait a week and let the barely palatable stew of the second Presidential Debate—which was an excruciating and depressing exercise in pettifoggery and insults most of the time—simmer for a bit before adding my own seasoning to the mix.
I thought the mud wrestle between Clinton and Trump during the first debate was a depressingly familiar exercise in cherry-picked “facts” that often seemed tangential to the issues upon a Presidential election should focus: protecting our nation, improving our economy, and providing opportunities for all of our citizens to succeed. The days leading up to the second debate provided yet more fuel for the bonfire of the inanities.
Leaked transcripts of the incredibly well-paid speeches Hillary Clinton gave to her Wall Street compadres served to confirm what we already know: She is a member of the privileged 1% who pretends to give a damn about the rest of us solely to garner our votes. What a shock!
We also learned from recorded comments that Donald Trump has all the charm and grace of your average horny thirteen year old boy when it comes to women: To put it bluntly, he’s a real jerk. What a shock!
I was filled with a keen sense of foreboding because I expected the second debate would devolve into a battle of insults, put downs, finger wagging, and one-liners that would tell me nothing other than I really don’t want either of these two damaged people to be our next President.
Unfortunately, the second debate lived down to my lowest expectations, and I am horrified at what our two major political parties have become. I do not know whether any of this will turn into an electoral bonanza for either Gary Johnson or Jill Stein, but we have only a few more weeks before we find out what our nation’s voters think about being forced to choose between a lout and a liar.
The question after the debate for the Republicans was simple: Did Trump manage to cover Clinton with at least as much mud as she flung at him? My sense is that Trump gave as good as he got, and those who have always been offended by his coarseness are certainly yet more offended. However, his hardcore supporters probably don’t care about anything he says because, when all is said and done, he is at least not Hillary Clinton.
Trump’s non-payment of taxes because of his astounding business losses certainly calls into question his ability to present himself as a business genius who is prepared to straighten out our dysfunctional government, and it’s still more than a little difficult to imagine him providing calm international leadership in our increasingly fragile world.
The question after the debate among the Democrats was whether Hillary Clinton did an effective job of swinging independent voters who have been trending toward Trump because they neither like nor trust her. Clinton basically laid into Trump throughout the debate like a child on a sugar high whacking at a birthday party piñata, so it cannot be said that she failed to energetically attack her opponent, who did his best to appear contrite for both his language and behavior around women.
Nonetheless, the obvious dichotomy between her sanctimonious attacks on Trump over his treatment of women and her own past defenses of her philandering husband—all of which typically boiled down to calling Bill’s victims a pack of ignorant sluts—hung like a bad smell over the entire evening. I suppose that, when you have to do a hatchet job on someone, you just say what you have to say and pray that people have very, very short memories.
People will be writing and talking about this campaign until the sun snuffs out in the sky above us. The refusal to shake hands with one another before the start of the debate spoke very plainly to the distance between Trump and Clinton, which mirrors the stark divisions among the broad spectrum of the American people.
How bad did this all get? Let me put it this way: I’m certain we’ve never had a Presidential debate where one of the major party candidates threatened—if elected—to appoint a special prosecutor to throw their erstwhile opponent in jail. I’d say that’s a pretty clear sign the level of discourse throughout the evening was a tad inflammatory. Of course, the starkly different reactions to Trump’s comment were yet another indication of the political polarization of our nation: Some heard it as a threat to abuse Presidential power, but others heard a welcome promise to restore integrity to our criminal justice system.
The wounds in our nation’s soul are open, visible, and will be very slow to heal. Given the many possibilities for economic, social, military, and geo-political cataclysms right at our doorstep as we hurtle on to Election Day, I would have to guess the next few years in America could get very ugly.
I just hope that, when it all starts to fall apart, we can find some way to come together in common purpose instead of fragmenting in common dislike—and I hope I’m not unrealistically optimistic regarding our chances.