In an unprecedented statement in the 240 years of successful succession of power in this country, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump refused to commit to accepting the results of the Nov. 8th American election. It was the highlight (lowlight?) of the third debate between Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton who trounced the businessman in nearly every aspect of the forum. A CNN/ORC poll taken after the debate has Clinton winning it by 13 points.
Immediately after Trump shocked viewers with his lack of commitment to concede if he loses, his campaign manager Kellyanne Conway went on CNN and said Trump would abide by the results (just as she had said earlier in the day on MSNBC). It’s nothing short of maddening. Who do we believe? Trump who made his position crystal clear or Conway and VP nominee Mike Pence who say the direct opposite?
Trump seemed to have it together in the first 30 minutes or so. Then the wheels came off. While Clinton was composed, clearly prepared and well, presidential, Trump was a mess, attacking everyone and everything. His misstatements (lies?) were overwhelming, none worse than his effusive praise for Russia and Vladimir Putin. This despite US intelligence that has concluded Russia is trying to influence the election with its systematic hacking of Democratic groups.
Another short but very telling moment came when Trump showed his true colors about his opinion of Clinton. He had to spend some time attacking as frauds the none women who have come forward and accused him of sexual aggression. “No one has more respect for women than I do,” he said. Later in the debate, a frustrated Trump interjected by calling Clinton, “Such a nasty woman.” Brilliant.
Trump also launched a popular new hashtag by saying we have some “bad hombres” that are on the country and that he’ll “get them.” It’s as if Trump has become a caricature of himself.
But the refusal to say if he will accept the election’s results overshadowed the entire forum. Clinton summed it up effectively. “That is not the way our democracy works,” Clinton said. “We’ve been around for 240 years. We have had free and fair elections. We’ve accepted the outcomes when we may not have liked them. And that is what is expected of anyone standing on a debate stage during a general election.” Indeed.
The bottom line is that the debate likely won’t change anyone’s mind. Trump supporters will stick with him even if he did shoot someone in the middle of 5th avenue as he claimed during the primary process. He needed to not just throw red meat to his base but expand that base so he can climb above 40 percent. He failed to do that.