There were many telling moments in the first debate between presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. Mr. Trump’s revelations about the smarts of evading taxes and the business acumen exhibited by profiting off of the misfortune of millions of Americans were certainly remarkable. Far less publicized were two comments made by Trump, which offered a disturbing glimpse into the psyche of too many American voters.
“And then they did an article in a major magazine, shortly after the war started, I think in ’04. But they did an article which had me totally against the war in Iraq. And one of your compatriots said you know, whether it was before or right after, Trump was definitely —because if you read this article, there’s no doubt.”
“And when they made that horrible deal with Iran, they should have included the fact that they do something with respect to North Korea. And they should have done something with respect to Yemen and all these other places.”
Do you see the pattern? A vague reference to nondescript events that can not be researched, fact-checked or counter-argued. Trump’s monologues are puffed out with this kind of empty rhetoric in an attempt to deflect attention from his faults, his lack of knowledge, his experience, and his preparedness to enter into debate, much less into the office of the most powerful politician in the free world. Unfortunately, his tactics seem to be working.
A not insignificant number of voters appears to be conditioned to listen for and hear specific keywords: e-mails, Benghazi, TPP. It is almost as if they tune out , who can blame them , and return to the broadcast when he rants about Libya and Iraq. And Trump goes out of his way to shout these words whenever and however he can, regardless of whether or not they are at all relevant to the questions being asked and addressed. Because that is all he is. A few choice words to rile up a crowd. Trump would be great at a college pep rally!
The problem, Madame Secretary, is that Trump appeals to a demographic that only wants to hear the buzzwords. Too many voters have handed over the responsibility of informing themselves to a man who can not say which article in which magazine they wrote about him, he thinks, in 2004. They have zero interest in knowing what all these other places are. If Trump mentions them in the same breath as North Korea and Iran, then they must be bad.
Madame Secretary, you came armed to the debate with wisdom, skill, tactic, and poise. With that you brought an added laudable level of patience, especially considering your problematic temperament and a wealth of solid facts. You were humble, apologetic, fierce when necessary. These facts further impressed your staunch supporters and maybe even swayed some voters on the fence.
But, as you know, this is not enough. There are plenty of the electorate happy to forego substantial evidence for a few flashy catchphrases. You can come prepared with an endless list of your accomplishments, a realistic strategy for tackling economic, climate, foreign affairs issues, an apology and a smile. But when Trump says Benghazi, his eager supporters will tune back in with thunderous applause. He is drowning you out with baseless, empty banter. Please do not let him!
Madame Secretary, you have ample ammunition to obliterate this man. You also have the composure and equanimity to do it with a modicum of decency and grace. Something of which he is incapable. I know it seems far too undignified for a woman of your intelligence and capability to start hurling buzzwords in an attempt to make people listen to reason. But this election is not going to be won with your brains alone.
So please, when you get back on that stage on October 10th, and Donald Trump is repeating his favorite three words, get loud! Get loud about his ineptitude. Get loud about his ignorance. Get loud about his disrespect for basically everyone. Your supporters know that you have got the wits to succeed as our next president. You no longer need to convince us. Now please be loud about showing everyone else the dangers of electing Donald Trump.
(Weekly conference calls with like-minded people who want to stop a candidate who is racist, sexist, bigoted, incites violence and is demonstrating no competence for the job at hand.)
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This post originally appeared on Medium