Once again, Donald Trump starts out strong, sticking to his most favorable talking points, but ultimately manages to derail himself, demonstrating his worst behavioral tendencies. In contrast, Hillary Clinton’s steady, disciplined style, like the proverbial tortoise in the Aesop fable, triumphs over Trumps more dynamic, but erratic, hare.
Though Trump made some headway bringing up valid Clinton weaknesses, like her sticky e-mail scandal that just won’t wash off, and her husband Bill Clinton’s infidelities (a surprisingly effective counter strike to claims about Trump’s obvious issues with women, considering that Hillary Clinton, the wronged wife, is actually the candidate) but he still made two critical missteps, both potentially huge.
When asked if he would stand by the election results, and concede defeat if it should come to that in November, Trump refused to answer. He said he would “Keep you in suspense.” But the effect was to imply he wouldn’t accept the election results, in the event of a loss. This shocked and outraged political pundits and journalists across the media, who stressed the importance of the nation’s continuity of government principle.
One of the greatest features of American democracy, unlike political systems in many nations around the world, is that, on November 9, the nation is whole again, and citizens can confidently expect power to transition smoothly over the next few months to the newly elected leader, even a new President, no matter what passions simmer, or boil, across the land. We don’t have coups. Powerful leaders step down. Always.
But Trump’s hesitance, interpreted as profound arrogance by many, is a slap in the face to this important principle of government. And to make matters worse, this not only contravened a great American tradition, but it directly contradicted statements by his running mate, former Governor Mike Pence, and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani. This looks bad, and won’t sit well with thinking voters.
If that wasn’t enough, Trump leaned into his microphone dramatically to call Clinton a “nasty woman.” This is not good news for the Trump campaign, which has scrambled in recent weeks to combat accusations of sexism and predatory behavior towards women, following the release of a scandalous video tape, and actual accusations of sexual harassment and assault by several women. Trump appeals well to his very conservative, poorly educated base, but he needs to win over college educated voters, men and women alike, who don’t respond well to this kind of undignified behavior—-it smacks of sexism and boorishness, to many.
To be sure, Hillary Clinton has some leaks in her game. But her slow, steady, studied approach in each debate, and her ability to keep her cool and stay on message, regardless of circumstances, and ignoring at times withering insults and interruptions by her opponent (particularly in previous debates) has proven to be the superior strategy in the long run. The only question is, with three weeks to go until election day, can Donald Trump make up for his poor debate performances out on the campaign trail, and will his outrageous off the cuff rhetoric be enough to pull him out of his recent slump in the polls? As the end game approaches, the current polls favor Clinton, and that’ s a difficult fact for Donald Trump.