Yes, Hillary Clinton beat the dragon the other night. She won on points and brought her game. Trump started out very strong but was overwhelmed about half way through and fizzled. He did not implode but maybe if the debate had gone on five minutes longer…
As I wrote late Monday night after the debate, this will not really matter by week’s end when the full post debate samples come out and probably show little movement. I have read too many times about the brainy girl in the first row who knows all the answers, diligently does her homework, and scores the perfect grade vs. the smart-ass bully in the back who is none of those things and has to rely on shaming, wit (or at least half of that) and surrounds himself with the under-achieving guys. So they confronted each other on the playground and she beats him, humiliates (though not humbles) him. Then they go off and spin their confrontation. For him, he had the sniffles, hadn’t been feeling well, had the rules and moderator against him, decided to lay low and pull his best punches, and so on. For her, it is the power of preparation. The underdog has been preparing for this confrontation her entire life and she was ready. And, perhaps for the first time in her life, her fellow bullied classmates admired her. She stood up, she beat him. She wins kudos but still not love. She will receive a knowing nod here and there but still not be invited to the parties.
So then what happens? This is not over. Trump has a base of support who hates politics as usual, especially the politicians who have been around for decades and, in their view, have driven down the middle class while benefiting only themselves. The only solutions for this political class are more of the same. To Trump’s supporters and those who are still genuinely undecided, these are the problem and not the solution. The pundit class demand answers from Trump, but Trump is a symptom not an answer. He is like an enema to a very smelly system. He isn’t the answer – he is the cleansing. To his supporters – and those who just cannot support Clinton – he exposes the smell, not cures it. As preposterous as this Trump campaign and persona have been, he gets away with gaming a corrupt system to show just how corrupt it really is. In this view, she should pay her taxes because she wants to raise them; he doesn’t have to pay them because his job is to succeed in the face of a government that is just so unfair.
Clinton is supposed to be different – real solutions, virtue in both being prepared and ready to serve. But the virtue has been tarnished by presenting herself as virtuous and then only to have appeared to have gamed the system herself (and with Bill) for decades now. Rules, schmules. Trash the banks while getting paid to tell them what they want to hear. $12 minimum wage, no $15, do I hear more? Just tell me and I will surprise you. My Daddy fitted draperies. Has anyone ever heard that before after all this time? A story about her Daddy?
The problem with the Brainy Beats Bully story is that they have to do it again. But the next time, the Bully will probably have brass knuckles or a taser (both against the rules, but what rules?). And he will not hold back. He could overplay his hand but she should not be goading him. Clinton has spent the post debate gloating about her performance – wearing a supercilious grin that, so characteristic about her and her supporters, doesn’t quite understand yet that this race is still far from over. She should not forget that her house is glass and this guy may not know “much about history, not enough about biology, don’t know much about science books or even less about the French I took” – but he is THE bully and goading a bully is not a smart tactic for the smartest girl in the class.