Trump in the Debate: None Dare Call It Treason

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Trump speaks with his right hand up, gesturing.

I’m not in the habit of quoting John Birchers, but I’ll make an exception today. 1964 the right-wing extremist author John Stormer published a book Nobody dares to call it treasonand explained how and why he believed a major communist conspiracy had infiltrated every level of the US government.

The book was rubbish, a stew of lies, misinformation, and misinterpretation of facts, but the title was catchy; and when I saw the first 2020 presidential debate on Tuesday evening, it kept popping up in my mind.

I put fear quotes around the word “debate” just like I put fear quotes around the word “president” when I think of Trump. For an actual debate, this means an interplay of ideas, an intellectual back and forth, the willingness and ability to develop logical lines of argument and calmly refute the ideas put forward by the opponent with reference to facts. By definition, it includes more than one participant, as well as a set of basic rules that affect combatant interaction. These are the basic standards of debate that a child of 8 or 9 years old should be taught by their debate coach. I should know – my son is a debater in high school; Before that, he was a land and middle debt advisor.

But none of this was available Tuesday evening. Or rather, Biden showed up with his debater’s things, but Trump predictably showed up with a megaphone, a desperately swollen ego, and a slash and burn strategy that not only limited the ability to debate but also did great damage to the integrity of the political process in America. Faced with Trump’s vitriol storm and repeated interruptions, presenter Chris Wallace was spectacularly unable to bring order to the stage. It was a colossal journalistic failure on his part that enabled Trump to dominate demagoguery and buffers, a kind of verbal version of mixed martial arts or world wrestling entertainment, with his noise in a way that has never been seen before by a US President was seen.

Trump lied almost every time he opened his mouth. He lied about his Covid response; he lied about his health plans (if any); he lied about Biden’s health plan; he lied about his environmental record; he lied about Biden’s environmental record; he lied about his economic record; and he lied about Obama’s economic record; It wasn’t just that he mixed up his facts from time to time; after all, that can happen even to the best-prepared debater. It was that he had decided that facts were impractical and that he would therefore discard them for a fictional counter-narrative that better suited his needs.

But it went way beyond lying. Again and again he tried to sow doubts about the electoral process, about the basic democratic principle of the settlement of political battles at the ballot box; and in the last terrifying minutes, he made it clear that he was ready to send vigilantes to polling stations and lawyers to improve every aspect of the vote and secure his power.

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