The Disappointing First Debate: The Best We Can Do Is Damage-Control

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Like everyone else I know, I watched the first presidential debate last night. I tuned in to “Democracy Now” (DN) to witness the contest between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. Afterwards I kept my dial set right there for the après debate discussion.

Then just this morning, I returned to DN to view debate highlights and the space host, Amy Goodman, gave to Jill Stein to answer the questions posed the night before by NBC News anchor, Lester Holt. Ms. Goodman had also invited Libertarian candidate, Gary Johnson, to participate in her two hour “Expanding the Debate” special. However, Mr. Johnson claimed he was otherwise occupied.

Despite polls that show most Americans would like their participation, both Dr. Stein and Mr. Johnson had been excluded from the previous evening’s debate by the Commission on Presidential Debates entirely controlled by the Democrat and Republican parties.

This morning I was relieved to find the Washington Post supporting my own judgment. It detailed a nearly unanimous verdict that Secretary Clinton had trounced Mr. Trump even according to conservative media outlets.

For me, the debate’s most important question addressed to both candidates was “If you happen to lose the election on November 8th, will you support your opponent as President of the United States?” Of course, both candidates answered in the affirmative.

If the question were posed to me – will I support either candidate? – my answer would be negative.

As many have pointed out, Donald Trump is entirely unqualified to be POTUS. Last night he came off like some guy you’d meet in a bar –  or your nutty uncle at Thanksgiving dinner, who after one too many, rants on in broad generalizations without any rational argument or factual support. At times he seemed completely incoherent.  He definitely generated more heat than light.

Meanwhile, Ms. Clinton had the opposite problem.  Yes, she was coherent. And yes, she had done her homework.

But she promises nothing more than continuation of the status quo. That in turn means perpetual war, more bombing, drone attacks, and regime change fueled by nostalgia for the 1990 Clinton years where “My husband did a pretty good job.”

That’s a reference to the same Bill Clinton who betrayed his working class base by ramming through what Mr. Trump correctly called the “worst trade deal in history” – the North American Free Trade Agreement. It’s the same president who sponsored the Omnibus Crime Bill that filled U.S. prisons with (largely black and Hispanic) perpetrators of victimless crimes. Mr. Clinton’s the one who gutted “Welfare as We Know It” eliminating Aid to Families with Dependent Children and replacing it with the punitive Temporary Assistance to Needy Families. The Clintons are responsible for lowering the minimum wage in Haiti from 60 cents an hour to 40 cents.

What I’m saying is that Mrs. Clinton represents a depressing continuation of the status quo that millennials and other progressives have largely repudiated.

Forgotten in all of this is the fact that the alternative to business as usual was stymied by Hillary and her minion, Debbie Wasserman Schultz. Under Shultz, the Democratic National Committee worked in concert with the Clinton campaign to discredit Bernie Sanders and, it seems, to prevent accurate vote tallies. In other words, Hillary is very likely where she is because of election fraud – one of the causes of voter apathy in relation to this Democratic candidate – and to elections in general.

With all of this in mind, I’m voting for Jill Stein, just as I did in the last election.  That’s because as a citizen of Kentucky, I’m disenfranchised by our current dysfunctional electoral system. So in my irredeemably Red State, my vote carries no weight at all, except as a protest. My protest vote then will be for the Green Party candidate.

As she showed this morning on DN and in other interviews I’ve seen, Dr. Stein is on top of issues and offers a truly progressive agenda largely ignored last night. That agenda includes:

  • A Green New Deal that amounts to a huge jobs program that will turn the tide on climate change.
  • For debt-ridden students (43 million of them), a bail-out analogous to the Bush-Obama 2008 $1.3 trillion Wall Street bail-out.
  • Tax increases on the 1% and on corporations to fund such programs.
  • The end of foreign policies whose guiding principle entails global dominance, imperialism, and regime change. (That policy, in turn, generates and feeds the problem of terrorism.)
  • Corresponding and substantial cut-backs in military spending that currently consumes nearly half of the U.S. budget.
  • Community-controlled policing with Citizen Review Boards for U.S. police departments. These boards would have investigative and subpoena power and authority to fire and hire police chiefs.
  • The establishment of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to address racism, its causes and remedies including reparations for slavery.
  • Halting the Obama $1 trillion plan to modernize the U.S. nuclear arsenal and replacing it with world-wide nuclear disarmament negotiations.
  • Dismantling nuclear power plants which with the likelihood of a 9-foot rise in sea levels by 2050 are in line to “go Fukushima” by then.

Absent the Electoral College nonsense, I’d hold my nose and vote for Hillary. But that would only be a “damage control” measure on my part. This time around we have no choice – just two highly defective corporate candidates. And Trump is clearly unqualified for Dog Catcher.

Between now and 2020, we have to work with Bernie Sanders, Jill Stein and others to implement a program with features like the ones just listed.

What do you think?

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Mike Rivage-Seul's Blog

Emeritus professor of Peace & Social Justice Studies. Liberation theologian. Activist. Former R.C. priest. Married for 40 years. Three grown children. Four grandchildren.

2 thoughts on “The Disappointing First Debate: The Best We Can Do Is Damage-Control”

    1. I think you’re right, Peter. That’s why I’m recommending “damage control.” However, a lot of very smart people I know say they’re through with the “lesser of two evils” gambit. They’re voting for Stein. I think the looming Supreme Court nominations are too important for that. We have to be patient and work with Bernie and others in the interim before the 2020 elections. Trump must be stopped at all costs.

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