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Not all conservatives, Ross Douthat.

In his New York Times column today, Douthat tried to tie Donald Trump’s popularity to an alleged large-scale rejection of the liberal “culture war.” There are a lot of problems with that argument; my colleague Ryu Spaeth addressed several of them earlier today. Another one is that Douthat assumes his own side in the culture war is monolithic on the issues that animate social liberalism, arguing that were it not for Trump, liberals might have paid the price for their dogmatism at the ballot box:

By nominating a Trump rather than a Nixon or a Reagan, the Republicans may have saved liberalism from repeating that trajectory. But it remains an advantage for the G.O.P., and a liability for the Democratic Party, that the new cultural orthodoxy is sufficiently stifling to leave many Americans looking to the voting booth as a way to register dissent.

Correction: Many older Americans are registering their dissent. A full 71 percent of millennials now support marriage equality, for example. And religious millennials are closing the gap. According to the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI), 44 percent of white evangelical millennials support marriage equality. That’s a stunning number for one of America’s most reliably conservative demographics, and it’s sharply at odds with older evangelicals. Further, most religious millennials support the ordination of LGBT people.

These changes, in other words, aren’t just evident in the culture that we consume and that is produced, by and large, by coastal liberals. They are coming from within churches and communities that we would consider conservative.

September 27, 2016

In the first debate, Hillary Clinton saved her best for last.

Trump came unglued early: He was ranting by the ten minute mark. But Clinton, very much the opposite of her opponent, stayed disciplined. This was a death by a thousand cuts debate. While there wasn’t quite a moment per se—a “There you go again” moment—she hit Trump’s credibility repeatedly: attacking him for not releasing his tax returns, for being a racist, and for being a sexist. 

The last attack was her ace in the hole. Trump’s worst moments in the primaries involved women—Megyn Kelly, Carly Fiorina, Heidi Cruz—and at the end of the debate, Clinton went in for the kill, hitting Trump repeatedly for denigrating women and accused him of creepily hanging around the beauty pageants he ran. Then she brought up a Miss Universe contestant—unnamed—noting that Trump called her “Miss Piggy” because he thought she was overweight and “Miss Housekeeping” because she is Latina. A scowling Trump kept interrupting, asking Clinton where she found this information, suggesting that he had no idea who Clinton was referring to. Clinton responded by saying, “Donald, she has a name: Her name is Alicia Machado.”  As Jonathan Chait wrote for New York, this drove home “the justifiable impression that Clinton sees her as a human being, unlike her opponent, who sees her as a piece of meat.” Trump then spent the final minutes of the campaign ranting about Clinton’s negative ads and Rosie O’Donnell, whom he alleged deserved the horrible things Trump said about her. He took the bait—it was Khizr Khan all over again—and drove Clinton’s point home: He is a misogynist. 

Clinton, the Midwestern Methodist, often struggles when talking about herself. But she excels when talking about others. That’s where you can hear why she became interested in politics in the first place: She clearly cares about people, particularly those less fortunate than herself, and wants to advocate for them. The “Alicia Machado moment,” which came at the end of the debate was her strongest moment of the presidential campaign so far. Not just because it drove home the point that she (and many, many others) had been making for the last fifteen months—that Donald Trump is a sexist who is unfit for the presidency—but because it made a case for Clinton as the anti-Trump, an empathetic advocate for the bullied and under-privileged. 

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If the debate doesn’t convince voters that Donald Trump is unfit to be president, then nothing will.

All his flaws were on display: the racism, the sexism, the nastiness, the mendacity. Can you imagine what would have happened to Mitt Romney’s campaign if he had boasted that exploiting the housing crisis was just “business”? What would the pundits say about Hillary Clinton and her shady ways if she had declared that avoiding income taxes makes her “smart”? What if Barack Obama had only one idea—and a dangerous one at that—to improve the economy?

Any and all these faults are disqualifying, and Trump did nothing to hide them. They were, instead, amplified by the klieg lights of a prime time presidential debate, beamed into the homes of tens of millions of voters. To any reasonable person, the question of who “won” the debate should be dead simple: Hillary Clinton did.

Whether Clinton did enough to convince undecided voters to cast their ballot for her—as opposed to a third-party candidate—is another question. In these kinds of settings, Trump tends to dominate the proceedings. But perhaps the debate succeeded in showcasing what was at stake. A Trump victory would set back progress on civil rights and gender equality by generations. A grifter and a chronic liar would occupy the Oval Office. For at least four years, Americans would have to listen, week in and week out, to a raving blowhard who can’t let go of his beef with Rosie O’Donnell.

Clinton brilliantly underscored all this with a bit of oppo research that took Trump by surprise, introducing to a national audience a former Miss Universe contestant that Trump allegedly called “Miss Piggy” and “Miss Housekeeping” (because she is Latina). Clinton said that the contestant, Alicia Machado, recently became a U.S. citizen, and that “you can bet she’s going to vote this November.” Trump instantly had a meltdown that showed no signs of abating on Tuesday morning, when he told Fox News that Machado deserved his ire because she “gained a massive amount of weight, and it was a real problem.”

America, don’t let this guy be president.

Donald Trump had one job: To seem level-headed. He failed miserably.

Trump’s temperament has been the biggest issue of this campaign. Voters worry about his ability to maintain control of his emotions. His task was to show voters that his skin isn’t as thin as it has seemed over the last 15 months. That was the incredibly low bar set for him.

Clinton got under Trump’s skin early. He got mad and he stayed mad for the course of nearly 90 minutes. Halfway through the debate, he was raving; by the end of the evening, he had completely lost it. Hit repeatedly by Clinton (and, it should be said, by the often absent moderator Lester Holt) on his lies about supporting the Iraq War, he lost the thread, and started ranting at Holt about how is temperament is actually great, literally disproving the point he was making. He was overly defensive and it showed. Instead of succinctly and clearly answering questions, he rambled and ranted.

But the most amazing point was at the very end of the debate, when Clinton brought up Trump’s repeated sexist comments. Once again, Trump took the bait and went on an extended rant about how those comments were justified—Rosie O’Donnell had it coming! Given the opportunity to give one example of how he was not a sexist, he instead argued that the women deserved the attacks he slung at them. And then he threatened to bring up Bill Clinton’s infidelity and claimed the fact that he didn’t was proof that he wasn’t sexist.

This can’t be overstated. Donald Trump’s temperament has been the defining issue of the last year of this campaign. And yet, on the biggest possible stage—the most important of the last year—Trump repeatedly lost his temper.


Donald Trump cited his exclusive Palm Beach club as proof that he’s not racist.

After groaning at Hillary Clinton’s description of “vibrant black communities,” Trump continued to insult minorities by citing his “successful” Mar-a-Lago Club in the “tough community” of Palm Beach, which he described as “probably the wealthiest community in the world” (huh?), as evidence that he is non-discriminatory. In reference to the systemic racism of the American real estate industry and a non-discrimination suit that he settled with no admission of guilt (not the best look), he added simply, “It’s just one of those things.”

While it’s true that his friends and allies credit him for having employees of all races, his non-discriminatory practices in a singular business institution isn’t fooling anyone that he will heal racial divides.

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This is why Donald Trump lies about supporting the Iraq War.

He can’t stop doing it. Trump claims that he opposed the war, but this is not true. In 2002—before the war started—Howard Stern asked Trump if he supported invading Iraq. Trump said, “Yeah, I guess so.”

Then, in early 2003, he said that the president should focus on the economy more than Iraq. But he did not say that he opposed the war. (It’s worth pointing out that some of the most significant anti-war activism was happening in the spring of 2003.) Then in the spring of 2004—after the war started—he criticized it.

If you’re president, opposing a war after it starts is totally useless. Donald Trump didn’t oppose the Iraq War when it mattered—when, as commander in chief, he could have stopped it. He supported the war. He only opposed it later, after it became fashionable to do so.

Why does Trump keep lying about Iraq? Because he has absolutely no credible claim that he possesses the judgment necessary to be president of the United States. He’s essentially borrowing Barack Obama’s 2008 strategy on Iraq. It worked for Obama because he really did oppose the Iraq War—his claim to having the necessary judgment was credible. Trump’s isn’t.

Donald Trump, who once called for the execution of five innocent minority teenagers, criticized Hillary Clinton for her “superpredator” comment.

Yes, it’s true that Clinton in 1996 referred to certain young black men as “superpredators,” a characterization she has since said that she regrets (though not until she was prodded by a Black Lives Matter activist).

But perhaps Trump forgot that time when he demanded the execution of five teenagers (four black, one Hispanic) who were wrongly convicted in a rape case in 1989 in New York City. He went as far as to take out $85,000 in newspaper ad space advocating for reinstating the death penalty, thus fanning the racially charged fears of the city.

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Hillary Clinton straight-up called Donald Trump a racist.

At the presidential debate, Lester Holt asked Trump the question everyone has been asking since Trump grudgingly proclaimed that he no longer believed that President Barack Obama was not born in the United States. It was an inevitable question, and yet Trump seemed wholly unprepared to answer it. Instead, he flailed around for a while. First, he blamed Sid Blumenthal, a former Clinton aide, for starting the birther movement. (He didn’t.) And then he claimed that what he was doing was actually heroic: He just wanted the truth! Why weren’t journalists asking about the birther question? Trump had to do it! (Journalists weren’t asking because Obama had settled the issue of his citizenship when he ran in 2008.)

That’s when Hillary Clinton went in for the kill, attacking Trump for his long, long record of racism. “Just listen to what you heard,” she said, appealing to the audience. “He tried to put the whole racist, birther lie to bed. But it can’t be dismissed that easily. He has started his campaign activity based on this racist lie ... because some of his supporters believed it or wanted to believe it.” And then she hit him for his decades of racist behavior:

Donald started his career back in 1973 being sued by the justice department for racial discrimination...

He has a long record in engaging in racist behavior. And the birther lie was a very difficult one. Barack Obama is a man of great integrity. I would like to remember what Michelle Obama said ... When they go low, we go high.

It was a masterful answer from Clinton. She got the point across—Trump is a racist—but she did it while simultaneously going high.

Lester Holt deployed a targeted fact-checking strategy against Donald Trump.

Holt seemed to be sitting on his hands for the first hour of the debate, watching the nominees spar about the economy, jobs, and trade deals without driving the conversation at all. But when he moved the conversation to policing and racial justice, the dynamic changed.

Trump mentioned stop-and-frisk as a key element in his plan to return “law and order” to the United States, noting that former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani was sitting in the audience. “It worked very well in New York,” he said.

Holt pushed back, mentioning that District Court Judge Shira Scheindlin ruled that the practice was unconstitutional in 2013.

“No, you’re wrong,” Trump replied.

Through their exchange, Clinton was staring steelily at her opponent, only chiming in later to say: “Stop-and-frisk was found to be unconstitutional, in part because it was ineffective.” It’s a good strategy on her part, letting Holt point out Trump’s most flagrant falsehoods and only interceding later with specific statistics that show Trump was wrong.


Donald Trump can’t help but plug his silly hotel.

When challenged on his business bona fides at the presidential debate, Trump made a pitch for his new hotel, which just opened in Washington, D.C., this month. This doesn’t quite refute the notion that Trump’s whole campaign is just a Ponzi scheme to pad his own pocket. Recently, it has been reported that the Secret Service has had to pay to ride on Trump’s own planes. Overall, the Trump “scampaign” has spent $8.2 million on Trump’s businesses. Now, apparently, Trump is using his national platform to boost another Trump business.

Donald Trump is raving.

He’s yelling, he’s scowling, he’s shouting over Clinton. As my colleague Laura Reston wrote earlier, Clinton has figured out how to successfully bait Trump: She’s continuously called his narcissistic sense of self into question by attacking his business acumen and intelligence. Trump, meanwhile, is lashing out wildly—at Clinton, yes, but also at the nation’s airports. He’s literally showing his teeth. He is not showing any discipline whatsoever. Clinton, meanwhile, has seemed even-keeled.

(To be fair, LaGuardia is a hell hole.)

Trump’s second-biggest hurdle to becoming president is his demeanor. (His biggest hurdle is the racism.) Tonight’s debate audience will be the biggest of this election season. Trump needed to show voters that he was capable of being calm, collected, and reasonable. He has done no such thing tonight.