Last weekend, anticipating Monday’s impending so-called “Debate,” I tapped out the topic “Entertaining But Not Important.”
It turned out half right: it wasn’t even entertaining. There were no rhetorical flourishes. Nothing nearly as memorable as “I paid for this microphone!” Or “You’re no Jack Kennedy.” Or “Where’s the beef?”
There were no gaffes: Hillary didn’t faint on stage, confirming her precarious health. Trump didn’t call George Washington a “loser” – for having surrendered, and been taken prisoner (but soon paroled) in the French and Indian Wars.
It was uninformative, uninsightful, frustrating, discouraging. That this election has come to this, one could rightly call it “deplorable.”
Neither of these bickering contestants enhanced their stature or succeeded in pulling down the other, despite dissipating most of their time and energy on trying.
It was much less a debate than a verbal brawl. No Lincoln-Douglas here, where two of the nation’s most articulate advocates expressed cogently their opposing views on great moral issues. This was less “Great” than “Gross.”
These two rather inarticulate contestants were just “Themselves,” even caricatures of Themselves: Hillary, the consummate plodder (and proud of it), sometimes smug, usually cool, with nothing new to say. Donald, the gratuitously un-cool (and proud of it), had plenty to say . . . and say . . . and say . . . leaving the question, “What did he say?”
She has portfolios of programs (as distinct from “plans”), lacking any spark of creativity or innovation. He’s all spark, without a program – nor perhaps a clue. She won’t ignite the change the country seeks. He may well ignite, but what?
In the aftermath, though, few minds were changed. The Undecideds still are. Committed Hillarians are sticking with Hillary. They like that she was “prepared” – but she’s “prepared” in the sense of “prepared food” – predictable, uniform, banal.
Trumpets remain with Trump, perhaps blaring less loudly, as their disappointment is obvious. The microphone really wasn’t responsible for what he put through it. Rosie O’Donnell really isn’t an election issue (that line failing to work, again). He needs practice – even at this late date.
Now it’s Thursday, D-plus 3. Her spinners have done better than his spinners. The wind has drifted out of Trump’s sail, but not necessarily into Clinton’s. One polled by the Wall Street Journal was quoted: “I’m impressed by how much better prepared Clinton is for the debate. I think she’s clearly winning, although I don’t agree with what she’s saying.”
So, what she “wins” is the power to take the country where it doesn’t want to go. She will continue to push bigger, more burdensome, more stifling, more sclerotic government. One cannot with logic complain, as she does, of all the fundamental problems society confronts without considering that decades of burgeoning government (of which she’s been a constant apostle) is a material cause. The large cohort of her voters who are the reluctant ones, the “lesser-of-evils” ones, still seem to prefer (or be resigned to) the country succumbing to such a metastasis, over succumbing to cardiac arrest. Thus, the “lesser evil” is not a lesser danger, only a different pathology.
Gary Johnson wasn’t on that stage. He should have been. His polls show that over 60% of the country wants to hear from him, even if they’ve not settled on him. At a minimum, in his presence, the others will contain their bickering. Gary will be the “adult” in the room. (Michelle Obama, isn’t that what you wish for?)
The conventional wisdom on third parties is that they’ve never been elected (president), but have repeatedly altered the country’s direction. The country is rejecting the direction each of the “major” parties offers, as Michelle Obama’s anxiety yesterday in Philadelphia attests.
Including Gary Johnson in the next debate will give the country the chance to envision another direction. Without him there, the next debate, too, will be unimportant.
Ron Litchman is Chair of the The Manhattan Libertarian Party. RonL@manhattanLP.org.
(He expresses his own views, not necessarily those of the Manhattan, New York State or National Libertarian Party, nor of any other individual.)
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