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Looking past the Obvious in Trump-Clinton I: Voters May Decide a Different Outcome

| September 28, 2016

tgrump clinton

The punditocracy says Hillary Clinton beat Donald Trump in their first debate, but that’s not necessarily how the undecided voter saw it. (Hillary for America)

By Tom Jackson

Paraphrasing the driver in “Taxi” when he approached the gorgeous blonde in the bar: “You look like the kind of voter who’s heard every debate takedown in the book. … So I guess one more won’t hurt.”

Let’s begin by conceding that nobody knows anything anymore. There’s not a single conventional thinker who thought Donald Trump would make it as far as the Iowa caucuses, let alone wind up the center of the balloon shower at the Republican National Convention.

And yet there he was Monday night doing the dueling lecterns thing with Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton (the only prediction validated by experience) in front of a record television audience of 100 million.

Well, Trump always was, bizarrely, a ratings phenomenon.

Nonetheless, from the moment he descended to the lobby of Trump Tower on that gilded escalator in June 2015 to toss the first Make-America-Great-Again cap in the ring, the usual rules and expectations ceased to exist.

I thought Trump, whose only rhetorical weapons amounted to bombast and playground name calling, got killed — to borrow his phrase, big league — in every debate during the GOP primaries. And yet his numbers continued to rise.

Similarly, Monday night he was equally unprepared, proving — one would assume — that reviewing policy papers between rallies is no way to bone up for a debate. Everyone from the pundit class to the Clinton campaign to the GOP establishment agreed: HRC, though somewhat robotic, was poised, polished, and knowledgeable to a granular level.

You know, very much like Marco Rubio, without the schvitzing. So, experience tells us we should expect Trump’s poll numbers to spike.

Except for this difference: For reasons that are his own — unless you buy the Chelsea excuse (and if you do, foreign adversaries got a glimpse of how to befuddle him) — Trump chose to disarm his trusty name-calling missile. We didn’t hear him utter “Crooked Hillary” even once; indeed, after an opening exchange lapse when he used her first name, he was reduced to the deferential “Secretary Clinton.” Because he wanted her to “be very happy.”

If only low-energy Jeb and lyin’ Ted had known, right?

All the while, Clinton herself referred to her rival not as “Mr. Trump” — which would have repaid the courtesy — but, simply, as “Donald,” as if she were the Madame and he was household staff.

context florida politicsTrump’s unilateral disarmament was verifiably emasculating, like Samson after his haircut. He still played the schoolyard bully, murmuring boorish interruptions into his microphone, but without that first line of invective, the famous counterpuncher was ineffective at best, and defensive and tongue-tied at worst.

After a decent first 30 minutes, the man who says he has a secret plan to tilt the Middle East balance of power in a heartbeat let the teacher’s pet — Did you catch her little shimmy after Trump’s boast about his “winning temperament”? — set the rules of engagement.

Although he dominated microphone time-of-possession, Trump used his advantage to pick almost none of Clinton’s ripe, low-hanging fruit. He virtually whiffed on the breathtaking revelations from the FBI’s investigation of her private, undefended email server; missed a golden chance to zing her over cyber security; and failed to inject the seedy pay-for-play connection between Foggy Bottom and the Clinton Foundation.

Worse, he even agreed with her that it would be proper and responsible to deny Bill of Rights protections to Americans on a super-secret government list. Hey, no president would ever use such a tool against the politically inconvenient, right? That would be like drafting an enemies list and siccing the IRS on them.

Instead, he seemed stuck for reasonable answers to the birther issue, what his tax returns might reveal, his apparent history of stiffing contractors, welcoming the popping real estate bubble (which any first-year debate student could have tied to Bill Clinton’s housing policies) and, the coup de grâce, after more than 90 minutes of keeping a civil tongue, getting whacked for verbal abuse of a former Miss Universe.

So Trump was hopeless, right? All the smart people seem to agree. Even if the billionaire reality star didn’t hit the canvas, Clinton cut him up on points.

But then there came this out of a crowded bar in western Pennsylvania, where, surrounded by Democrats and undecideds, columnist Salena Zito found eye-opening support for the guy we all thought spent the night on the ropes.

Ken Reed, a small-business man, seemed to speak for the group when he described Clinton “as either smug or as if she was reading her résumé,” adding there was nothing on her résumé that touched on his life.

“I am a small-business man, a farmer, come from a long line of farmers and coal miners,” he said. “The policies she talked about tonight ultimately either hurt me or ignore me.”

Trump, Reed said, “had the edge this evening, he came out swinging but also talked about specifics on jobs and the economy.” He did? Well. Eye of the beholder, and all that.

And so we have to reconsider what we thought we saw Monday night and discover how it played where it mattered, in counties such as those in western Pennsylvania, and those clustered along Interstate 4 in Florida. These, more than elite opinion-spinners clustered along our deep-blue coasts, will decide the Nov. 8 outcome.

If nothing else has penetrated our thick skulls this year, it’s that conventional wisdom knows nothing.

Tom Jackson is a former columnist for the Tampa Tribune.

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15 Responses for “Looking past the Obvious in Trump-Clinton I: Voters May Decide a Different Outcome”

  1. Donald Trump's Tiny Fingers says:

    Did we see the same debate? Because in the debate that I saw, trump was reduced to a tiny mewling cheeto-colored corncob that couldn’t help but be trolled live and on stage. If you still insist on voting for this moron, think about this: your candidate can’t help but take the bait. He can’t help himself. He’s too easy to manipulate, and he just makes stuff up to try to defend whatever ridiculous point he thinks he’s trying to make. Imagine how that’s going to play out during any sort of negotiations at all over trade, pow release, interactions with congress and the senate – he’s easily led. No wonder he and putin are best buddies, putin is probably keeping him close and using a little former-kgb mindplay on him to be a red puppet in office.

    A vote for trump is a vote for communism.

  2. footballen says:

    Well there is one man’s opinion I guess.

  3. Flatsflyer says:

    I think Howard Dean hit the nail on the head, Trump was on Coke, he has a history of drug involvement, his helicopter pilot, the parties at Maria Largo, his brother died from over dosing on booze or drugs. The drug use would surely explain his excessive drinking of water, maybe Trump vodka, his profuse sweating, his sniffling, rash behavior and his selection of an
    escort for his third wife. All great signs of a Right Winged Religious Family Value individual.

  4. Knightwatch says:

    Trump is a know-nothing, belligerent, woman-shaming, Putin-loving neo-nazi. He is an embarrassment to America and a threat to our friends and allies abroad.

    But I don’t completely blame him. Trump holds no known “values” save wealth and personal aggrandizement.
    He is no more than one of the many “prosperity gospel preachers” who get rich scamming the faithful. He is, in large part, merely co-opting the hates, fears, and prejudices of his followers. He is the “great white hope” of racist Americans. He is the voice of those among us that would easily and without conscience do away with basic civil rights and mercilessly hunt down Muslims, Mexicans and other perceived threats to the “American Way of Life”. He is, times-10, the American Duterte (look it up Trumpers), who would encourage state-sponsored violent vigilantism to enforce “law and order”.

    This man-child must never get near the White House. Vote for Hillary and save America the embarrassment.

  5. IMO says:

    Donald Trump’s Tiny Fingers says:….we know know Tim Kaine the VP nominee on the Hillary ticket converted to the Black Liberation Theology religion years ago.

    Black Liberation Theology is a Communist philosophy that comes out of Central America.

    It is the religion of Reverend Jeremiah Wright the “Former Muslim” who was Obama’s religious minister.

    Now tell me who the “Communist” is.

    “Black Liberation Is Marxist Liberation”

    One of the pillars of Obama’s home church, Trinity United Church of Christ, is “economic parity.” On the website, Trinity claims that God is not pleased with “America’s economic mal-distribution.” Among all of controversial comments by Jeremiah Wright, the idea of massive wealth redistribution is the most alarming. The code language “economic parity” and references to “mal-distribution” is nothing more than channeling the twisted economic views of Karl Marx. Black Liberation theologians have explicitly stated a preference for Marxism as an ethical framework for the black church because Marxist thought is predicated on a system of oppressor class (whites) versus victim class (blacks).

    Black Liberation theologians James Cone and Cornel West have worked diligently to embed Marxist thought into the black church since the 1970s. For Cone, Marxism best addressed remedies to the condition of blacks as victims of white oppression. In For My People, Cone explains that “the Christian faith does not possess in its nature the means for analyzing the structure of capitalism. Marxism as a tool of social analysis can disclose the gap between appearance and reality, and thereby help Christians to see how things really are.”

    In God of the Oppressed, Cone said that Marx’s chief contribution is “his disclosure of the ideological character of bourgeois thought, indicating the connections between the ‘ruling material force of society’ and the ‘ruling intellectual’ force.” Marx’s thought is useful and attractive to Cone because it allows black theologians to critique racism in America on the basis of power and revolution.

    For Cone, integrating Marx into black theology helps theologians see just how much social perceptions determine theological questions and conclusions. Moreover, these questions and answers are “largely a reflection of the material condition of a given society.”

    In 1979, Cornel West offered a critical integration of Marxism and black theology in his essay, “Black Theology and Marxist Thought” because of the shared human experience of oppressed peoples as victims. West sees a strong correlation between black theology and Marxist thought because “both focus on the plight of the exploited, oppressed and degraded peoples of the world, their relative powerlessness and possible empowerment.” This common focus prompts West to call for “a serious dialogue between Black theologians and Marxist thinkers” — a dialogue that centers on the possibility of “mutually arrived-at political action.”

    In his book Prophesy Deliverance, West believes that by working together, Marxists and black theologians can spearhead much-needed social change for those who are victims of oppression. He appreciates Marxism for its “notions of class struggle, social contradictions, historical specificity, and dialectical developments in history” that explain the role of power and wealth in bourgeois capitalist societies. A common perspective among Marxist thinkers is that bourgeois capitalism creates and perpetuates ruling-class domination — which, for black theologians in America, means the domination and victimization of blacks by whites. America has been over run by “White racism within mainstream establishment churches and religious agencies,” writes West.

    Perhaps it is the Marxism imbedded in Obama’s attendance at Trinity Church that should raise red flags. “Economic parity” and “distribution” language implies things like government-coerced wealth redistribution, perpetual minimum wage increases, government subsidized health care for all, and the like. One of the priorities listed on Obama’s campaign website reads, “Obama will protect tax cuts for poor and middle class families, but he will reverse most of the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest taxpayers.”

    Black Liberation Theology, originally intended to help the black community, may have actually hurt many blacks by promoting racial tension, victimology, and Marxism which ultimately leads to more oppression. As the failed “War on Poverty” has exposed, the best way to keep the blacks perpetually enslaved to government as “daddy” is to preach victimology, Marxism, and to seduce blacks into thinking that upward mobility is someone else’s responsibility in a free society.”

  6. Donald Trump's Tiny Fingers says:

    Well IMO, who cares? Tim Kaine isn’t running for president. Your cheeto-colored corncob is, and he’s too busy making incoherent tweets to actually study up on what the role of president entails. Didn’t his son tell Pence that foreign and domestic policy was doing to be his responsibility, while trump was going to be in charge of “making america great again?”

  7. Knightwatch says:

    WTF, IMO?? What are you saying? Obama’s a Marxist? Only Blacks receive welfare? “Black Theology” is responsible for institutional racism in America? Blacks are their own worst enemy?

    My worst fear for this country is that these beliefs and prejudices will become mainstream under Trump.

  8. Fredrick says:

    I have been in Europe for the last week. The first things they ask me is how we could let either of these buffoons be president. The second thing they ask is why is HRC not in jail? The third thing they say is .. “Trump, are you kidding me?” They view Hillary’s endless lies as more untrustworthy than Trumps buffoonery.
    Their thoughts just make me a stronger Trump fan. Fuck the establishment and professional politicians on both sides. Trump is what happens when professional politicians on both sides who are all about themselves, the money and the glory. Screw them all… toss them all out and lets start over in 4 years. Trump has to be better then another 4 years of the same, race baiting, failed and laughing stock administration we have had for the last 8.

  9. Veteran says:

    Trump for President!

  10. jasonb says:

    Ok, we’ve all had a good laugh at Donald “only the little people pay taxes” Trump, it’s clear he’s just not ready for prime time.

  11. Christopher says:

    And so Mrs. Bill Clinton is the poster child for honesty and competence? Trump again has outsmarted the media and Hillary. Saving the best for last. How did the birther announcement work out for the MSM? They were made fools and they are more than a little upset. In reality, the debates have very little influence on the final result. The liberals are just too closed minded to do anything but to march in lockstep with the other “smart” people. No class. Sheeple.

  12. Donald Trump's Tiny Fingers says:

    Where in Europe were you, England? They’re moronic enough to believe that, just look at the brexit.

  13. Anonymous says:

    If Trump manages our tax dollars like his money we may get out of debt with him as president! I vote for TRUMP! I don’t know what I will get voting for Trump, but I know what I will get voting for Hillary and we don’t need more of the same old. She’s been involved in politics for 30 years and has done nothing to impress me yet. Vote TRUMP!!!

  14. Katie Semore says:

    OMG, they walk among us. Idiots everywhere!

  15. Sherry says:

    Very interesting. . . We just spent 5 months in Europe. . . in France, Italy, Spain and Ireland. We were asked about the Trump INSANITY by literally scores of friends and acquaintances. They “educated” people we met are aghast that even ONE person would support a man they called an “idiot”, “racist”, “clown”. They think many American people do not realize that the rest of the world even exists.

    I suppose that because we did not visit England, we did not run into the (old, white) Britexit voters. . . many of whom want to change their vote and remain in the EU and who are most definitely in the minority compared to mainland Europe.

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