I stayed up with the Redstate team last night to bring you coverage of the first presidential debate. By the end of it I was so mentally exhausted I figured I’d save my wrap-up for the morning, but admittedly I went to bed feeling Donald Trump won the match up – barely, but he did.
However, as I lay there re-watching the debate in my head and reading the debate comments of friends and readers I began to rethink my position.
Trump did well in the beginning, but he unraveled towards the end. And isn’t it the last few seconds of the game that count the most? Maybe he didn’t win. I had been so exhausted by the end of the debate I began to tune out, so the first section is what made the greatest impression on me. Perhaps I had this wrong.
I woke up this morning intent on reversing my original decision. Although I’m loathe to say Hillary actively won, a quick review of the debate made me think she at least didn’t lose and Trump did indeed come unglued in the second half. Time to pay the piper and tell the readers I had it wrong.
Then I go to Twitter and what is trending?
A quick sift through social media had me completely confused again. Filmmaker Michael Moore says Trump won, but Slate says he lost like the maniac he is. My friend who hates Trump thinks he did better; my friend who hates Hillary thinks Trump wimped out. Here’s an article that says Clinton won but lost with voters.
WHAT IS GOING ON???????????!!!
I know, dear reader that it is my job to be opinionated. It is my job to have unshakeable certainty in views. I must apologize to you because this election has made me unsure of everything.
When Obama ran in ’08 he changed the game forever. Conservatives and Republicans recognized that too late (way too late). Now here we are in 2016 and Trump has changed the game yet again and no one seems to get it. Not the analysts, not the media, and sure as hell not me.
Trump did walk away with the debate in the first half. Once he warmed up he sounded bombastic and sarcastic – not my favorite things in a politician but the very things that got Trump to where he is right now.
By the second half he seemed to lose steam. Hillary didn’t pick-up steam so much as she just stopped talking, which was enough rope for Trump to hang himself with. Once he started rambling it was just pure incoherence and all Clinton had to to was smile and not respond. Which she did well.
Today I think that Trump did not win the debate and Hillary did not lose it. If that sounds vague that’s because it is. A lot of Americans had hoped some clear winner might come out of this first debate. One can argue that watching Trump debate Hillary is one of the primary reasons he got this far at all. Republican voters wanted to see someone really challenge Hillary in public. They only kinda-sorta got that.
Here’s the only thing I do know for sure:
None of what I just said matters. None of what we knew to be true about Presidential elections matters anymore. Like I said, Trump has changed the game and its up to the rest of us to catch up. He had so many cringe-worthy moments last night and yet today is Hillary trending on social media? Nope. Its Trump.
It is no wonder this man is being egregiously outspent on advertising by the former first lady. He doesn’t need it! All of us are doing all of his work for him.
Is it brilliance or just an accident? Is he cunning or simply stumbling into a winning strategy? Are we complicit or are we just normal human beings who can’t look away from this macabre freak show we’re calling the 2016 Elections?
More people know more about Donald Trump than Hillary at this point, and anyone who has spent any time in politics will tell you name-recognition is a huge part of voting (that’s why people still use yard signs to campaign). Also, while professional pundits see Trump’s personality as volatile and “un-presidential”, average voters seem to compare him to the over-rehearsed, platitude-spouting Hillary and think, “At least he seems genuine, even if it sounds crazy.” Voters seem to be drawn to that.
So far this year, every time it has seemed like this one thing is the final nail in Trump’s coffin it seems to be the opposite. Like Obama, Trump has developed some weird sort of immunity from too much analysis of the things he says by people who will vote for him.
If you’re looking for an op-ed journalist who can take you by the hand and lead you decisively through this election, I’m not you’re gal. I’m sorry for that. I truly am.
However, if you’re just like me and you find yourself regularly shouting: “What the f*** is going on?!” then stick with me. We are kindred spirits. I can’t promise I’ll have more clarity for you along the way, but at least we can laugh together now and again. As author and columnist Irvine S. Cobb once famously said:
Humor is merely tragedy standing on its head with its pants torn.