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Tuesday, September 27, 2016

The Lesser of Two Evils

Full disclosure: I did not watch the debate last night. I was prepared to, and certainly would have watched were Hillary Clinton still at a close to ninety-percent certainty that she would be elected. But I've been nervously consulting Nate Silver's fivethirtyeight.com, watching her numbers go down to 54 percent, with states like Ohio, Florida, and Nevada go from solid blue to red, and I'm scared shitless.

So instead I watched an episode of Salem, walked the dog, and worried. When it was over, I immediately found out what other people thought. I'm like the character in Whit Stillman's Cosmopolitan that doesn't read novels, he just reads the criticism. I've been watching this campaign through my fingers.

Fortunately, almost everyone is saying that Clinton clobbered Trump. The consensus is he started strong, but eventually she got under his skin, bringing up his taxes (he apparently admitted he pays none, and says this is "smart." I wonder how taxpayers will think of his remark), birtherism, his glee over the housing crisis ("that's business," he said, and again, does the person who lost their house or job agree?) and perhaps most effectively, his treatment of women.

Presidential elections always have some weird previous unknown thing that can trip up a candidate, like Michael Dukakis on a tank or George H.W. Bush checking his watch. This is looking more and more like The Simpsons' episode when Mr. Burns ran for governor, only to lose when Marge cooked him a fish with three eyes that was raised in the toxic dump behind the nuclear plant. Mr. Burns spit it out, and his campaign was over. The "Blinky the fish" of this campaign may be Alicia Machado.

Kudos to whomever dug up that golden nugget. Machado was Miss Universe when it was owned by Trump. She won and then, according to Trump, gained an "enormous amount of weight." Turns out it was twelve pounds. But he publicly humiliated her, calling her "Miss Piggy," and, even more dangerously, if that's possible, "Miss Housekeeping," due to her Latina heritage. Clinton, in the great poster slam of the evening, said, "She's now a citizen, and believe me, she will vote." Trump was flummoxed, mewling, "Where'd you get this?" Clinton tied it to his general hatred of women, and he was left blasting Rosie O'Donnell, who has now been mentioned in two presidential debates.

Clinton's strategy, it seems to me, is to hit Trump on his temperament and lack of knowledge, and she seemed to do that last night. She remained poised, apologized succinctly about her email scandal, while he acted like a petulant child. I can't wait for the town hall debate, where Trump may actually get tough questions from audience members, maybe asking more about his taxes. I'd ask him how much money he owed to Russian mobsters.

Here on the left, we can't understand how a narcissistic sociopathic carnival barker can be this close to being president. Sure, it's provided some entertainment. There's been some great memes: Taco trucks on every corner, basket of deplorables (that's from Clinton, and I love the elegance of that word choice), and last night we heard about 400-pound hackers. But except to jaded political journalists, this has not been fun. We are five percent away from disaster.

We've all heard, because of the unpopularity of both candidates, that it's a choice between the lesser of two evils. Bullshit. As someone pointed out, it's the choice between a qualified woman who rubs some people the wrong way and a bigoted, misogynist fascist. That's like saying, of things to consume that are bad for us, that a doughnut is the lesser of two evils compared with cyanide. They're miles apart.

There are, apparently, a number of undecided voters out there that make the polls fluctuate. After last night Clinton's number should go up. If they don't, we all may be doomed. Literally.

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