A Performance for the Ages

A Performance for the Ages


Gilbert N. Kahn is a professor of Political Science at Kean University.

During the Tuesday night debate President Donald Trump did nothing different than what he has done since he entered the race for president in 2015; he attacked and demeaned democracy and democratic institutions. The President’s behavior was just another attack by the President against another American institution which he sought to deface and degrade. He made a mockery of the system, engaged in grotesque ad hominem attacks against former President Vice-President and Fox News moderator Chris Wallace, and made a mockery of the entire election process. This is without even considering his unwillingness to disassociate himself from White Supremacists or to agree to accept the results of the election as tallied by the independent ballot counters.

This debate gave most of the American public which was reported to be over 70 million viewers almost no opportunity to examine or contrast the two candidates’ differing views on the issues. What they witnessed was a President shouting and interrupting both Biden and Wallace, disobeying all the debate’s ground rules, and using the debate as his own reality show. Reports suggest that they were many viewers who shut off the “show” in disgust within fifteen minutes or who persevered merely out of habit or hope that civility would reign.

To be clear, Trump did succeed to a certain extent to rock Biden. While he may have used a few inappropriate words against the President, Biden, however, never lost his composure. Biden tried to stay on point and not take most of Trump’s baiting. Overall, his performance was not faultless, but unlike the President, he appeared presidential and appropriate for a debate.

Clearly Donald Trump is running scared and knows that as of today he is likely to lose the presidential election, perhaps even by a Biden landslide. The Republican Party whose banner he is carrying appears to be poised—especially given his inept and polarizing campaign—to lose even the Senate as well as the House. The implicit prospect as well as the explicit suggestion once again that he would be prepared to reject the results on Election Day was frightening, especially as there appear to be no sober voices within his own party who are ready to demand that he absolutely cease suggesting that he will overturn the will of the voters should he lose the election.

The scenarios are all out there as to what types of disruption Trump might seek to generate. He will seek to invalidate votes, suppress votes, challenge votes, dismiss mail-in ballots, and attack election laws.  It is being suggested that Trump will declare victory, try to have electoral college electors designated before all the ballots are tabulated, and litigate every result which does not turn in his favor. Trump reportedly intends to engineer a way for the vote in the Electoral College to end without a winner, throwing the election into the House of Representatives, where the Republican are expected to control a majority of state delegations; each state casting only one vote per state when the House sits to select a President.

The saddest state of affairs is not only the arrogant, narcissistic, lawless President himself but also the pathetic behavior of the Republican Party. It is totally unbelievable that there is nary a voice among Republican political leaders who have stood up to Trump. The Republican Party ultimately will have to carry the burden of Trump’s carnage. In 2020 there is no Senator Barry Goldwater who appears prepared to go to President Trump—as Goldwater did to President Nixon in 1974—and tell him that the game is over.

The scariest thought, however, is that while early voting and mail-in voting has begun in some states, there are still five weeks until Election Day. No one doubts for a second that Trump’s malevolent imagination is capable of grabbing on all dangerous strategies and tactics available to him to bring in the American voters before November 3.

As Alfred E. Newman would have said: “What–Me Worry?”

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