The ‘debate’

This ‘debate’ was surely among the most embarrassing events in the history of US politics. It was also, among other things, a reminder to the world and to Americans that the strength and quality of democracy in any country cannot be taken for granted; it must be assiduously protected and promoted.

What the American people got, instead, was a cold reminder of the fact that their democracy has been poisoned. The event itself was less a debate than a marathon of angry ranting, mostly from Mr. Trump. For example, the shouting (I will not say discussion) rarely touched on the issues that count most to Americans and to those concerned about America’s future and its future global role.

Trump is unquestionably among the most poorly suited candidates for the presidency in US history (serial liar, molester, racist, slumlord… ). His rise to cusp of the presidency is a reflection of the frustration among large segments of the US population, which is real.

The current state of affairs, and especially the rise of Trump to this point, is also an indictment of the US media, which has utterly and shamefully failed to live up to its responsibilities; they have repeatedly fallen for Trump’s constant stream of lies.

They have failed to act collectively and have produced a public risk (or public bad) because the self-interested economics of contemporary media says that TV ratings and screen views are more important than substance and truth: Better report on the things Trump says — which is frequently a mix of lies and insults that play on racism and economic fears– than bore us with thoughtful and thorough analysis of real issues. This, sadly, is a key feature of political discourse in our commeicalized digital age.

These are two unpopular candidates. Keep in mind that just 14 percent of eligible adults — 9 percent of the whole nation — voted for either Mr. Trump or Mrs. Clinton in the primaries.

While Trump’s claim that the US political and economic system are ‘rigged’ is not entirely wrong, his claim to represent the interests of average Americans is indescribably absurd. Trump’s constant efforts to draw votes from among the supporters of the unsuccessful democratic candidate Bernie Sanders reflects the reality that, among all candidates, it was Sanders’ agenda that was closest to representing the interests of middle and low-income American households. In Clinton and Trump US voters have an unhappy choice of voting for the status quo (Clinton) or the unthinkable (Trump).

Fortunately for America and the planet, it appears Trump’s chances are in decline. While it would be foolish to assume that Clinton will win (anything is possible, especially in this election), Trump has shown the world and Americans what a truly vile person he is.

On the released recording, his were the words of a true sexual predator and one who truly believes he is above the law, whether it comes to paying his income taxes or groping women. It is hard to imagine how many people – especially women and those who respect women – would be comfortable voting for him.

Trump’s main objective in Sunday’s ‘debate’ was to distract American’s from what he truly stands for. In this may have succeeded to a certain extent – mainly by hurling insults in Hillary Clinton’s direction and Clinton’s unrelenting reminders that she often does not mean what she says.

Americans were shocked but not surprised by the Trump sex audio. At the same time Clinton was lucky the sex audio was released when it was, as the leak of her private remarks in paid speeches to special interest groups such as Goldman Sachs were a reminder of a severe shortcoming of Clinton: her tendency to try to hide her embarassingly pro-business views. She is a real Clinton (i.e. big-business) democrat.

Overall, Americans are in a difficult position. They are proud of their country but are angry and ashamed about the state of their politics, as they should be. One can understand logically why certain large groups of poorly informed and naïve Americans were drawn to Trump and his angry nationalism and racism.

Unfortunately for  Trump, he has a hard time concealing what a corrupt, disingenuous, and dangerous person he really is. Ironically, then, it is Trump’s amateurishness and gall and unrelenting megalomania that may save America from his fascism. This shows just how vulnerable America’s democracy has become.

If there is any hope to be had it is in the chance that American will learn from this episode and move toward a politics that more substantively addresses the needs of Americans and the broader international community. If not, we’re all in trouble.