The first presidential debate.
You're not alive or well (or don't have cable or internet) if you don't at least know it was on tonight, and you haven't done your duty to democracy nor caught an historic moment if you missed it. I'm not going to go the fair and balanced route in discussing it because the media has done enough of that for us, elevating Trump to seem like someone he never was, namely, a serious candidate. Like I'm going to write about one serious candidate running against Archie Bunker after he gets an unexpected inheritance, so I'm going to say serious things, and expect people to take it seriously.
Haaaaaaaa haaaaaaaaaa NO.
That's the only reason this debate was historic and why you really don't know what you were missing if you missed it. Feel the FOMO, because it's real. The proof of what we have on offer in November is neatly wrapped up in this one hour and some-odd minutes of verbal sparring (the some-odd mostly because Donald would not shut his mouth): on our right we have a strong, intelligent, poised, gracious woman who seems well-capable of leading; on our left, an asinine loose canon who speaks in more code than they could safely cram into that Da Vinci-something flick without moviewatcher's heads exploding.
While Trump didn't make some of his usual mistakes - like pointing out his sole African American supporter - he did hit all the typical buzzers for a Donald Trump appearance, debate personas be damned - including how he verbally ran over Hillary throughout, an immediately noticeable fact from the get-go. I have both praise for and wonder at her restraint, because I wouldn't have lasted two minutes being constantly interrupted. By at most the second or third time I would've brought the debate to an absolute standstill by a) asking Donald to stop interrupting, and when that likely failed, b) asking the moderator to warn him not to interrupt again.
I mean, seriously? We all learned when we were five
unless we were spoiled brat bullies given no discipline, most likely because everyone was afraid of our rich, powerful daddy: you don't interrupt. You let people speak their turn. She's given two minutes, you're given two minutes. The rules are simple, clear, and as victimized as Donald has felt throughout the process of somehow stealing, killing or Russian-hacking his way to a win - none of which would raise an eyebrow over at Chateau MM, unfortunately - the rules apply to both of them, not just the person who doesn't happen to have a dick.
I don't know if she consciously thought of pointing out his interruptions but chose to grin and bear the many dozens, or if she simply didn't have the nerve to bring it up (perhaps she feared a "damsel-in-distress" look would not go over well with the mostly male, Hillary-hating faction) but the fact that the interruptions remained unaddressed by anyone, including the moderator, whose job it is to moderate, left me feeling sort of queasy. Did the moderator choose not to stop Donald's verbal barrage because he's a man and men interrupt, so to him Donald was displaying normal, typical male behavior? Did he choose not to comment because he was scared, or felt that he had to give Donald an extra-wide berth to rant on and on with to erase any notion that he was being "treated unfairly by the media"?
The lack of oversight against Donald's mouth took what would have been pure spectacle - Donald Duck vs. Hillary in a debate that people will want, but likely be unable to take seriously - and made it hard to endure. The verbal onslaught - the bullying, harassing, haranguing, "I win" nature of his interruptions was actually exhausting. I failed to hear the last five to 20 words of many of Hillary's sentences because Donald would jump in too soon. His cutoffs seemed not only timed to keep her from finishing but also to show her - and to show the world watching him interrupt her - blatant disrespect, a disregard for the thoughts she was forming as she spoke. It was a disgrace.
For all that I disagreed with how she handled his verbal warfare, Hillary was gracious and articulate; not wonky, boring nor dispassionate, as so many people seemed to expect. She seemed sincere in her desire to help everyday people get ahead, and said enough things I agreed with that the chorus of "Amen"s emanating from, of all people, me, was a surprise. Before I get into recounting Donald's Greatest Hateful Hits, I'll point out the one thing Hillary said that set me back, and the two areas where our known racist actually shined (he's either sincere or the greatest actor on earth, in which case we're in trouble, a topic which I'll address briefly at the end).
Firstly, that bit early on where Hillary said she wants to be our next president was unnecessary, at best. I don't need advertisements mixed in with my normal debate banter.
And I felt she lost me on the race question. She was quick to point out that things are not so bad for blacks (a view I strongly disagree with) and that they have their faith-based communities and churches. Which made me wince. A lot. It was the most racist thing anyone said, and this was one topic I thought Donald would fall on like a sword, while Hillary would shine. Instead of addressing how much minorities are hurting in very, very real ways (most of those stemming from clear, obvious lack of support from the whites who run everything) she dragged out tired old tropes and stereotypes in saying that well, they can lean on their churches and their faith during hard times (implied: so they'll be fine, OK? You can't kill them, they always go on somehow, so let's move on). That bit me. Hard.
You don't understand a life - not a brief time, not "cycling in and out of poverty" - but a life of deprivation until you've lived it. I haven't - not really - but I spent 28 years in a mostly black neighborhood where many people did. I watched, day by day, year by year, as things never changed, except to get worse (crack, gangs, guns). And the church, as heavily as they did or didn't lean on one? Wasn't doing a damn thing for them, especially not to lift them up so they'd never have to live that way again. When she said that, a half-lifetime of memories came flooding back and I winced, because she dismissed their pain, and used a tired old trope about blacks and churches to do it.
Donald, on the other hand - and this was one of only two moments in the debate where I give him credit - though he lacked any plan to help minorities, spoke rather feelingly about them. I connected with what he was saying. He does have an ability to tell it like it is that Hillary doesn't entirely lack - she simply failed to use it in this one crucial moment, which I felt was to her detriment. People are not going to judge who will do the most for them by finding and reading their position paper. Maybe she has a great, wonderful position paper, but as we know, half the things politicians say to get elected will never come to pass, anyhow. I'm still waiting for Obama to end the NSA and give us all free internet. It rankles, these broken promises.
People will judge who will do the most for them by how that person makes them feel. And in that moment, Donald sounded like the only one pushing the right buttons.
Hillary made no major slip-ups by most common standards. There were moments where she seemed - especially as she listened to Donald say certain things or after she responded to them by saying things that are obviously very central to what she believes - a bit smug or self-satisfied. I understand she has avid fans and supporters just like him, but I think she should act a bit more circumspect and not play into her crowd with so many facial expressions. I found it off-putting - I've seen other women make faces like that, and whether the reason they were gloating was good or bad, I found I wouldn't want to be friends with them. I'm a woman, and I can say as a woman that I think we all want to be friends with you, Hillary, so knock it off.
The only other thing Donald did right - and I have to point out that he did it in the act of again doing something wrong by interrupting Hillary for the umpteenth time - was to say that our infrastructure is crumbling. This was another great Obama promise that went nowhere, the great fixing of our infrastructure that tax dollars were supposed to pay for by putting Americans to work rebuilding everything after the Great Recession put so many of us out of jobs and homes. Still waiting, are we not? Hillary did nothing to address his completely off-topic mention of this mess, but granted, there was no reason to take it up at that moment. But it's a wedge he can use against her if she doesn't address the topic eventually.
With any serious points - which I said I wouldn't get into but did, anyhow - dealt with, the debate was mostly a compendium of Donald's Greatest Hateful Hits. A 400 pound hacker lying in bed taking down the DNC (hateful, ablesit, antifat)? Check. Blaming every hateful thing he's ever said about women on his archenemy Rosie O'Donell, who twisted his arm until he cried to make him? Check. Hillary not looking fine-assed enough to be our prezzy (he looks a hot mess himself, but whatevs - also, ableist, misogynist, and an outright lie)? Check. "Law and order" repeated so many times - even over the moderator's admonitions - you'd think he was trying to start a Make America White Again rally (which he almost did)? Check. "Inner cities" said on repeat as a dog whistle to the Ford F150/gun-toting/beer-swigging crowd? Check, check, and check!
Did we do "the cyber"? Check. It's like a strange dance where you sit still behind a computer screen and pretend you're doing ballet while in reality, you're actually joining ISIS. I wish Hillary had the wit to pounce on it for the bad idiom it is. Word salads? OMG, total wordslaw around the "supporting the Iraq war" question - which is not a question, but a matter of settled fact, except according to him, where facts are the best word salads that have ever done the cyber. Not wanting to release his tax returns unless 33,000 emails undelete themselves and cyber over to the next debate? Check. Bragging about his business acumen because the fact that he dodges tax bills proves he has it? Check. And there's so much more, but until I replay the whole thing on YouTube, this is the best my memory might serve me.
I don't think either of them won or lost - not in the traditional sense, because we didn't have a traditional pairing. We had one traditional candidate, and then we had Donald. The intelligence and experience mismatches between them are so glaring that Hillary might as well have debated herself.
Both have avid supporters, and both are mostly appealing to people who's minds are made up, who won't change their minds unless Hillary makes a major gaffe that people across the aisle can agree is Just No or else if Donald makes an obvious misstep, like finally thanking his vast army of racist supporters for being so racistly supportive (something I'm surprised he didn't do tonight). He will be, after all, riding into office - if he does get elected - on their backs, and don't kid yourselves - if he does win, they'll likely demand their agenda be put forth, and he knows it.
Either way, it looks like he won by his camp's standards and Hillary won by hers. And I think this election will be a mess.
Further reading: 19 WTF Moments From the First Presidential Debate, because we all have so many WTFs.