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Hillary's Debate Win (and Trump's Stumbles) Haven't Changed the Race

Published by Huffington Post on Thu, 29 Sep 2016

The good news is I may not need to get onto Elon Musk's Mars expedition after all. The first Trump-Clinton debate had loomed as a potential hinge in history. Do some fairly obvious things, and the billionaire bully boy not only extends his momentum, he quite possible takes himself to the White House entryway.But after a strong start in which he got the best of Hillary Clinton with his trade-centered rap about fundamental change in a rigged system, the neo-fascist narcissist got sidetracked within a half-hour into engaging in blunderbuss defenses against the well-conceived rapier strikes of a coolly methodical Hillary Clinton.Count it as a just possibly historic missed opportunity for Il Duce Donald. Yet he didn't do so badly as to disqualify himself, which is clearly the overriding Clinton strategy. He was too loud, but the country is used to him being really loud by now. More to point, he may have been obnoxious, also not new, but he was not nuts. And nutty Trump, unfortunately, is the core of the Clinton strategy.It was a big missed opportunity as well for Hillary, who once again did little to present herself as a positive change agent for voters who clearly yearn for one in this disappointing era. That includes many voters she has to have if this notion of a transferable "Obama coalition" (vast numbers of young voters and people of color) is to be made real.So far, with Democratic electoral strength after nearly two terms of Barack Obama's hoped-for transformational presidency having slumped to pre-FDR levels, an Obama coalition sans Barack Obama remains mostly hypothetical outside of California, where it's been known as a Brown coalition.Trump made the mistake of getting caught up in tediously and rather boorishly defending himself at length, on all charges. Hillary made the mistake of getting caught up in winning the debate and being too happy about that in the process, failing to also lay out the positive predicate for her leadership except in contrast with perhaps the most aggressively know-nothing, anti-Enlightenment figure ever to get this far in seeking the presidency.Just because Trump is a profoundly anti-intellectual figure (books, what books') running in an anti-intellectual time doesn't mean he's dumb. Not at all, and his skills are very well-suited for the present media culture, without which he would never have even gotten started as a presidential candidate. I think he's a loudmouth blatherer, but I watch very little of American cable news, whose executives thought it brilliant programming to present endless stretches of Trumpism.In any event, watching the debate will reveal the handful of adjustments Trump needs to make in order to have a much more successful outing in the next debate. That debate, on October 9th in St. Louis, also comes with a town hall format, which should help Trump, enabling him to play off the energy, pro and con, of the crowd, and distract from the moderation. If Trump gets back on top of his change-maker narrative, flawed and reactionary in many particulars though it is, he may be off and running again. (Assuming he's not off and running again before that.)Trump was so distractible Monday night on Long Island that he actually forgot to talk about the woes of the Clinton Foundation, or how the Clintons became very rich giving speeches with hidden transcripts.And he was so unprepared he didn't have a snappy comeback to Hillary's attack that he, too, was for the invasion of Iraq. (Some things Trump could say do occur, but that's his problem.)So, despite a lot of the same folks who went on for many weeks about how moribund Trump's campaign supposedly was now saying much the same thing once again as a result of Trump's debate stumbles, this thing is still very much a race. It's just not a race in which he is in command.There is a huge reactionary vote in this country which Trump just can't lose. Couple that with large numbers of undecided voters and voters choosing alternative parties -- folks who just aren't buying Hillary and who see the advances of the Obama years as either insufficient or fake -- and you have a situation which continues to transcend a peevish Trump dwelling overmuch on the problematic nature of an overweight Miss Universe.Again, Hillary needs to do what she has not, i.e., demonstrate that she has an appealing plan to move the country forward. Then she needs to demonstrate that Trump -- who has picked up some knowledge in the year-plus he's been running for president -- is just too shallow a figure for a very complex era in which a knee-jerk reaction, especially when the reaction is tinged with anger and hatred, is often the wrong one.If she fails again to do that, that Musk Mars expedition may be just the ticket.Facebook comments are closed on this article.William Bradley Archivehttp://www.huffingtonpost.com/william-bradley/ -- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.
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