Well, I won’t do that again. Not without a lot more alcohol down the hatch. But I did it. I watched the first Trump-Clinton debate. I will summarize it for you as a rational, mostly truthful woman answering the moderator’s questions on one side, and on the other a shrieky, red-faced man interrupting her twice a minute with a mix of gobbledygook and factually-challenged, often terrifying statements, all delivered with the absolute conviction of a sleazy used car salesman.
FYI, Ford is not packing up and taking its plant to Mexico. No, Clinton is not responsible for ISIS. Or the Iraq war, either. (See Bush, George W.; unilateralism). And the 14 million your pops gave you to start a business was not a “small” loan. And no, you absolutely don’t get to bomb another country’s ship just because somebody made a rude gesture to yours. Yes, Russia is to blame for recent cyber attacks and hacking meant to elect Trump and/ or discredit our electoral process.
And long before Trump declared Obama and illegal immigrants were responsible for the uptick in murders in Chicago, while repeating his dog-whistle call for law and order, I was thinking for the millionth time that you’d have to be nuts to vote for him — and have no idea at all how the world works or even your own country.
But then I remembered — that’s entirely possible. This is America, where half the people who get federal entitlements are against federal entitlements because they don’t understand that that’s what disability payments are, for instance. Or Social Security checks. Public schools. Medicare. VA programs.
Reason and logic and knowledge have nothing to do with it. We’ve proudly announced for years that we vote for whomever we want to have a beer with, so why not that smirker Trump who rails against the politicians who screw everything up and positively gloats about not paying taxes “because they would just be squandered”? Yeah, he tells it like it is. So heck yeah, I’m for Trump, his supporters say. So what if he’s declared bankruptcy a whopping six times, he must be a smart businessman because he always seems to come out ahead. And ISIS is a big problem. And Secretary Clinton has been in power for like a million years, so it’s all that cunt’s fault.
Almost as deluded are the folks on the other side who believe that just because Trump uses imaginary words like “bigly” bigly and lies every time he opens his mouth, that voters will laugh him out of contention, a tactic that worked so well in previous elections (ibid.). It was almost heartbreaking how happy they were last night that the polls after the debate showed viewers believed Clinton trounced Trump, as if a poll actually had some long-term impact.
A large part of the problem is that the mainstream — and even alternative — media does little to challenge Trump directly. Mostly because they don’t really care about fairness or justice, just the illusion of it. Remember their coverage of same-sex marriage? They’d have one person rationally explaining the importance of equality under the law and what it meant to lesbian and gay citizens, and then some random preacher ranting that The Gays were going to destroy the family and we should all be killed. And both were equivalent, as if we were discussing whether tax penalties or incentives were more effective.
This time, we end up with rags like the New York Times using its editorial page to offer the unprecedented acknowledgement that a candidate is entirely, one-hundred-percent unfit to be president, but this morning sends out an email again reporting on the attacks and responses in the debate as if the strengths and weaknesses of both candidates were equal.
Ditto after the debate, when I watched the PBS commentators lift a few mild eyebrows at Trump, but then go after Clinton, quibbling with how she responded to Trump’s criticism of her economic proposals, but mostly offering the usual Hermione-hating crap like “her answers were too long” “she didn’t offer us a vision,” “she didn’t reveal herself.” In short, she didn’t slide down in the stirrups and let us see a vagina bursting with rainbows and unicorns.
So I’ll tell you all what I’ve been telling my friends for months. Don’t underestimate the power of stupidity and misogyny in this election. If Democrats continue to smugly laugh at Trump, if the extreme left and independent voters continue to say both parties are equal and advocate protest votes, we could very well end up with President Trump. He would not only support conservative white nationalists who hate minorities of all kinds, including queers — Seriously! They hate our guts — but would also ravage the economy and environment for his personal gain. Trump might even employ nuclear weapons to avenge slight insults. And I will be the first rat off this sinking American ship.
Kelly Cogswell is the author of “Eating Fire: My Life as a Lesbian Avenger,” from the University of Minnesota Press.