‘He is dragging this country down the gutter’

The real losers? Many commentators decided the true victims were the American people. © PA

In an unremittingly ugly presidential debate Donald Trump said Hillary Clinton should be imprisoned, accused her husband of being a serial abuser of women and likened her to the devil.

Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump traded bitter insults in a second debate last night following a surprise Trump campaign press conference with three women who have accused Bill Clinton of sexual assault.

After refusing to shake hands on stage, the candidates launched into some of the most acrimonious and personal exchanges seen on a presidential debate stage as they questioned each other’s fitness to serve as president.

The author David Maraniss called the evening’s early stages the ‘slimiest most depressing scene in modern American electoral history’.

The debate capped a torrid weekend. On Friday a bombshell 2005 tape was released. It showed Trump making a string of crude boasts about degrading and sexually assaulting women. ‘When you’re a star, they let you do it,’ he said. Rumours suggest worse may be to come.

Trump’s remarks drew harsh criticism, even from his own wife. So far more than a dozen leading Republicans over the past 48 hours have publicly withdrawn their backing. The party’s strategist Amy Navarro said Trump ‘is not fit to be the president, not fit to be the Republican nominee, not fit to be called a man’.

The ‘Trumpgate’ tape is just the latest of many firestorms any of which would normally have killed a candidate’s political hopes. Trump has a track record of sexism and misogyny. He has called Mexican immigrants rapists and insulted the family of a slain Muslim American soldier.

He has made comments which some saw as a call for the assassination of his rival Hillary Clinton. He probably did not pay federal income taxes for 18 years. And some of his policies, such as a call for a blanket ban on Muslim entry to the USA, have channelled Americans’ darkest instincts.

Trump has vowed to fight on, and attempted to turn the debate onto the Clinton family’s own dubious history with women.

Many Americans are now asking for a long look in the national mirror. ‘How did he ever get that close? What have we almost become?’ read one tweet that caught the mood last night.

Damage control

It is a tragedy for America and for the free world, some are saying. Somehow an unprincipled, bullying, misogynistic braggart has been allowed to prance on the world stage wrapped in the stars and stripes. If America were a brand such as Apple or Google it would go bust next week.

Very naive, comes the reply. America is a great country because while Europeans, for instance, may be obsessed with appearances, American freedom is raw, honest and not especially polite. Trump perfectly represents a large minority of voters. The fact that he got so far but probably will not win in the end is exactly what makes America the greatest democracy in the world today.

You Decide

  1. Which would you care about more when casting a vote: a politician’s policies, or their character?
  2. Has Donald Trump’s candidacy permanently damaged the United States of America?

Activities

  1. ‘When you’re a star, they let you do it.’ Discuss in pairs, and then as a class, how much you can learn about Donald Trump from this phrase.
  2. How will historians remember this presidential election campaign? Write three paragraphs, each showing a different way they might introduce a book on the subject in 20 years’ time. Choose the one you find most plausible and write a page explaining it fully.

Some People Say...

“Democracy should shock us.”

What do you think?

Q & A

Could some comments on an 11-year-old video really change the world?
Trump has issued an apology and tried to change the subject. But this video does not appear to be an ill-informed one off: his behaviour suggests he has little respect for women. Some people will not vote for Trump as a result. He may have lost anyway, but his odds of victory have lengthened considerably this weekend.
I am not American. Does Donald Trump affect me?
If Trump wins, he will become leader of the free world — and his actions will affect us all. But even if not, this election campaign has been a reflection on the state of the world you live in. But does it show that bigotry and intolerance stubbornly endure in the world’s most powerful country, or does it set a democratic example for other countries to follow?

Word Watch

Leading
Condoleezza Rice, the former secretary of state, wrote on Facebook: ‘Enough! Donald Trump should not be president. He should withdraw.’
Sexism
During the campaign he has made discriminatory comments about a news anchor and a former Miss Universe.
Misogyny
Showing deep contempt for women. Trump bullied a female reporter who accused his campaign manager of assaulting her. He has previously been sued for sexual harassment and even accused of rape.
Assassination
Trump said Clinton wanted to abolish the second amendment, which grants Americans the right to bear arms. He said: ‘If she gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do, folks. Although the second amendment people, maybe there is, I don’t know. But that will be a horrible day.’
History
Yesterday Trump retweeted a rape allegation against Hillary Clinton’s husband, the former president Bill. Hillary has been accused of helping to intimidate some of Bill’s alleged victims of sexual assault into silence.
Polling
Reputable polls now put Clinton 12 points ahead of Trump in both Pennsylvania and Virginia – two key swing states.

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