It’s been a long week for me – and a strange one in politics – but, since it’s a school weekend I still have a debate of my own to prep for and a midterm to review for, plus the usual assortment of weekend things that don’t magically disappear on school weekends. So, I’ll keep this post short, but I’d be very remiss (and probably an imposter) if I said nothing about the third presidential debate that was held a couple of days ago.
No matter what Donald Trump is tweeting to the contrary, he did very badly. Yes, he started out well (and seemed to confirm speculation that the sniffling is a nervous tick by sniffling more often as he got more agitated), but he failed miserably at keeping it up – or of demonstrating the presidential temperament he claims to have. He gave a wonderful word salad response to the question of Aleppo that was so bad it rivaled some of Sarah Palin’s best (of course she was present for the debate so maybe it was a tribute). He coined the word “bigly”. And in the end, he fared just a badly at this debate than he did at the other two – and even fell into the trap of commenting on The Apprentice not winning an Emmy (“it should have won”) when Clinton mentioned his tweet storm after not getting the Emmy that that the Emmys were rigged. The man is just way too easily baited. I actually think that Clinton may have been having fun this time.
But far more seriously, and not as easily brushed aside as the ‘bad hombres’ and ‘nasty woman’ comments, was his refusal to say he’d accept the results of the election. Even after Chris Wallace gave him a second chance to clarify or amend his answer, he said “I will keep you in suspense”. Keep us in suspense? Seriously? This is not a freakin’ reality show – this is real life and a very serious presidential campaign. Of course, it helped not at all when he qualified it the next day to say that he’d accept the results “If I win”. The defensive arguments used by Trump’s surrogates that point to Al Gore in 2000 don’t hold water. I’m sure that Gore would have stated an intent to accept the results of the election had he been asked two weeks ahead of time. I’m equally sure that he would have accepted the results had the circumstances been different. His issue was specific to an unusually close count in a single (significant) state – and he should probably have dropped the fight a couple of weeks sooner in the interests of simply promoting national unity.
The problem in this case – and it’s potentially a big one, is that Trump has already inflamed his base of extremist supporters to the point that there are some, including some elected officials, that are implying, and even actively threatening, an armed response to a Trump loss. His continual complaints of election rigging and voter fraud are not merely wildly inaccurate hyperbole, they are throwing gasoline onto the fire that fuels his campaign, but may not be possible to contain. He is inciting sedition – and no, I don’t think that’s putting it too strongly. Yes, I am very nervous about what comes after he loses on November 8th – even if he immediately concedes. And what happens if he refuses to concede – how long can this possibly be dragged out? What does that do to a nation that is already tired of this unusually painful election cycle? And I’m concerned about what happens on November 8th, itself, if some of his less rational supporters take up his suggestion that they go down and watch the voting “in certain areas”. He is turning the United States into something I barely recognize – and that should worry more Americans than it seems to.
“In a democracy, someone who fails to get elected to office can always console himself with the thought that there was something not quite fair about it.” –Thucydides
And I guess I was wrong about the short post…
Image is of an etching of the original design for the White House taken from the White House Museum website – http://www.whitehousemuseum.org/overview.htm.