Thursday, October 20, 2016


Most of us recognize that at last night's debate Donald Trump dug the hole he's in a little deeper, but there seems to be a disagreement as to what hurt Trump most. Journalists and political insiders think it was this:
A defiant Donald Trump used the high-profile setting of the final presidential debate here Wednesday night to amplify one of the most explosive charges of his candidacy: that if he loses the election, he might consider the results illegitimate because the process is rigged.

Questioned directly as to whether he would accept the outcome should Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton prevail on Nov. 8, Trump demurred. “I will keep you in suspense,” the Republican nominee said.
Trump did hurt himself with that, but I think he would have alienated much of the debate audience -- especially women -- even if that question had never come up. Near the end of the debate, I spotted this on Twitter from a female journalist:

That struck a nerve for me because for much of last night I was one of the men who thought Trump was, alas, doing reasonably well. I never said that on Twitter, but near the end of the second debate I tweeted that the consensus would be that it was a draw. Probably because I'm not a woman, I completely missed the fact that so many women had a visceral reaction to the way Trump loomed over Clinton in that debate. In this one, he wasn't able to walk around, but he still tried to instill fear in Clinton. It doesn't matter that he had little success -- just the attempt to do that was off-putting.

I'm not saying that all men missed the point and all women got it. Here's a man (a New York Times colleague of Roller's) who got it:

On the other hand, there was Amy Chozick of the Times, who wrote this (with Michael Barbaro), seemingly as an application for Maureen Dowd's job whenever Dowd decides her column-writing days are over:
She mansplained him. “Let me translate that if I can,” Hillary Clinton said dryly after Donald J. Trump talked up his tax plan.

She interrupted him. When Mr. Trump boasted of the gilded Las Vegas hotel that bears his name, Mrs. Clinton leaned into her microphone. “Made with Chinese steel,” she quipped with a smile.

She mocked him. After Mr. Trump said President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia had “no respect” for her, Mrs. Clinton slyly posited why Mr. Putin seemingly preferred Mr. Trump: “He’d rather have a puppet as president of the United States,” she said.

In the third and final presidential debate, Mrs. Clinton outmaneuvered Mr. Trump with a surprising new approach: his.

Flipping the script, she turned herself into his relentless tormentor, condescending to him repeatedly and deploying some of his own trademark tactics against him.

The relatively subdued and largely defanged Republican nominee who showed up onstage at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, was a different figure from the candidate America has watched for the past 16 months.

Mr. Trump was, for much of the night, oddly calm and composed. He minimized his name-calling. His interruptions were relatively rare for him.
No, that's not what happened. Trump was more subdued than expected, especially in the first twenty minutes or so of the debate, but then the tranquilizers wore off his temper resurfaced and he was his old self again.

And Clinton is not like Trump. Clinton doesn't menace. Clinton doesn't try to intimidate. An opponent who was minimally socialized could have had an exchange with her that would have been called "sharp" or "heated" or "barbed," but wouldn't have descended into a pre-adolescent battle for dominance. Trump, however, always keeps it at the grade-school level.

And I haven't even gotten to this:
... Clinton's dig at [Trump] while talking about the Social Security payroll tax apparently pushed him over the edge.

Clinton said her payroll taxes would go up, and so would Trump's, unless he found a way to avoid it....

The GOP nominee then leaned into his microphone and interrupted, "such a nasty woman."

It was a moment that stunned even observers inured to Trump's often brutal rhetoric.
For viewers who aren't political insiders, especially women, I think that had more impact than the talk about a rigged election. It's the Q.E.D. for everything Trump critics have said about his temperament, especially the deep, deep misiogyny.


On the subject of Trump's threat not to accept the election results, we have to remember that he's not just talking about vote fraud. If he sincerely believes that the voting is manipulated in such a way as to deny him a victory that's rightfully his, that's a case he has the right to make, and he's entitled to try to prove it (even though there's no reason to believe he can). However, Trump's notion of a rigged election goes way beyond voter fraud:
Wallace: ... I want to ask you here on the stage tonight, do you make the same commitment that you'll absolutely accept the result of the election.

Trump: I will look at it at the time. I’m not looking at anything now, I'll look at it at the time. What I've seen, what I’ve seen, is so bad. First of all, the media is so dishonest and so corrupt and the pile on is so amazing. "The New York Times" actually wrote an article about it, but they don't even care. It is so dishonest, and they have poisoned the minds of the voters.
He seems to be saying that the election is rigged because the press publishes stories he doesn't like.

And then:
Trump: Excuse me, Chris. If you look at your voter rolls, you will see millions of people that are registered to vote. Millions. This isn't coming from me. This is coming from Pew report and other places. Millions of people that are registered to vote that shouldn't be registered to vote. So let me just give you one other thing. I talk about the corrupt media. I talk about the millions of people. I'll tell you one other thing. She shouldn't be allowed to run. It’s -- She's guilty of a very, very serious crime. She should not be allowed to run, and just in that respect I say it's rigged because she should never --

Wallace: But, but --

Trump: Chris. She should never have been allowed to run for the presidency based on what she did with e-mails and so many other things.
So it's a rigged election because people who have died or moved are still on the voter rolls where they used to vote -- never mind the fact that there's no evidence that "millions" of people try to take advantage of this. And it's a rigged election because Hillary Clinton was allowed to run for president.

So there is no outcome -- not even a fifty-state, 61%-39% Clinton landslide -- that could meet all of Trump's criteria for a fair election. No election that includes Clinton could be fair. No election in which the press criticizes Trump could be fair.

That will be frightening if the election is anything less than a blowout. But it looks as if it's going to be a blowout, so Trump will strain credulity if he declares the results fraudulent on the night of November 8. And he absolutely will. We know from three debates that he has no idea how he comes off to non-admirers. As long as he believes he's scaring people, he assumes he's doing the right thing.


Never Ben Better said...

Well, he's certainly scaring me.

When he isn't disgusting me.

Jimbo said...

Amy Chozick should have stuck with fashion or whatever she was writing about earlier. I work in an office with lots of women (all ages, ethnicities and races) and they were ALL furious this morning at the "such a nasty woman" and the repeated "wrong" interjections that he made. As for the rest of his debate performance, I am at a loss to understand those that saw it as a draw. Unless, vague blathering and tangential remarks are exactly the same as precise policy statements and factual responses to questions and, I guess, for a lot of people they are the same thing. And that's a very sad commentary on the lack of critical thinking capability in the American public.

BroD said...

Good post!

Jimbo: "I am at a loss to understand those that saw it as a draw." I think maybe what they mean is that it didn't change the fundamental dynamics of the race. However, inasmuch as those dynamics are strongly in Clinton's favor I agree it's clearly wrong to call it a draw: he's underwater and she held him there.

Lawrence said...

Obama will still be President on November 9. And Scalia will still be dead. So I think the transition of power to the new Clinton administration will not have too many problems.

Feud Turgidson said...

Excellent against-the-grain analysis by Steve M., not only because I agree with it (the First Hurdle, tho to me not necessarily dispositive), but because it goes to my understanding of how humans think.

The latter I measure against the single biggest meme I've noted in the wingnutosphere on how HRC projects:"resting bitch face".

Whenever she listens to Don John (while WATCHING him, if possible), Clinton's facial & body expressions form some combination of attentive, objective, skeptical or wary. Some might call it 'flat aspect', but that's categorically wrong: once what he's trying to say at the moment becomes clear, her expression changes, in the main to one of a few animations each of which is appropriate to bull seal trumpeting: wide-eyed, gob-smacked, amused, beaming at the sheer laughable ridiculousness, rueful, confirmed in disappointment or rue, etc. That she does that so consistently correctly manifests her remarkably high level of socialization, while resolving it with her sense of self.

Yet that's not how it's cast among the authoritarian spell-casters: without exception, they refer to it in a single meme - "resting bitch face". The phrase is utterly consistent within Don John's "nasty woman" shot, & why the vasty wingnut chant society is unable to detect offense in that.

She's sane. He's not.

Victor said...

Less than 3 weeks to go, until Donnie is swept into the dustbin of history.

And when he dies, can we all agree that this foul scumbag needs to be buried in Yucca Mountain?

Feud Turgidson said...

Victor, let's pickle him!

Tom Hilton said...

I agree that the "nasty woman" comment is probably as damaging (or nearly so) as his refusal to commit to accepting the election result. But I also want to highlight a moment that isn't getting much attention: when, after she described him as Putin's puppet, he said "You're the puppet." I don't think there's been a clearer distillation of his utter puerility than that moment. It was pure (unintentional) self-parody.

Tom Hilton said...

Liz Plank's take on the "nasty woman" comment is worth reading (tl;dr: it's the "binders full of women" of 2016, a moment that gives the Clinton campaign a feminist rallying cry every woman can relate to)...and the video is hilarious.

Steve M. said...

I definitely should have mentioned "You're the puppet." Trump's infantilism in a nutshell.

Aimai said...

There's always going to be a difference between the way men and women see these debates because there is a difference between the way men and women see things like male agression or dominance games and the same games as played by a woman. There's a famous line describing one difference between men and women: "Men are afraid women will laugh at them/women are afraid men will kill them." That's the main difference between men and women--Trump is afraid Hillary will laugh at him and she is not at all afraid that he will kill or, or even that he will be able to handle her debating him. So for a man watching this it may be enough to see Donald bare his fangs and snarl--that's manly and that is supposed to be dominating the debate. But for women? We see a woman laughing at this asshole, making him suffer in the way no man or woman has ever been able to suffer before, and we ae laughing right along with her. We are LOVING watching her needle him. We are Loving watching her force him to strip himself naked and parade his vulnerabilities before a live audience, all the while he can't help himself because its in his nature to do so. This is why the woman you quote in the tweets sums it all up with LOL, because we are literally rolling on the floor laughing at the petty, tin pot, dictator who is strutting up there with no clothes while we point at his tiny penis. If men still think that all this puffing and huffing and manly breast beating and glaring is an effective election strategy when the electorate is more than 50 percent women they really need to rethink their analytic format. Because women are not impressed by Donadl's manly bluster and his red faced rage. Perhaps one on one we might fear it. But HRC is giving him the beating of his life and she, and we, know there is nothing he can do about it.

Glennis said...

If anybody has resting bitch face it's trump; he has "resting Mussolini face."

Begonia said...

Was I hallucinating during the early part of last night's debate when - I could swear I heard - Trump criticize our nation when he interrupted via a snarling interjection...about his hostility over the fact the US is NOT using those juicy 1800 nukes like he would? His being so glib about pushing that freaking button was on display in 3D. How did that fly under the radar last night and today...or ever?

Dr.BDH said...

Donald Trump and his 200 generals and admirals vs. Hillary Clinton, the Pentagon, and the entire US intelligence community: that was a moment to savor.

Mart said...

My wife was very angry that he kept referring to Hillary as "she". I did not notice. Maybe Mars/Venus stuff?