2016-09-29 – Okay. So Trump lost the first debate. Even Trump knows he lost the debate. For, while he’s going around claiming victory, he’s blaming his microphone for the loss and promising to “go harder” in future debate.
But so what? The Electoral College isn’t meeting tomorrow to declare the next President based on Monday’s debate. The Trump campaign’s not dead yet. There’s two more debates to go and—of course—voting, before the Electoral College will act. And while it’s not likely that Trump will learn any lessons from Monday’s debate (he’s like my dog—he doesn’t stop barking just because you’ve told him a million times), you never know.
So, in honor of Diogenes Day (the truth-telling holiday celebrated this Saturday, October 1), I thought it would be helpful to try to find some core ideas in Trump’s blathering and lies that would be helpful for Hillary to keep in mind as she prepares for the next debates. There are two: the idea that business is more competent than government and the idea that ordinary Americans are suffering. Let’s take them one-by-one.
A core idea held by Republicans and many Democrats is that business people are generally more competent than people in government. The Donald hammered this point in the debate over and over. In fact, I’d say that this was his best point of the evening. When commentators say that he was strong for the first 20 minutes or so, this was his strength.
But this one’s a lie.
Hillary took this on, but fairly gently. She did not debunk the whole idea, but she did, fairly forcefully, question whether Trump himself is a good businessman. I think the whole idea needs debunking. Business people are not saints and government people are not sinners. Both are human. Some are good and some are bad.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, about one-third of all new businesses fail within the first two years. Half are gone by the end of the fifth year. And only a third survive for 10 years. Clearly, some business people know what they are doing. And some do not.
Trump is no Bill Gates or Elon Musk. He’s has had a number of failures, many that ended up in bankruptcy court. If he didn’t have enormous wealth to begin with so that he had a cushion, he’d be the guy standing at the corner with a sign saying “Help a guy who’s had better experience than a veteran.”
And it’s not just competence. It’s honesty. Think about Wells Fargo. Think about price gouging on Epi-Pens. Think about Trump University or the Trump Foundation.
So let’s put that idea to rest. It’s a lie. Business people are human. There are good business people and there are certainly bad business people. They don’t get a free pass. If they want to be President of the United States (or anything), they have to be judged. Donald Trump, don’t tell me that you are a “successful businessman” and expect that to sweep you into the White House. You’ve got to show me more than that. So far, you’ve shown zilch. So far you’ve shown negative zilch.
Hillary got this argument started. But she needs to expand upon it. It’s a good place to be. Trump is not in the category of competent business people.
The second idea is that ordinary people are suffering. This one, Donald, is true. And since it is true, Hillary needs to talk more about it. She’s the one that has something to offer, not the Republicans.
Of course, the last time she talked about it, she got into trouble. She talked about two baskets. The baskets represented the people who support The Donald. You may not realize that she talked about two baskets because the media only talked about one of the baskets: the basket of deplorables—the racists and sexists and other barbarians that inhabit the Trump camp. But there was a second basket. And here is what she said about it:
[T]hat other basket of people are people who feel that the government has let them down, the economy has let them down, nobody cares about them, nobody worries about what happens to their lives and their futures, and they’re just desperate for change. It doesn’t really even matter where it comes from. They don’t buy everything he says, but he seems to hold out some hope that their lives will be different. They won’t wake up and see their jobs disappear, lose a kid to heroin, feel like they’re in a dead end. Those are people we have to understand and empathize with as well.
The more Hillary talks about this basket of people, the stronger her case will become. Because she does listen to people. That is one of her greatest strengths. And she is able to reach out and make the lives of the people in the second basket better. (But lose the “basket” lingo, ya know?)
One of the most conservative newspapers in America, the Arizona Republic, endorsed Hillary on Tuesday, the first time they ever endorsed a Democrat. They listed many reasons, but here is how they ended:
“This is Hillary Clinton’s opportunity. She can reach out to those who feel left behind. She can make it clear that America sees them and will address their concerns.”
That’s the truth that will save this country from Donald Trump—and probably change politics forever. I’ve been talking about that forever.
We on the left have a self-destructive tendency to dismiss these people. We, like the media, put them all in the basket of deplorables. But they are not all like that.
The Clintons know this. Bill grew up as part of these people. He is a redneck. Hillary’s people are not much different. That is why the Clintons understand the things that the downtrodden people share—black, white, and brown.
But you’d never know it.
The media doesn’t report it. To the media, there’s only one basket—even though Hillary talked about two. And listen to what Bill Clinton had to say about his upbringing in the September 15 Daily Show (especially the third segment of the show, starting at around 20:44)
They get it.
Hillary needs to say so in the last two debates. She’s been saying it, but people haven’t heard it because of the media filter. This is her chance to speak directly to the American people about shared concerns. Things that make us stronger together.
That’s the truth.
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If you want to find out about Saturday’s truth-telling holiday, Diogenes Day, go here.