The first presidential debate, which attracted a record TV audience for an event of its type, has come and gone, and the polls are tightening. Hillary Clinton’s once-commanding lead over Donald Trump has shrunken considerably, and the stretch run has started: We’re now down to the final six weeks of the campaign.
Who has the advantage? Why? What does that tell us about the mood in America these days? Joel Mathis and Ben Boychuk, the RedBlueAmerica columnists, debate the issue.
Watching Monday’s debate, it became apparent that Clinton is probably the only major American politician who could beat Trump at the polls in 2016.
Why? Because she’s a woman, of course.
Trump left a trail of destruction in the GOP primaries, in part, by practicing a politics of dominance - with repeated displays of alpha male posing that seemed to belong more in a nature documentary than the evening news. “Low energy” Jeb Bush seemed befuddled by the attacks; “Little Marco” Rubio tried countering with jokes about Trump but his heart didn’t seem in it; “Lyin’ Ted” Cruz snarled with anger, only to turn into the “servile puppy dog” long after it mattered. Chris Christie? The less said, the better.
For whatever reason, no man was able to meet and beat Trump on his macho man terms.
Clinton? She quietly needled Trump - about his wealth, about his treatment of women - then watched calmly as he spiraled into red-faced bluster. Instead of practicing the politics of dominance, she tried a bit of jiu-jitsu instead, letting her opponent defeat himself.
As many women observed on Twitter and Facebook, what Clinton did in the debate is what millions of smart, professional women have been doing for decades in workplaces filled with overstuffed male egos and good old-fashioned sexism: She kept her calm, kept smiling and got stuff done.
In this case, the “stuff” was demonstrating that yes, she has prepared for the presidency: Clinton was in command of facts, figures and knowledge about the work of the White House, while Trump displayed his ongoing obsession with Rosie O’Donnell and “fat” beauty pageant queens. Narcissism is a job requirement for politics and punditry, of course, but most officials have the good sense to try and disguise it. Trump, for whatever reason, can’t help himself. Clinton has shown Trump doesn’t have the temperament to be given keys to the Oval Office; she can seal the deal by offering a vision for the presidency that will benefit all Americans.
Trump lost the first presidential debate. He’s going to win the presidency.
He rambled about Barack Obama’s birth certificate and dissembled about his taxes. But he also beat Clinton senseless on jobs and trade and mounted a noble defense of New York City’s much-maligned and misunderstood stop-and-frisk program.
Jobs. Trade. Law and order. Those are winning issues.
In the end, Trump looked and sounded like a plausible chief executive, and Clinton looked and sounded like a condescending scold with a phony smile.
Everyone from his Republican rivals and the professional political class to liberal pundits and Democratic pollsters has underestimated Trump as a candidate. I certainly never expected he would be the Republican Party’s nominee, let alone win the whole shebang.
But he’s going to win.
He’s going to win because he doesn’t care about convention. Trump isn’t running a typical presidential campaign. He isn’t spending tens of millions of dollars on advertising. Clinton has been waging a relentless air war against him. He’s either ahead in the polls or within the margin of error.
Trump is close in states that Clinton should have sown up. Minnesota? Wisconsin? Ridiculously close.
He’s going to win because she’s a terrible candidate who looks sick and tired. Sen. Bernie Sanders may have forced Clinton to speak more like a leftist, but at bottom, she’s still the candidate of Goldman Sachs and the globalist elite. Trump is a billionaire traitor to his class.
He’s going to win because the people who care about the disintegrating middle class in Rust Belt states like Pennsylvania, Ohio and Michigan outnumber the people who care about what mean Trump may have said to a Venezuelan beauty queen many years ago.
Clinton almost certainly exposed the nation’s secrets to our enemies by running a private, unsecure email server during her tenure as secretary of state. And her family’s foundation is the subject of an ongoing federal criminal investigation.
Trump isn’t going to win because he’s a nice guy. He’s going to win because Clinton is the status quo candidate. And conserving the status quo is no longer a viable option.
Joel Mathis is an award-winning writer in Kansas. Ben Boychuk is managing editor of American Greatness.