Just a few observations about tonight’s debate.
1. Trump was right: the debate was a three-on-one confrontation, in which Anderson Cooper and Martha Raddatz played an overtly adversarial role against him.
He more than held his own under those conditions. Regardless of whether you favor him or not, the human dynamics were these: his three opponents all got rattled tonight, but he didn’t. I guarantee you, the people watching picked up on that.
2. Following the Tweet stream during the debate was rather interesting. It’s like there are a bunch of people out there who aren’t watching the same debate.
One stream comes from people who think Trump is killing it, and are thrilled that he’s taking the fight to Hillary and making lots of good points. (For the record, Trump does hardly anything the way I would do it. I don’t describe this stream from a position of agreeing with it. I’m just describing it.)
The other stream is from people who are mortified that he’s even on the stage, and assume everyone else sees his unconventional traits in the same light they do: as a plague of Egypt assailing the land (or perhaps something slightly less appalling like the Black Death).
It continues to amaze me that the old-consensus establishment is so blind to reality regarding Trump. The things they despise so much from him are the very things that interest the voters; i.e., he doesn’t just accept being triple-teamed without commenting on it, and he doesn’t back down from fights that, let’s say, don’t elevate the level of discourse.
3. Let’s cut the crap on the “Trump and the women tape” (it is 2016, after all, the Year of Cutting the Crap): the reason Trump was flogged with it this evening is not because he was dragging this debate into the mud, but because Cooper and Raddatz were. It was their decision to make the 2005 comments a focal point.
Trump could have chosen to cower and try to deflect. Instead, he chose to note his previous apology forthrightly, and then go on the attack.
There are deep unspoken premises at work here, creating people’s perspectives on this. Many on the old-consensus right see it as a form of hubris to move on from your past sins and take a more tactically offensive approach, as Trump did. This view of past culpability – as a permanently disabling, inexpiable condition – is not actually a Christian view. But a lot of our old-consensus thought leaders take it as an unexamined premise.
The voters increasingly see that accepting the premise paralyzes them. It leaves them undefended against progressive-left activism, with its laundry list of pseudo-moral accusations.
Trump set an example tonight that was much more powerful than an argument put into words. It was more powerful than his statements of policy positions, some of which were memorable. He set an example of apologizing, moving on, and going on the attack against Hillary’s record and her beliefs about government – both which are fair game.
Believe me: people saw that. They saw that Trump was unafraid.
4. I don’t think there is any hope for most of the old-consensus pols and pundits. They think we should wring our hands about Hillary and the CBS moderators being able to keep throwing Trump’s vulgar comments back at him.
But that’s just not what people’s eyes are seeing. They’re not seeing Trump as a fatal vulnerability (although many are no doubt seeing him as a vulgar character). They’re seeing that Hillary is arrogant, petty, and schoolmarmish, and Cooper and Raddatz are totally in the tank for her, and therefore neither Trump nor the American people is getting a fair deal from them.
I tweeted during the debate that Republicans needed to just relax and let the three left-wing Democratic operatives on the stage expose themselves for what they are. The people can see it. And it’s what 2016 is all about.
5. Hillary really is not serving herself well with the smirking sanctimony and eye-rolling. The audience that plays to is a small one. I don’t think she can help it though. (The moment when Cooper lectured Trump that Hillary had remained silent through his speaking time, and Hillary preened herself on that, saying “Yes, I did!” was priceless. She reminded me of the scimitar-waving Saracen who gets blown away by Indiana Jones with a pistol.)
6. Trump is wrong on Iraq, on trade, on whether Assad and Russia are attacking ISIS (they’re not) – there’s definitely a list of things he’s wrong about. Carried interest is a weirdly specific, kind of anti-economic drop in the bucket of what needs to be changed about our tax laws. He’s down in the weeds on some things, and airily general to a cartoonish degree on some others.
But he does come off as more sincere than Hillary about his policy positions. And more importantly, he comes off as unafraid.
I don’t pretend to know where all of this is going. But people get that being unafraid to confront the perpetual-accusation machine that is the modern left is more important than anything else right now. If the old-consensus leadership had ever made headway in that regard, Trump wouldn’t be necessary. But they didn’t.
7. I don’t see a lot of point in having another debate. Given the number of problems with the integrity of the vote across the country, I’m apprehensive about what the election itself is going to bring. Throwing it into the House of Representatives sounds like the SMOD Solution at this point, rather than a resort to sanity.
I’m starting to think the old tribal chiefs had a good method of deciding who the big dog would be, and maybe we should just choose our next president with a fistfight.