The second debate is over, and the custodians at Washington University in St. Louis are still cleaning the blood off the floor.
You might remember the first debate, which got pretty nasty. With Trump cornered after the Washington Post’s revelation of a 2005 tape in which he said numerous, shall we say, “deplorable” and “irredeemable” things about women, the stage was set for political violence the likes of which this country has never before seen.
As usual, Trump said many things guaranteed to boil the blood of those who disagree with him politically. His claim that he’d appoint someone like Scalia to the Supreme Court, his argument that the Environmental Protection Agency is killing the American economy, his assertion that Clinton could have single-handedly “fixed” the U.S. tax code as a Senator — all are things that go against the personal politics of millions of Americans.
These statements are not what we’re concerned with in this piece. No, these are the statements that should worry — if not terrify — anyone with faith in American democracy, whether Republican, Democratic, independent, or third party. These are the statements that best demonstrate why Donald Trump is shockingly unfit for the highest office in the land.
5. “I was so surprised to see (Bernie Sanders) sign on with the devil.”
Most politicians, to some extent, demonize their opponents. Very few literally demonize their opponents. Trump’s base does not have a high opinion of Hillary Clinton, to say the least. But to go as far as to actually call a candidate for President “the devil”, to her face, is a new low in American political discourse.
And yet, this is comparatively tame, considering what came after it.
4. “Of course I do (avoid paying federal income tax).”
Trump’s camp has been dodging the question of the near-billion dollar loss the New York Times uncovered on his 1995 tax return. Finally, moderator Anderson Cooper cornered him: “Did you use that $916 million loss to avoid paying federal income taxes?” His response should be concerning to anyone who pays into the American tax system, as well as anyone who knows a thing or two about tense agreement: “Of course I do.”
There are two major problems here: one, a man who claims to be a business genius admits that he lost almost a billion dollars in a single year, and two, a man who urges us to vote for him for President admits he, with all his self-proclaimed wealth, contributes nothing to the system the rest of us hold up with our tax dollars. We all know the saying, “no taxation without representation.” Perhaps the reverse is true, as well: no one can represent Americans’ best interests without paying their fair share.
3. “This was locker room talk.”
What kind of locker rooms is Trump hanging out in? The few people still defending him claim his words are just another example of “boys will be boys.” But for every locker room, every barber shop, every dive bar I’ve ever been in, I’ve never heard men bragging about sexual assault. Again: these are words that transcend political affiliation and strike at our concept of human decency — decency Donald Trump does not possess.
2. “I know nothing about Russia.”
At the risk of appearing to misrepresent Trump’s full remarks on the subject — more of which can be seen in the video above — it’s critical to note that a Presidential candidate openly, proudly admitted ignorance of one of the world’s major powers. He immediately took it back, claiming that he meant he knows nothing about the “inner workings” of Russia, but that’s almost as bad. Watching the full debate, and indeed the full campaign, makes it clear that this is a man who’s willfully ignorant of global affairs.
There’s an old saying in politics that a “gaffe” is when a politician tells the truth by accident. Immediately before saying he “know(s) nothing about Russia,” Trump said, “I don’t know Putin.” For all her baggage, Hillary Clinton does know Putin, and does know how the Russian government actually works. You’d think that anyone who’d get this far in the race to be Commander-in-Chief would have at least some knowledge of the person with whom they’d have arguably the most intricate relationship out of any head of state in the world. When it comes to Trump, you’d be wrong.
1. “Because you’d be in jail.”
If there were any doubt that Donald Trump is a power-hungry erstwhile fascist determined to bend the law to his will, the candidate forcefully removed it at the second debate. The New York Times put it succinctly: “That’s dictator talk.”
We’ve already seen Trump threaten to contest election results if they don’t go his way and kiss up to autocrats. But now he’s confidently asserted that he’d imprison a political opponent — to cheers from the audience. If that doesn’t worry you, if you’re not concerned that a candidate for President openly threatened to overturn the rule of law and replace it with his personal vendettas, you need to go back to history class.
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