The vast majority of the debate seemed to circle around the ‘character’ of the candidates. Clinton’s strategy was to make Trump angry and it worked. Little of substance was said. I was struck by a tremendous sense of the impossibility of reason and coherent, factual statements. In many ways, it was a total let down. Trump was Trump: blustering buffonish-ness. Clinton was Clinton: canned, full of platitudes and pleasing pointless generalities, she won the debate through tactics aimed at Trump, not by delivering a superior argument.
The opening phase – the economic portion – was the most substantive because it came closest to being an actual debate about what is going on in this country and how to fix it. Clinton was hobbled by her “Establishment-ness”. She espoused a left-of-center economic vision which was unpersuasive and seemed to me to be insufficient. Her relationship with Wall Street, and her basic stance and background indicate to me that her economic policy would actually be a continuation of the policies of Obama and the Democratic centrist (neoliberalism lite) that we have had for the past eight years.
Trump’s economic agenda is mix of neoliberal trickle-down platitudes that go down well with the libertarian crowd, corporations, and the 1% , and protectionist, isolationist rhetoric that goes down with the lower-middle class and blue collar voters. Trump is strong here because its what he seems to be most passionate about; he is the most detailed here. Also, as a “businessman”, his election would fulfil the old Republican fantasy of a businessman in charge as opposed to a politician.
Nobody noticed, but both parties where actually offering pretty much what they always offer. Either way, you get a twist of neoliberalism – the de facto ruling ideology of our country, which came in with Reagan and reinforced by Bill Clinton’s administration. One could say that that the Republican party has been forced to the right because the Democrats have moved into a center center/right position on the ideological spectrum.
I think that Trump’s position here will get him the most votes; his rhetoric here fits with his own image among Americans as “a rich successful businessman” as well as traditional conservative economic ideas that where peddled during the Cold War. The Baby-Boomers have been exposed to the rhetoric of neoliberalism for so long, they can’t seem to understand how badly it has failed bot for this country and for the world. Protectionism is largely incompatible and inconsistant with neoliberal/trickle down economics, but goes down well among certain demographics.
The rest of the debate seemed regress to the level of a youtube comment section debate: pure bickering without any hope of factual verification. What was on display last night was the ignorance of the American voter, seemingly unable to think critically, much less focus on what is being said or remember what has come before. Apparently, most Americans have already forgotten Iraq and Afghanistan and who took us there; or what action or inaction our government takes, regardless. The lies and distortions live on despite the evidence and facts being out there and easily accessable. It’s a shambles.
Usually in a typical American presidential election cycle, the cry goes up at about this time: “Who is still undecided in this election? Just who exactly is an undecided voter anyway?” I have mixed feelings about the traditional Undecided voter; I always imagined someone who could not form a basis of an opinion (i.e. both candidates talk pretty; and some people can’t sort through critically what is being said), or they are torn between conflicting chains of logic (I imagine here a young woman, with no college degree, with an Ammo-sexual boyfriend who should be liberal/progressive). But in this election, I find myself – oddly enough – a undecided voter myself. When Trump says stuff like “The problem is Establishment politicians like Hilary” (or something to that effect), it’s hard for me to disagree. Trump’s right-wing populism would be as disaster, but it does have the appeal of throwing a wrench in the tone-deaf political establishment.
I’m not saying that I might vote for Trump. No, never. But – like a good Millennial – I am planning on voting independent for Jill Stein (libertarians are people who are still buying into the shameless falsehood that taxes and government regulation are the problem in our society). I am dying to send a message to ‘The Establishment’ (I hate the term, but am forced to use it) that I am sick of business as usual – we cannot have another decade of neoliberalism lite. Another decade of inexplicable inaction on climate change, militarism, extreme money in politics, and economic inequality reaching the point where our democracy is pretty much over. I am disgusted that Clinton – very much the candidate of ‘the Establishment’ – can only win because of underhanded stacking-of-the-deck in the primary and because she is running against a troglodyte-baboon of a Republican candidate – the worst they’ve ever had (and that is saying something). The ‘lesser of two-evils’ logic is killing us.
We seem to forget that Trump isn’t an outsider. He’s a total insider. He’s just as much “Establishment” as we perceive Hilary to be. When Trump rails against how politicians are to blame for how things are, we forget that it was these rich oligarchs chasing after ever more money that brought about such a corruption in our system. We forget that it is special interests – weather corporate, individual, or non-profit organisation – that derail our democracy, not the professional politician or government official. We mistake his sincere stupidity for being sincere. Hilary’s perceived dishonesty is made worse because of her gender and the fact that we all read her as smart.
I will admit that I will never quite be able to forgive the Democrats for doing their upmost to stop Bernie Sanders. It wasn’t just stupid of them to alienate Millennials; it was corrupt. It was a cynical political calculation on their part, and it’s hurting them now because Millennials will either not show up at the polls, or vote third party.
I watched the debate last night as an undecided voter. Not between Trump and Clinton, but between Clinton and Jill Stein. Clinton did not win my vote.
If anything was learned form last night, it was that the third-party candidates -Johnson and Stein – need to be included in these presidential debates. We need to insist on this.