The First Debate of 2016: Trump and Clinton vs. America
Like many of you, I watched the Trump/Clinton debate last night. I was planning on writing this immediately post-debate, but found I needed time to settle my thoughts.
I like debates. I enjoy participating in debates. I like watching debates. I had to pause the stream several times and take a break because I just could not stand listening to these two bloated gasbags talk any longer.
This wasn’t a debate. It was a travesty at every level.
Clinton Won the Debate, Probably, Sort Of . . .
If we’re treating this as a debate, Clinton was the clear winner. More focused, more concise, more poised, more topical, more knowledgeable. On every metric by which a debate is normally judged, she was a clearly superior performer.
I’m not sure that matters, though, because expectations for Trump were low. In many respects all he had to do was stand their for an hour and a half, and not say anything that made him sound actually crazy. I wouldn’t say he pulled that off, but I think he avoided anything actively damaging to his current level of support.
At a guess, I would say this debate, in the larger scheme, polls out to a wash. Hillary Clinton helped stop her slide in the polls, but she’s not going to gain much of her lost ground back. Maybe a point or two.
But This Wasn’t Really a Debate
A debate is where two people argue over policy, and put forth their plans for the future. This is the part that really, really, annoyed and depressed me, and I couldn’t put my finger on it until today.
Both Clinton and Trump have entirely embraced the concept that this race is entirely about casting the other candidate as more unfit for office. Neither of them should be President, and they both know it. We listened to an hour and half of two things:
- Attacks on the other candidate’s past corruption and record of incompetence.
- Promises without supporting policy details.
Neither Clinton nor Trump was on that stage to debate a single substantive piece of policy or vision. They were there solely to slander the other as much as they could, to desperately struggle to convince the undecided voters who hate them both and hold them both in such well-deserved contempt that to vote for their opponent was to doom the country.
Clinton and Trump Attacking the Other
Credit where credit is due, their attacks on one another were successful, at least for me. Both candidates succeeded in convincing me the other had no business holding the Presidency. The most revealing moment of the debate, again, for me, was the awkward fumbling as Clinton tried to make the case that Trump’s lack of tax returns was nefarious, but her deletion of tens of thousands of emails was just an innocent little mistake–and Trump tried to do the opposite.
Both candidates have fully embraced painting the other as a corrupt, rich, and out of touch individual with a pattern of disastrous incompetence. This is easy for both of them to do, as they are both quite correct in their assertions.
Both Trump and Clinton are very nearly caricatures, the highest-profile example of Wall Street corruption and DC corruption, respectively. They have lived their lives in an endless pursuit of wealth, power, and influence, without a care to who they harmed or how they acquired whatever they desired.
We can argue and argue over which one is worse, and why, but at the end of the day Clinton is rot, Trump is rot, Clinton is a sickness weakening America, and Trump is a sickness weakening America. You can decide one is worse than the other, but both are only harming us as a country.
Trump and Clinton are the festering boils on the surface, revealing the infection within. Nothing more.
And they both know it. They know it, and neither one cares.
The Lack of Policy Details is Important
“I will create 15 million jobs, her plan will destroy 10 million jobs!”
“My plan will create 7 million jobs, his plan will destroy 30 million jobs!”
Watch, I can do it, too: “When America elects me President, farts won’t smell bad anymore and all horses will transmorgrify into unicorns!”
Anyone can make empty promises into a microphone. Clinton and Trump made a lot of promises of both joy and doom that were entirely divorced from reality, and it really matters. It matters because they’re both hoping we’ll all get so caught up in how awful the other is that we’ll fail to notice that they both lack any cohesive vision for our future as a country.
That’s a problem for me, because I’m going to have to live here for, assuming I don’t end up as an actual corpse, a very, very, long time.
I want and demand that those who seek to lead, seek primarily to serve us as our President, and make this country a better place. I am not interested in hearing a serially-bankrupt corrupt businessman tell me he’ll totally fix the economy. I am not interested in hearing a corrupt politician explain how she’s going to solve a bunch of international crises she was very much responsible for creating.
What We Deserve Out of a President
I want to hear what we should keep, and why, what we should change, and why. I want to hear what sort of America these candidates seek to create with the power they’re given. I want to know what the American Dream means in their hearts, and how they intend to make it available to my generation, and the children I will someday have. I want someone who has more to say than, “The future of the country depends on voting for me,” and has a vision for what that future should be.
That is what we deserve, and I think why so many of us find Clinton and Trump so repugnant is they have so clearly both fallen short of any vision. After all, they have no desire to serve America, so why bother to consider how they might do so?
This is what so galled last night, what I could not place until I’d slept on it:
In and hour and a half–an hour and a half of listening to two plutocrats squabble over whose scandals were more disqualifying-er-est than the others’, and how money and jobs would pour forth as rivers the day they entered office– In all that time, neither Clinton not Trump had a word to say about the nation they want America to be.
Why would they, though, when neither one of them cares anything for America beyond claiming as much as they’re able of America’s power and America’s money for their own?