Simply put, in the final presidential debate, it was the class valedictorian against the rich kid who never had to study up. Hillary looked increasingly poised to break through the glass ceiling, while her opponent went crashing through the floor into the basement. Still, we may someday thank Donald for bringing us together, even if what we share is revulsion.
The following impressions, out of respect for the wide separation between the candidates on stage, takes them one at a time.
In retrospect, assuming he loses, Trump will be seen as having done the nation a huge favor, and I mean that "huge" in the outsized Trumpian sense. His campaign could be renamed, Let's Make America Agree Again, and the brilliant strategy all along has been to say increasingly preposterous things until finally the rightwing and leftwing, the Them's and Us's, would come together and speak as one, against Trump. What a challenge he faced! Politicians define themselves through disagreement. Talking heads on cable news are paid to differ. Obama's naive "let's all work together" approach back in his first term had crashed and burned. What's a peacemaker to do?
Well, it took a nut to finally crack that nut. People complain about the endless campaign season, but Trump needed every bit of it to finally break through the lockstep disagreement. First, he tried saying crazy things, like climate change is a hoax, or tax cuts pay for themselves. But a lot of people had drunk the same Kool-Aid, and long-intimidated journalists refused to call a lie a lie. He launched one conspiracy theory after another, each more improbable than the last, but his followers loved him all the more. He spoke disparagingly about women, war heroes, selected ethnicities, and still his supporters remained steadfast.
Seeing he was struggling to fully alienate people, the Washington Post thoughtfully released a video of some of his past braggadocio about groping women. Many supporters wavered at that point, but last night's final debate was truly the breakthrough moment. Not sure he'd accept the results of the election? He'd already extended his political party's contempt for science, government, nature, and minorities to include women, truth, and all leaders present and past, excepting Patton and Putin. There was only one more card to play, and he played it last night: contempt for democracy itself.
Oh, what a joy to see politicians and commentators of all stripes afterwards, speaking as one in their condemnation of Mr. Trump. True, the air of agreement won't last long. Otherwise, the talking heads would lose their raison d'etre. But for one shining moment, the dream of unity burned bright. The unifying power of a universally alienating figure was demonstrated beyond doubt. If we emphatically agree on a negative, might we find a few positives to agree on as well, and finally move forward?
Though Trump questioned whether he'd accept the election results, there was a moment in the debate where he seemed to concede to Hillary. Speaking, as he does so well, in that dystopian, doom and gloom manner, he said, "And wait until you see what happens in the coming years. Lots of luck, Hillary."
I'd like to suggest that President Hillary, in the spirit of Obama's appointment of her as Secretary of State, appoint Trump to be a special envoy to the Middle East, where he will be tasked with saying and doing such deplorable things that all people, Palestinians and Jews, Sunnis and Shias, will lay down their arms and ancient animosities and come together in the public square to say as one, "This person is HORRIBLE!" One point of agreement will lead to another, and peace will blossom in the desert as never before. This diplomatic coup will be called the Trump Triumph. In gratitude, humanity will build in his honor a giant tower 300 conspiracy theories high, lock him up in the penthouse suite, and tell him if he wants to rejoin us he'll have to grow his golden locks long enough to reach the ground.
Could it be that Hillary has grown in the past few months, blossomed and found the joy? Back in July, speaking to legions of devotees during her acceptance speech at the Democratic convention, she sounded at times almost angry, as if unwilling to let people love her. Now, with her long time ambition to be president finally within grasp, something in her has begun to relax. She seems more comfortable in her skin, more presidential. The Hillary who is reportedly so personable one on one is starting to show through the lens of a camera and in front of crowds. In the final debate, she said some things that went beyond talking points, things that needed to be said, about her opponent, about the country, about leadership. To listen was healing, and because Hillary's life has spanned so many of the nation's traumas, from the civil rights movement to Vietnam, through culture wars, the drug war, through the Republicans' pivot from the Cold War to a war on government, she like many of us carries those national traumas within her. If any national healing can come, it will come from within and without, with one feeding and informing the other. Hillary stands as the embodiment of both the trauma and the potential for healing. Many, made leery by the endless stream of innuendo, will hold their noses when they vote for her. I view the prospect as much more exciting--a behind-the-scenes policy wonk who finds her voice, progressivism informed by pragmatism, a chance to cut through the pretty lies that have seduced voters of many stripes for decades.
Chris Wallace did a good job, except he somehow forgot to ask about climate change. Strange that a video about abusing women demands response, but denial of our high-risk collective abuse of the planet does not. It's only the only place we have to live. For Wallace and other moderators, "drill baby drill" is just harmless locker room talk.