This election should be the clearest, easiest decision you ever make

Charles Pierce summarizes the the man exposed by his tax returns.

But he stands also exposed as a failure who was allowed to thrive because he failed at a time in which politics and government were rearranged to keep his particular genre of failure ever from being fatal. In fact, if he hadn’t run for president*—and, especially, had he not been elected president*—he likely would have floated gracefully into eternity, leaving a complex disaster for his heirs to straighten out, and remembered in history as a crude, wealthy wastrel with some interesting eccentricities. And measured only against his fellow plutocrats, posterity might have gotten away with remembering him that way. But measured against the presidency, he was what Wayne Barrett said he was in 1979: small and venal, with no ideas big enough to transcend profit, a fitting epitaph for the republic in the age of the money power.

Good stuff, but let’s never forget that he successfully tapped into a vein of national venality and rose to extraordinary power, which could happen again in November. He’s going into a national presidential debate tonight, which I’m not going to watch, because I know what he’s going to do: he’s going to mug and preen for his base, which will happily glug down the lies he vomits up, and at the end of the evening, he will have solidified his support among the American troglodentia. It’s what he does. It’s how he won (well, that and the Republican cheating and vote suppression).

Tonight, Biden has to show up strong and clear-eyed and confident, which I’m giving 50-50 odds he can do, and he’ll probably “win” the debate, in the sense that polling will show a slight increase in his support. But remember the debates with Hillary Clinton! I watched those, unfortunately, and Trump came off as a creepy bully and Clinton was definitely far more competent, and the polls all showed Clinton as the “victor”, but we all know how that turned out.

To be uncharacteristically optimistic, though, an incremental gain might be enough and is all we ought to expect. Debates aren’t a football game, although way too many people see them that way: there will not be a battle in which one side is definitively declared the winner. We’re in the final grind of the election, and shaving off a few fence-sitters here and there is the best we can do. Biden just has to come off as slightly better than Trump to a few people who are swayed to vote for him in November, and mission accomplished for the night. Don’t expect to wake up tomorrow morning to learn that Trump was like a punctured bladder flopping to the floor and immediately fading away — won’t happen. You still have to show up and vote. You still have to fight the anti-democratic strategems of the Republican party.

So get to work, throw the pig out.


  1. mathman85 says

    To be fair, the last one should have been, as well. And yet some people still won’t shut up about it.

  2. PaulBC says

    mathman85@1 I agree completely. Though i still won’t shut up about the fact that it was obvious at the time how much was at stake (Scalia’s seat, ACA, decimating the tax base as they predictably did) and people still didn’t get it.

    At this point, it’s gone from rescue to a salvage operation, but maybe something will be left of the US to repair if we act fast enough. This was all predictable and preventable. I have no idea what people were smoking, unless they still think Trump was some kind of salutary wake-up call.

  3. mathman85 says

    PaulBC @2

    That’s entirely fair, and I largely agree. I’ll admit that I really don’t like realpolitik, but first-past-the-post elections offer a de facto binary choice, and in this case, one of the choices is outrageously unacceptable in every conceivable way.

  4. says

    I’m still hoping Trump will have a massive case of diarrhea and shit himself to death on live television. I mean, probably not, but I’m hoping.

  5. says

    I’m still hoping Trump will have a massive case of diarrhea and shit himself to death on live television. I mean, probably not, but I’m hoping.

    Make debating great again!

    I’d tune in for that. Heck, I’d tune in for a stroke or heart attack.

  6. billseymour says

    I’ll watch it — civic duty and all that; but I have no quarrel with folks who see their duty in some other way. Indeed, I have no expectation of actually learning anything except how good, or bad, Biden comes off.

    In the spirit of LykeX and Marcus, one thing I’d love to see is Biden simply laughing at Trump. Maybe that would cause Trump to totally lose it. (One can hope.)

  7. daved says

    Somebody I read noted that Trump will not have a live crowd to play to, which will (we may hope) put him off his game.

  8. kome says

    It’d be interesting to see how well it plays this time around if Biden acts as he did in his VP debates against Sarah Palin or what’s-his-face from the 2012 cycle. If either of those Bidens show up, that’d probably move a fair number of people off the fence in his favor. I don’t know if he’s capable of that anymore, it has been quite a few years since either of those.

  9. xdrta says

    When Trump goes after Biden about the son, Hunter, Biden needs to point out that “at least he paid taxes on that income.”

  10. Akira MacKenzie says

    Already taken care of. I got my ballot two weeks ago. I immediately filled it out–I voted Dem right down the ballot, even writing in my own name for local seats where only Republicans were running for what little good that will do–and had it witnessed. I took it right down to my local Post Office, gave it to the representative, and watched her postmark the envelope. A week later, I checked with the City Clerk to make sure that the ballot was received. It was.

    Now all I have to do is sit and VERY anxiously wait. To quote Lloyd Bridges, “Looks like I picked the wrong week to quit drinking.”

  11. PaulBC says

    @10 In this case, the wrong year. Fortunately, I didn’t quit and have been “self-medicating” a little more since March. (Pretty moderate still, and counterbalanced by the lack of happy hours at work, but maybe I will taper off if the shitshow ever lets up.)

  12. shagnaski says

    Nonsense. The 2016 election was the clearest, easiest decision rational people could make, and the nation blew it in favor of unadulterated bullshit writ large and proudly.

  13. garnetstar says

    I’ve read that some Trump officials are worried that Trump has set himself up for a debate failure in yet another way: he’s been pounding on, to his alternate-reality voters, that Biden is actually demented and not capable of stringing two sentences together.

    So, in fact, the officials are worried that if Biden just manages to stand there and appear sane and marginally coherent, Trump will “lose” the debate. And, Trump has so harped on Biden’s mental incapacity that that perception will be wholly his fault.

    They shouldn’t worry, though: yes, Trump will look even more mendacious because of the above, but the “debate” isn’t going to change anyone’s minds, or anything else.

    I’m not watching. I can’t take the full flood of rambling, shouted lies all at once. I’ll just watch any interesting snippets, like when Biden mentions Trump’s tax returns, later. And, one of Trump’s top goons has already announced that this will be the only debate, that they’re cancelleing the other two. Fine with me, they’re useless.

  14. lotharloo says

    I am actually very worried for Biden. It seems to me that he has more to lose. Even normal gaffes will be taken as if he is already too far gone and demented. I wish he could constantly pound Trump on his corruption and taxes.

  15. garnetstar says

    And then, re the national venality: ever since Ronald “Greed is good” Reagan, it’s been an encouraged, accepted attitude in the citizenry. In order for the party who was encouraging it in the populace could safely indulge their own.

  16. JustaTech says

    I won’t listen to the debate because Trump’s voice makes my skin crawl (similar to my visceral reaction to the main character in House of Cards), but I might try to watch with closed captioning (or read a transcript later).

    Or I’ll write a dozen Postcards to Voters and try to be a force for good.

  17. PaulBC says

    @17 I read live blogs on these debates if I have time. At 538 for instance. I don’t even turn on the radio in the car anymore lest I have to listen to that poor excuse for a human being.

  18. unclefrogy says

    not having much of a studio audience while it will impede his playing to the crowd do not forget he has TV experience and he has a character he knows how to play for the camera.
    The best thing I would hope he does besides dropping dead on the stage is to flip out which laughing at him or really hitting a soft spot with a substantial challenge to his truth and image may do
    I do not know if I can hold my breath until november
    uncle frogy

  19. PaulBC says

    @19 I am not sure it will help. In Trump America, even the film A Few Good Men has a new ending.

    RANDOLPJ: He’s right. You guys really can’t handle the truth. The court will be awaiting your apology to Col. Jessep. [Gavel slams, roll credits.]

  20. chesapeake says

    I think Trump’s functioning has deteriorated in recent years- he is less focused, more volatile, lies more- and may therefore do less well than he did against Clinton. We can only hope.

  21. PaulBC says

    @21 No question, and he wasn’t exactly in his prime in 2016. In the 1980s, he could play the well-coiffed sophisticate and “deal maker” even if it was already a joke to anyone close enough to observe him. Today he’s no more coherent than Archie Bunker. But that still might not work to his disadvantage. I have given up trying to predict.

  22. birgerjohansson says

    Lotharloo @ 15 Biden really has more to lose, and with the stakes this high- higher than any other presidential election – it is irresponsible by the campaign managers to let it happen. But this is run by the same mainstream geniuses that ran the campaign for Hillary, so…..

  23. magistramarla says

    Just finished slogging through all of the information on all of the California propositions to vote on.
    Our voters’ guides with sample ballots arrived today, so I’ve marked mine up so that I can explain them to my husband this weekend, when he isn’t busy working from home.
    Our actual ballots should arrive on Oct. 5, or soon thereafter. We will be quick to mark those ballots and take them to the nearest drop box.
    This is our first major election to vote in here in California. Understanding those propositions is quite a job!

  24. PaulBC says


    Understanding those propositions is quite a job!

    Indeed. It makes me wonder what we are paying state legislators to do. Aren’t they the ones who are supposed to be voting on what gets made law?

  25. says

    Biden is trying pretty hard not to get elected, Bernie is trying pretty hard to get him elected and Trump is doing amazing job, like no one ever before to scare people into electing Biden.

    I fully understand all people who just want to “ok boomer” the election. “Harris administration with Biden as a president” is definitely among worst pairings possible out of democratic primaries, run solely on the scam of being “electable” so temptation to flip the bird to DNC is overwhelming.

    However when Trump won in ’16 there could be hope that either people get radicalized or DNC will understand they need to run a decent candidate. Now we know, that Trump just lowered the bar to what is acceptable to the level of Biden and scare the shit out of the people enough they voted for whoever was touted by cable news as electable, even though he is against everything that majority of democratic voters stand for (except $15 minimum wage, but Biden rarely mentions it).
    Bernie rose to prominency because Obama administration sucked. So the best hope for now is to have another bad but dull Dems in power (instead of evil and terrifying Trump).

    TL;DR vote Biden because he sucks.

  26. AlanMac says

    Look at how many American heroes were actually outlaws and straight-up gangsters. That why Trump was elected. And that is why he still has such huge support.

  27. PaulBC says


    However when Trump won in ’16 there could be hope that either people get radicalized or DNC will understand they need to run a decent candidate.

    Not from me. I think the appropriate reaction on the morning of November 9, 2016 was “Stick a fork in it. It’s done.” As in the United States of America.

    Nearly every “hope” since then has been thoroughly crazy. I don’t know how many people were expecting a people’s uprising, but I read my share of “liberal” columns that seemed to be begging for something like a military coup to take down Trump. That would have been lovely, huh?

    No, there was no silver lining here. Today we are just working on a daily basis to delay the complete failure of the US system of government. (I would rather be proved wrong than get a chance to say “I told you so.” but let’s see how it goes.)