In “Donald Trump vs. American Democracy” Mr. Blow says Trump is desperate for a reason to explain why he’s losing. Bobo has decided to tell us all about “How to Repair Moral Capital.” He says that the task ahead is globalism with solidarity. Whatever that means. As a delightful lagniappe, in true “Both Siderism” he actually refers to the totally discredited James O’Keefe. And he has yet to disavow Trump. Mr. Cohen, in “Trump the Anti-American,” says rage is all that Trump has had to offer. His America is small. But this is still the land of “Sure,” of the embrace of possibility. Prof. Krugman, in “Why Hillary Wins,” has a memo to pundits: Maybe she actually deserves it. Here’s Mr. Blow:
I’m just stunned.
In a race that has been full of shocking moments, one at Wednesday’s presidential debate stands out as the most shocking: Donald Trump’s refusal to commit to accepting the outcome of the election.
And that’s saying something, because there were other shocking moments during the debate, like when Trump called Hillary Clinton a “nasty woman” or when he said he would deport “bad hombres” or suggested that late-term abortion included instances where doctors would “rip the baby out of the womb of the mother” and do so “as late as one or two or three or four days prior to birth.”
But nothing even came close to this exchange between the moderator, Chris Wallace, and Trump:
Wallace: Do you make the same commitment that you will absolutely — sir, that you will absolutely accept the result of this election?
Trump: I will look at it at the time. I’m not looking at anything now, I’ll look at it at the time.
Trump went on in his response to complain about the media, saying: “They’ve poisoned the minds of the voters.” Then he complained about outdated voter registration rosters, then he pivoted to his belief that Clinton shouldn’t have been allowed to run. To him, all these things contributed to the election being “rigged.”
Wallace came back with a short history lesson:
But, sir, there is a tradition in this country — in fact, one of the prides of this country — is the peaceful transition of power and that no matter how hard-fought a campaign is, that at the end of the campaign that the loser concedes to the winner. Not saying that you’re necessarily going to be the loser or the winner, but that the loser concedes to the winner and that the country comes together in part for the good of the country. Are you saying you’re not prepared now to commit to that principle?
What I’m saying is that I will tell you at the time. I’ll keep you in suspense. O.K.?
Clinton called the remark “horrifying,” and she was right. This is jaw-dropping, unprecedented and thoroughly irresponsible. This is an attack on our democracy itself.
And Trump has been peddling his “rigged” election theory for weeks, stating flatly this week that “Voter fraud is all too common, and then they criticize us for saying that.” Trump continued: “But take a look at Philadelphia, what’s been going on, take a look at Chicago, take a look at St. Louis. Take a look at some of these cities, where you see things happening that are horrendous.”
It should be noted that these are all heavily Democratic, majority-minority cities, and Republicans don’t fare well in places like that.
Indeed, as Philly.com reported last November, Mitt Romney didn’t get a single vote in 59 of Philadelphia’s 1,687 voting divisions. As the paper put it: “These are the kind of numbers that send Republicans into paroxysms of voter-fraud angst, but such results may not be so startling after all.” The paper pointed out that “Chicago and Atlanta each had precincts that registered no votes for Republican Senator John McCain in 2008.”
As for the inclusion of St. Louis, it’s not clear to me that Trump isn’t confusing St. Louis with St. Lucie County, Fla., which was included in a viral email about voter fraud after the 2012 election. That email included this line: “In St. Lucie County, Fla., there were 175,574 registered eligible voters, but 247,713 votes were cast.”
But FactCheck.org looked into that claim and found it to be “bogus,” writing:
It’s simply not true that there were tens of thousands more votes cast than voters available in St. Lucie County. Whoever first started this falsehood misread a St. Lucie election board document showing that 249,095 “cards” were cast, and registered voters totaled 175,554. But the supervisor of elections website explains that a “card” is one page, and the full “ballot” contained two pages. Total cards are not double the number of voters, as not every voter cast both pages (or “cards”).
But Trump, of birther fame, is not the kind of man who shies away from conspiracy theories; he embraces them.
He needs a reason that he’s losing other than the fact that he is arguably the least qualified, most ridiculous candidate to ever run for president as a major party nominee. He needs a reason other than the fact that he is being done in by his own words and actions. He needs a reason so that his self-inflated self-image as a relentless winner is not undone should he lose this election by embarrassing margins.
But to take that need for a diversion and distraction and turn it toward questioning the integrity of the electoral process itself and leaving open the possibility of not conceding should he lose is beyond the pale.
When Donald Trump gave that answer, he proved beyond the shadow of a doubt that he is completely unqualified to be president.
And now, FSM help us all, here’s Bobo:
Hillary Clinton, who has been in politics all her adult life, seems to have learned something from Michelle Obama, who has never run for public office. Clinton gave three masterful answers in the debate Wednesday night that were tonally different from her normal clichés.
They were about Donald Trump’s alleged assaults on women, his refusal to respect the democratic process and the contrast between his years of “Celebrity Apprentice” experience and her own governing experience. Clinton’s answers were given in a slow and understated manner, but they were marked by moral passion, clarity and quiet contempt.
They were not spoken from the point of view of a politician. They were spoken from the point of view of a parent, which is the point of view Michelle Obama frequently uses. The politician asks: What can I offer to win votes? The parent asks: What world are my children going out into when they leave the house?
The politician is focused on individual interest, but the parent is interested in the shared social, economic and moral environment.
That turns out to be a useful frame for this ugly year. It’s becoming ever clearer that the nation’s moral capital is being decimated, and the urgent challenge is to name that decimation and reverse it.
Moral capital is the set of shared habits, norms, institutions and values that make common life possible. Left to our own, we human beings have an impressive capacity for selfishness. Unadorned, the struggle for power has a tendency to become barbaric. So people in decent societies agree on a million informal restraints — codes of politeness, humility and mutual respect that girdle selfishness and steer us toward reconciliation.
This year Trump is dismantling those restraints one by one. By savagely attacking Carly Fiorina’s looks and Ted Cruz’s wife he dismantled the codes of etiquette that prevent politics from becoming an unmodulated screaming match. By lying more or less all the time, he dismantles the fealty to truth without which conversation is impossible. By refusing to automatically respect the election results he corrodes confidence in our common institutions and risks turning public life into a never-ending dogfight.
Clinton has contributed to the degradation too. As the James O’Keefe videos remind us, wherever Hillary Clinton has gone in her career, a cloud of unsavory people and unsavory behavior has traveled alongside. But she is right to emphasize that Trump is the greatest threat to moral capital in recent history and that the health of that capital is more fundamental than any particular policy position.
The sad fact is that in the realm of common life, gnats can undo the work of giants. “Moral communities are fragile things, hard to build and easy to destroy,” Jonathan Haidt writes in his book “The Righteous Mind.” “When we think about very large communities such as nations, the challenge is extraordinary and the threat of moral entropy is intense.”
We are now in a country in which major presidential candidates can gibe about the menstrual cycles of their interviewers and the penis size of their opponents. We are now in a society in which the childish desires of a reality-TV narcissist can insult the inheritance that Washington and Hamilton risked their lives to bequeath. We are now in a society in which serial insults to basic decency aren’t automatically disqualifying.
Clearly, we have a giant task of moral repair ahead of us. That starts with a renunciation of the Trump style. One big lesson of 2016 is that that can only happen if people police members of their own party. If somebody is destroying the basic social and moral fabric through brutalistic rhetoric and vicious misogynistic behavior, it doesn’t really matter that he agrees with you on taxes and the Supreme Court; he has to be renounced or else he will drag the whole society to a level of degradation that will make all decent politics impossible.
It also means addressing the substantive social chasms that fueled Trump’s rise. We are clearly going to have a lot of angry populists around in the years ahead, of right and left. It should be possible to oppose them with a political movement that champions dynamism with cohesion, globalism with solidarity — a movement that supports free trade, open skilled immigration, ethnic diversity and a free American-led world order, but also local community building, state-fostered economic security, moral cohesion and patriotic purpose.
In other words, it should be possible to be conservative on macroeconomics, liberal on immigration policy, traditionalist on moral and civic matters, Swedish on welfare state policies, and Reaganesque on America’s role in the world.
The election of 2016 has exposed the staleness of the Republican and Democratic ideologies. It has also established a nihilistic, reality TV standard of conduct that will pull down the country if it is allowed to survive. The one nice thing about Trump is that he has prompted so many people to find their voice, and to turn from their revulsion to a higher alternative.
Yeah. Right. And how many of those people have stated that they won’t vote for Trump? And now here’s Mr. Cohen:
Delmore Schwartz, the poet, wrote of “the beautiful American word, Sure.”
To anyone raised as I was in the crimped confines of a wearier continent, Europe, that little word is indeed a thing of beauty, expressing a sense of possibility, an embrace of tomorrow, openness to the stranger, and a readiness for adventure that no other country possesses in such degree. It is the most concise expression of the optimism inherent in the American idea.
It is also something incommunicable until lived. To the outsider, America may appear by turns vulgar or violent, crass or childish, ugly or superficial, and of course it can be all of these things. Jonathan Galassi, the poet and publisher, has written of the “American cavalcade,” Philip Roth of “the indigenous American berserk,” and there is a gaudy, raucous, cinematic tumult to American life that is without parallel. Relentless reinvention is what America does; that is not always pretty. But beneath it all reside a can-do straightforwardness and directness that are the warp and weft of the American tapestry.
“Will you come with me?”
No questions asked. Sure I will. The word is at once strong and soft, reassuring above all. The American experiment unravels without this.
The spirit of “Sure” stands in contrast to the culture of impossibility and the fear of failure that often undercut European enterprise. Bitter experience of repetitive cataclysm has taught Europe to be wary of risk. Perhaps the French brick wall contained in the phrase “pas possible,” a frequent response to my inquiries during the years I lived in Paris, best expresses this mind-set. Call it the spirit of “Non.” No wonder Europe does social protection better than innovation.
Now if this America, whose essence is openness, whose first question is not “Where do you come from?” but “What can you do for me?” becomes consumed by rage, then it is lost. Rage is a closing of the mind. Anger against the foreigner, against the outsider and against the other may offer some passing consolation in times of difficulty or dread but they lead America away from itself. They offer the spirit of suspicion in place of the spirit of “Sure.” They undercut American decency. They replace the draw of the next frontier and of the unknown with the dead end of walls. Rage is also a form of dishonesty because it precludes the reflection that leads to truth.
And this in the end is all that Donald Trump, the Republican nominee for the highest office in the land, has had to offer America: his shallow, manipulative, self-important, scapegoat-seeking form of rage.
Over the three debates withHillary Clinton it became clear that this businessman who says he wants to make America great again in fact wants to make America shrink into a defensive crouch of resentment. Trump was small in the debates. He was as small as the America he seems to envisage. He was mean, nasty, petty and lazy. Smallness oozed from his petulant pout; it was all that would fit between those pursed lips. Any target was good for this showman whose ego is so consuming that he is utterly without conviction: Mexicans, Muslims, women, the disabled, war heroes, and, in the end, American democracy itself, for which he showed contempt in suggesting he might contest the outcome of an election that he contends, without the slightest shred of evidence, might be “rigged.”
The America of “Sure” is a stranger to Trump. His is the angry America of “shove it.” If that frustrated, tribal and incensed America were not lurking in a time of disorienting economic upheaval, Trump would not have garnered millions of votes. He has held up a mirror to a troubled and divided society. That, I suppose, is some form of service. But the deeper, decent, direct, can-do America is stronger; and for that America the Trump now visible in all his aspects is simply unfit for high office. He would threaten to undo what America is.
Of all the sentences written about Trump over many, many months now, my favorite is the last one in the letter sent this month by The New York Times lawyer David McCraw to Trump’s lawyer. Trump had demanded the retraction of an article about two women who had come forward to describe the way he had groped them. The women’s accounts, McCraw argued, constituted newsworthy information of public concern, and he concluded: “If Mr. Trump disagrees, if he believes that American citizens had no right to hear what these women had to say and that the law of this country forces us and those who would dare to criticize him to stand silent or be punished, we welcome the opportunity to have a court set him straight.”
Sure, we’ll see you in court.
Sure, America is a country that, despite its “original sin” of racism, elected a black man.
Sure, America will elect a woman as president.
Sure, this land was made for you and me.
And now here’s Prof. Krugman:
Hillary Clinton is a terrible candidate. Hey, that’s what pundits have been saying ever since this endless campaign began. You have to go back to Al Gore in 2000 to find a politician who faced as much jeering from the news media, over everything from claims of dishonesty (which usually turn out to be based on nothing) to matters of personal style.
Strange to say, however, Mrs. Clinton won the Democratic nomination fairly easily, and now, having pummeled her opponent in three successive debates, is an overwhelming favorite to win in November, probably by a wide margin. How is that possible?
The usual suspects are already coalescing around an answer — namely, that she just got lucky. If only the Republicans hadn’t nominated Donald Trump, the story goes, she’d be losing badly.
But here’s a contrarian thought: Maybe Mrs. Clinton is winning because she possesses some fundamental political strengths — strengths that fall into many pundits’ blind spots.
First of all, who was this other, stronger candidate that the G.O.P. might have chosen? Remember, Mr. Trump won the nomination because he gave his party’s base what it wanted, channeling the racial antagonism that has been the driving force for Republican electoral success for decades. All he did was say out loud what his rivals were trying to convey with dog whistles, which explains why they were so ineffective in opposing him.
And those establishment candidates were much more Trumpian than those fantasizing about a different history — say, one in which the G.O.P. nominated Marco Rubio — acknowledge. Many people remember Mr. Rubio’s brain glitch: the canned lines about “let’s dispel with this fiction” that he kept repeating in a disastrous debate performance. Fewer seem aware that those lines actually enunciated a crazy conspiracy theory, essentially accusing President Obama of deliberately weakening America. Is that really much better than the things Mr. Trump says? Only if you imagine that Mr. Rubio didn’t believe what he was saying — yet his insincerity, the obvious way he was trying to play a part, was surely part of his weakness.
That is, in fact, a general problem for establishment Republicans. How many of them really believe that tax cuts have magical powers, that climate change is a giant hoax, that saying the words “Islamic terrorism” will somehow defeat ISIS? Yet pretending to believe these things is the price of admission to the club — and the falsity of that pretense shines through.
And one more point about Mr. Rubio: why imagine that a man who collapsed in the face of childish needling from Mr. Trump would have triumphed over the woman who kept her cool during 11 hours of grilling over Benghazi, and made her interrogators look like fools? Which brings us to the question of Mrs. Clinton’s strengths.
When political commentators praise political talent, what they seem to have in mind is the ability of a candidate to match one of a very limited set of archetypes: the heroic leader, the back-slapping regular guy you’d like to have a beer with, the soaring orator. Mrs. Clinton is none of these things: too wonky, not to mention too female, to be a regular guy, a fairly mediocre speechifier; her prepared zingers tend to fall flat.
Yet the person tens of millions of viewers saw in this fall’s debates was hugely impressive all the same: self-possessed, almost preternaturally calm under pressure, deeply prepared, clearly in command of policy issues. And she was also working to a strategic plan: Each debate victory looked much bigger after a couple of days, once the implications had time to sink in, than it may have seemed on the night.
Oh, and the strengths she showed in the debates are also strengths that would serve her well as president. Just thought I should mention that. And maybe ordinary citizens noticed the same thing; maybe obvious competence and poise in stressful situations can add up to a kind of star quality, even if it doesn’t fit conventional notions of charisma.
Furthermore, there’s one thing Mrs. Clinton brought to this campaign that no establishment Republican could have matched: She truly cares about her signature issues, and believes in the solutions she’s pushing.
I know, we’re supposed to see her as coldly ambitious and calculating, and on some issues — like macroeconomics — she does sound a bit bloodless, even when she clearly understands the subject and is talking good sense. But when she’s talking about women’s rights, or racial injustice, or support for families, her commitment, even passion, are obvious. She’s genuine, in a way nobody in the other party can be.
So let’s dispel with this fiction that Hillary Clinton is only where she is through a random stroke of good luck. She’s a formidable figure, and has been all along.