Las Vegas was the sight of last night’s third and final presidential debate and Donald Trump needed a knockout victory over Hillary Clinton to somehow save his unraveling campaign with less than 20 days before Nov. 8.
He didn’t get it.
Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton walks toward the audience as Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump stands behind his podium after the third presidential debate at UNLV in Las Vegas, Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2016. (AP Photo/John Locher)
In fact, despite what may have been his best debate performance (although he has only had to reach dreadfully low performance bars for each debate) it was neutralized by Clinton, who also turned in her best performance. And almost predictably, towards the end of the evening, Trump began to flounder and melt (a few times he literally wiped away sweat from his upper lip).
Trump flailed wildly on foreign policy issues, meandering aimlessly on Syria and lying blatantly in reference to his previous statements about arming Japan with nuclear weapons (a statement he actually made in April to the debate moderator Chris Wallace!)
And Clinton effectively and repeatedly got under Trump’s skin, at some points she seemed to actually toy with him. When she characterized him as Russian President Vladimir Putin’s, “puppet,” Trump childishly replied, “You’re the puppet.” When she slickly chided him about not paying taxes, Trump leaned into the mic, interrupting her and said, “Such a nasty woman.” Clinton’s torment of Trump seemed reminiscent of Ray Leonard’s “no mas” victory over Roberto Duran at the New Orleans Superdome in November 1980.
However, the moment garnering the most headlines the day after the final debate, and the one that should be of most concern to Black people (perhaps all people of color, during the debate he referred to some Mexicans as, “bad hombres”) was Trump’s refusal to say he would accept the results on November 8, if indeed he loses.
“I will tell you at the time, I will keep you in suspense,” was Trump’s glib reply after Wallace put the question to him a second time.
Of course this is unprecedented territory in the history of U.S. presidential elections; the peaceful transfer of power, which is dependent upon the loser ultimately conceding to the winner validating the outcome, has been uninterrupted since 1789. Most political observers argue his refusal to say he would accept the results is a disqualifying position by Trump, but it was the delicious slab of red meat his immovable, overwhelmingly White supporters yearned for. It lines up directly with his ongoing narrative that the election process is rigged, as well as his continued demonization of voters in Philadelphia, Chicago and St. Louis, (code words for Black people).
“Voter fraud is all too common, and then they criticize us for saying that,” Trump told the crowd at a rally in Colorado Springs on Tuesday. “But take a look at Philadelphia, what’s been going on, take a look at Chicago, take a look at St. Louis. Take a look at some of these cities, where you see the things happening are horrendous,” Trump added.
Despite the fact, he has no facts, or evidence to bolster his claims about widespread voter fraud anywhere in the United States, some of his followers seem to be ready for the alt right revolution after November 8.
After ultra right wing commentator Laura Ingraham tweeted: “He should have said he would accept the results of the election. There is no other option unless we’re in a recount again,” a Trump supporter replied to Ingraham’s tweet: “There’s another option. It’s called the Second Amendment. If you think we will tolerate this you’re mistaken,” wrote April LaJune.
Earlier this month at a rally in Newton, Iowa for Trump’s running mate Mike Pence one woman proclaimed, “Our lives depend on this election…If Hillary Clinton gets in, I myself, I’m ready for a revolution because we can’t have her in,” she said.
There have been several other threats. We dismiss them and the zeal of some of Trump’s supporters at our own peril.
But, ultimately, Trump’s presidential fate seems to be sealed.
Perhaps the true essence of who he really is was captured as the debate concluded. A beaming, confident Clinton strode purposefully from behind her podium and greeted Wallace with a hearty handshake. The whole time Trump stood behind his podium seemingly bewildered, his lips pursed, he fumbled nervously with his note cards. At the end of that debate Trump was the embodiment of the small man he truly is, as the full realization of his fate seemed to wash over him; it’s over and he knows it.