Those rituals that are called presidential debates are nothing resembling an actual debate. In an actual debate, a person presents a proposition, the opposing side critiques it with citations of fact and tests of logic, the sides engage in reasoned argument, and the person who makes the most compelling points is deemed a winner.
The ritual that is called candidate debates is more a declamation contest which violates the rules of rhetoric. Often they deteriorate into exchanges of ad hominem insults and accusations. That gives all the uneducated, mentally underpowered dolts out there in constituency land a chance to say their favored contender won the debate. It's all an ink blot exercise: people see in it a map of their own minds, not any objective examination of issues.
One thing was clear in the first Clinton-Trump debate. Hillary Clinton came prepared with some facts and some reasons. Trump did not.
|A man decomposing|
There is an aspect to Trump that has been evident during his entire performance as a candidate. He is a vile person. He is that quality with which he condemns people he does not like: horrible. But beyond his personal egregiousness is a consistent aspect that attests to the quality of his mentality. He cannot compose or utter a coherent sentence or, beyond that, a paragraph, except when they are memorized slogans. When he was asked to explain how he would put money into the pockets of American workers as an opening statement, he said:
Our jobs are fleeing the country. They’re going to Mexico. They’re going to many other countries. You look at what China is doing to our country in terms of making our product. They’re devaluing their currency, and there’s nobody in our government to fight them. And we have a very good fight. And we have a winning fight. Because they’re using our country as a piggy bank to rebuild China, and many other countries are doing the same thing.As some commentators call it, it is Trump's stream-of-consciousness kind of communication effort. He doesn't outline the actual facts; he simply makes claims for which he provides no specific referents and offers no articulated plan. He says "we have a winning fight," which sounds positive until one asks exactly what a winning fight is.
Many commentators said that Trump was strong for the first 15 or 20 minutes, and his critique of NAFTA was particularly effective. However, his most declarative sentence about NAFTA, most closely resembling a thesis, was that it is "the single worst trade deal ever approved in this country." In an actual debate, supporting data and information would be introduced to develop that point. But as has been the case with the entire Trump campaign, he just makes such denunciations without ever being required to support them with accurate evidence. He is strident, but never cogent. When his bluster is most strident is when the commentators give him credit for putting on a strong debate performance.
Trump's claim is that the country needs a business person to lead the country, not a longtime politician. Liberals generally distrust business, particularly the corporate culture that is endorsed by the GOP and cited as the engine of inequality by people like Berni Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. Business, from the Trump perspective, is not an enterprise that fills a genuine need or convenience with quality products and services and honesty. In the corporate view, which cites business decisions as something akin to a divine command, workers are dumped and abandoned and the earth is exploited and left destitute because doing so is business. Profit is the ultimate measure of a successful business, and if that includes bilking and fleecing people, ravaging the land, and holding people in a state of imminent poverty, that is the mark of a good business.
Hardly anyone noticed, but Trump endorsed those predatory traits during the so-called debate.
He showed what rules apply when the nation is run like a business. He showed what is driving the inequality that pervades the nation.