My end of the year reflection on the current presidential experience now turns to the two distinctive characters who have become part of American historical lore: the Predator in chief and Our Lady of Perpetual Victimhood. These two people created a presidential election experience that truly is one for the ages.
Let’s start with a simple event that highlights the multiple levels on which the contest was fought – the presidential debate. If one were to consult the expert opinion, especially the Democratic one, one would reach the simpleminded conclusion that the Democratic candidate won the high school debate. Indeed, one may view to this very day Democratic operatives smugly and assuredly stating, “of course, the Democratic candidate won.” Now try thinking.
On one level, such a conclusion does make sense. The high school debate format provides home field advantage to the good-little-mean-girl. She was in her element and naturally should be expected to prevail in such a setting. Indeed if Americans valued in a president someone who could jabber jabber ad nauseam ad infinitum on every topic imaginable, then clearly she would triumph. If Americans sought a president who began the answer to every question with the word “Working” (a Star Trek reference), then she really would have been up by 50% in the polls as she thought she deserved to be. But in the real world she never was ahead by that margin. She never had an explanation of why she wasn’t beyond calling the supporters of her opponent “deplorables.”
To resolve this conundrum, think back to the first and most famous televised presidential debate, the 1960 election. Who won that debate? If you asked someone who heard the debate on the radio, then the answer was the Republican candidate. He seemed more knowledgeable and in command of the material. But on television, he did not come across so well. There he looked dark and unshaven and not like someone you would cast in the heroic role of the President in a movie.
On television, the Democratic candidate was the winner. Beyond the words spoken, there were the gestures made, the appearance of the more charismatic candidate, and the grace and charm with which he conducted himself for everyone to see…at least everyone who experienced the debate via the medium of television and not radio. He looked like someone who could be cast in the heroic role of a President. And indeed he has been whether in movies directly about him or in movies and TV shows seeking a president to partake of his vibe. In fact, a future president was said to have been inspired by him to become president himself, a claim no one seems to have made about his defeated Republican opponent who later returned to the political arena to win the presidency twice without inspiring anyone.
In other words, although only one debate was held, two perceived outcomes were possible depending on the medium through which the debate was experienced. The situation was reversed in 2016. Guess which candidate was the “radio” winner but “television” loser. The Democratic candidate triumphed in the high school debate format just as the Republican candidate had in 1960 in the radio version. But the Republican candidate trumped her performance on television just as the Democratic candidate had in 1960. In case you are somewhat confused, simultaneous with the high school debate, the television show Survivor was being broadcast as well. And on that show, the Republic candidate was the last one on the island.
Survivor is a long-running phony-baloney show of intense personal [highly edited] dramatic conflicts among carefully chosen contestants designed to evoke strong emotional feelings. In general terms, the show draws on the human legacy of the struggle to survive not against aliens, dinosaurs, or woolly mammoths but from each other. In this struggle for survival, the struggle is against the most dangerous game, other human beings. It continues a story line that appears to be almost as old as humanity.
Once upon a time back in the Paleolithic age, we were gathers who foraged for our food. Then we became scavengers feasting off the misery of others much like ambulance chasers today. Then by some process we became hunters in our own right and began taking the life of others. Cue the opening to 2001 A Space Odyssey. Over time we would learn the ways of domestification. We would domesticate animals. We would domesticate plants. We would domesticate metals. We would domesticate ourselves. But everything we once were back in the paleeolithic era is still part of who we are today. Cue Lord of the Flies. The appeal of the vibrant physical presence remains strong. Cue Thor and Wonder Woman. Many Americans still want a President who has the right stuff to go into the arena and prevail even if it is only in a professional wrestling arena and not the real world. We want someone who will keep us safe. During the campaign, a 12 year-old girl asked the future predator in chief:
I’m scared–what are you going to do to protect this country?
The reply was “You’re not going to be sacred anymore. They’re going to be sacred.”
Now imagine the answer his opponent would have given. How many talking points would she have mentioned instead? Who would even have asked her that in the first place?
During the high school debate while one candidate jabber jabbered, the other candidate was unleashed. He did not remain bound to his lecturn. He did not remain a prisoner of the rules of debate. Instead he roamed the arena stalking his prey. A known predator who felt and feels free to grab females whenever and wherever he chooses [and get away with it because he is a celebrity] was now stalking his newest victim. A physically-larger person was circling the smaller victim. What would she do?
It wasn’t as if she didn’t know she was being stalked by a known predator. She knew she was and she knew she had a decision to make. She was now in the arena. She now needed to show if she had the right stuff or not. As she later would write:
Do you stay calm, keep smiling and carry on as if he weren’t repeatedly invading your space. Or do you turn, look him in the eye, and say loudly and clearly: ‘Back up, you creep, get away from me! I know you love to intimidate women, but you can’t intimidate me, so back up.’
Perhaps she remembered when a candidate in a Senate debate had violated her space and it had reverberated to her advantage. Not this time.
As she acknowledges, she chose Option A. Now with hindsight she realizes maybe she would have been better off if she had chosen Option B. On radio, no one would have noticed the dilemma she faced. On TV, many people did. Regardless of who won the high school debate, they knew who had won the game of Survivor. When asked in an interview in 1987 whether he would rather be appointed president or run for office, he replied:
“It’s the hunt that I believe I love.”
When he stalked her, he knew what he was doing. When he prowled the arena, he knew what he was doing. When he circled around her, he knew what he was doing.
And when the going got tough, macho-macho woman caved. She loves to portray herself as fighter, to be thought of as tough (just as her opponent does as it turns out). Shortly after the debate when she became ill, she advocated defiance of a doctor’s advice and instead “powered through” even risking cracking her skull open had not the Secret Service caught her, a support service not available to ordinary Americans who defy medical advice. She’s tough. She powers through. She was a fighter who was shot at on the tarmac in Bosnia. She wanted to be a Marine. She wanted to be an Olympic athlete. She wanted to be an astronaut. But as much as she wants to be a person with the right stuff, when she was stalked in the arena by a known predator she did nothing. Live on TV for everyone to see. Democrats still don’t get it.