Final debate: Trump’s disaster in the desert

Trump’s brain: As imagined by KAL, cartoonist for The Economist. Reproduced with permission.

Trump made his last stand last night, in ‘Glitter Gulch’ aka Las Vegas. The verdict? He lost badly and he said he may not even accept the election result. Is this a recipe for civil strife?

Las Vegas is the world capital of showmanship; an appropriate location for last night’s third and final presidential debate.

In an event that lived up to its billing as ‘Fight Night’, Donald Trump burned and raved while Hillary Clinton tried to maintain a statesmanlike cool. After an abysmal month, the Republican candidate did little to broaden his appeal.

Most polls and commentators said it was a solid win for Clinton. The received wisdom outside Trump’s campaign is that it is dead. The focus is now on the future of Trumpism, that heady mixture of populism, patriotism, xenophobia, anti-elitism and celebrity culture. Can Trump’s movement survive the election?

The candidate himself seems to be preparing for this outcome. Those in the know have reported that he is in talks to launch his own television channel. This would be familiar territory for the former star of The Apprentice, but his campaign denies the rumour.

In any case, Trump is already casting off responsibility for his looming defeat. Since August, he has repeatedly asserted that the election will be rigged. He sees corruption everywhere: in Clinton, who is ‘worse than Watergate’; in the FBI, whose director Clinton has ‘essentially corrupted’; in the press, which has ‘poisoned the minds of… voters’.

Should Trump lose, many fans are ready to fight – literally – to keep Trumpism alive. Back in the primaries, some vowed to take up arms if he did not win the candidacy. More recently, his running mate Mike Pence has faced calls for a post-election ‘revolution’. As one supporter told the The Washington Post, ‘I think we’re on the verge of a civil war.’

The candidate’s sense of victimhood is at the root of their anger. His apparent incitements to violence have only nourished it. He has offered to pay the legal fees of a supporter who punched a protester, and even directed a veiled assassination threat at Clinton.

Trump is unlikely to win. But could his defeat prove even more dangerous?

Down, but not out

Calm down, say some. Trump’s approval ratings are plummeting and his brand is taking a hit: his new hotel has flopped. According to a recent poll, only 13% of Republican voters want him as their candidate in 2020. Losing the election will be the last nail in the coffin. Trumpism, more a mishmash of vague sentiments than a philosophy, will die with him.

Don’t be so sure, comes the reply. Defeat would paint Trump a martyr, not a loser. His fans and their grievances, some of them legitimate, will not go away. They will look to him – or to another politician who speaks for them. Either way, Trumpism will come up trumps. At best, this would mean political deadlock in the Clinton years. At worst… violence.

You Decide

  1. Should Donald Trump stand down as the Republican candidate?
  2. Is history shaped by individuals or mass movements?

Activities

  1. You have been put in charge of a TV channel that aims to ‘educate and entertain’. Come up with ideas for three programmes which fit that objective.
  2. Research a period of history in which violence was used for political ends. Write a 1,000-word essay on whether you think the violence was justified.

Some People Say...

“I don’t like losers.”

Donald Trump

What do you think?

Q & A

I’m not American. Why should I care?
The USA is the world’s most powerful country in economic, military and diplomatic terms; it is often called ‘the world’s policeman’. So this election – and, by extension, what happens next – matters to everyone. As a businessman, Trump has never dealt with foreign affairs. But his statements on these issues have been typically extreme and inconsistent. He has praised Putin, hammered China and taken a hard stance against immigration.
How so?
From her time as Secretary of State, we know that Clinton has views similar to her predecessor, if more hawkish: she wants more intervention in Syria, for example. As a businessman, Trump has never dealt with foreign affairs. But his statements on these issues have been typically extreme and inconsistent. He has praised Putin, hammered China and taken a hard stance against immigration.

Word Watch

Reported
The Financial Times wrote on Wednesday that Trump’s son-in-law has approached media mogul Aryeh Bourkoff about the project.
The Apprentice
Trump hosted the American version of the business skills reality show from 2004 to 2015.
Rigged
Trump has said that some voters will commit fraud, voting ‘15 times’ for Clinton. This week, President Obama told Trump to ‘stop whining before the game’s even over’.
Watergate
A reference to the scandal that ended Richard Nixon’s presidency. Nixon bugged the headquarters of his Democratic rivals, then tried to cover up his involvement in the plot.
Revolution
At a meeting in Iowa last week, a voter told Pence, ‘If Hillary Clinton gets in… I’m ready for a revolution.’
Assassination threat
In August, Trump told a rally that ‘Second Amendment people’ could stop Clinton carrying out her policies. The Second Amendment gives US citizens the right to bear arms.
Hotel
The Trump International Hotel in Washington, DC.
Poll
Conducted by Politico and Morning Consult.

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