Last night was a national humiliation. By that I don’t mean a humiliation for the nation, which has been a clown show since W stole the 2000 election. I mean a humiliation for every single person who resides inside its cruel borders.
Trump always humiliates himself, as do his supporters for cheering on his buffoonery. Joe Biden and Chris Wallace were pathetically dominated by a half-wit bully, after having four entire years to prepare for that exact scenario. But so were the rest of us by proxy (whether or not we support Biden).
Millions of us watching powerlessly as Trump pissed all over the proceedings was a victory not for Trump over Biden — these debates won’t dent polls in a country where everyone has made up their minds about Trump. It was a victory for Trump over us, and for authoritarianism over democracy and our self-respect. Today I feel less than I did at this time yesterday because Trump “owned” me and everyone else who gives a crap about society. It’s a temporary victory for Trump but it’s real.
Go ahead and comfort (or anger) yourself by saying Bernie would have been so much better, but keep in mind it’s not provable. Certainly he would have had more vitality than Biden, wouldn’t have said inane things in praise of drug companies and suburbs, and most importantly would have had more credibility attacking Trump’s support for the rich. But the moderator would have also been far more eager to paint Bernie as the second uncouth extremist in the debate — and who knows if Bernie’s instincts to unite his party would have led him to try to score points for good behavior and thus walk into Trump’s trap. But I really don’t want to debate Bernie hypotheticals.
To me the more important lesson is that this election matters and this election doesn’t matter. Trump isn’t just a threat to whatever democracy we have if he rigs the election — every day he’s choking to death the culture of democracy and a self-respecting society with displays like last night. And yet we also saw the elitist institutions of America’s very elitist democracy are no match for a thug who isn’t invested in them. But that doesn’t mean Trump is all powerful. He’s often incredibly weak when he feels threatened by real social power — the most recent example being the Black Lives Matter protests that made him flee to a bunker.
Mostly I’m venting here but if there’s a practical point to make it’s this: Maybe instead of obsessing about the next debate and every daily blip in the polls we should be organizing displays of overwhelming numbers and determination to make even the most reactionary Supreme Court think twice about destroying its legitimacy by trying to throw the election.