Monday, 26 September 2016
9/26 - America's, and the World's, Black Monday?
Tonight at 21h00 their time (02h00 ours on the 27th) Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump face each other in 90 minutes of televised debate. This could easily be America's and the World's most dangerous moment since the Cuban Missile crisis. And it may not have such a non-climatic ending.
I happened to be in the US during the Carter- Reagan campaign in autumn, 1980. To my mind there seemed to be no doubtt that Carter would win hands down, but, as we know, Ronald Reaagan prevailed and served two terms. Part of the reason for his victory was his performance in the debates. For every reasond proposition Carter explained (albeit in somewhat ponderous detail) Reagan would turn and with a condescending sneer, say: "There you go again." (There's an example on this clip) In this case brash condescending bluster triumphed over reason.
A more recent example of a debate "going wrong " (as I see it) was that between Nick Clegg and Nigel Farage on Britain's membership of the EU in the run up to the 2014 elections for the European Parliament.
In a post before the debate I confidently predicted that Clegg would win "hands down" but the popular perception was in favour of Farage. Bash bombastic bluster triumphed over reasoned argument.
In Britain's campaign on the EU referendum earlier this year we have a similar phenomenon. Although the Remain side was itself more than a little careless with the facts and threats, the bulk of the reasoned argument was on the side of remaining. But once again brash, bombastic, and simplistic, bluster swayed more minds.
So I await with trepidation the outcome of tonight's debate. Donald Trump has so far triumphed with an absurd series of distortions and generalisations and has got away with it through absurdly self confident panache.
It is hard to see how Mrs Clinton can counter this. I pray that she does.