Tuesday 29th September saw the first debate of the 2020 election cycle and boy was it a spectacle. The debate can be described as nothing other than a disgrace. It is always worth remembering, though it should go without saying, that the American people are the real losers here.
As expected, Trump came out the blocks all guns blazing, keen to get on the front foot and destabilize the often confused looking Joe Biden. True to form, Trump heckled, bullied and lied, continuously interrupting Biden who clearly needed his rhythm after struggling early on with the quick pace Make no mistake about it, Biden’s performance was not pretty either, but somehow despite the torrent of disruption Biden may have just about held onto his message.
One of the key sticking points of the debate was Trump’s tax payments, or lack thereof. The New York Times revealed just two days before the debate that Trump had paid a measly $750 in Federal income tax in 2016 and 2017. I didn’t think my jaw could drop any lower. Sniffing an opportunity to ramp up the pressure, Biden disclosed his tax for 2019 prior to the debate.
But with Trump paying almost a 10th of the tax that an average high school teacher pays, I, like many others, was sure that this latest revelation would leave Trump with nowhere to run when it came to debate night.
Sadly, of course, I was wrong – Trump did what Trump does. He lied his way out of the corner. Again and again he asserted that he had in fact paid “Millions of dollars in income taxes” before something interesting happened. He told the truth.
“I don’t want to pay tax…like every other private person, unless they’re stupid, they go through the laws and that’s what it is” Donald J. Trump 45th President of the United States
When you actually take a moment to pause and reflect on this, it truly is quite astonishing that the President can openly be so immoral and full of hubris. However, I’m sure you would all be quick to remind me that this is nothing new with Donald J. Trump. Trump gets away with it all because he is a product of his environment. A product of thousands and thousands of factors brought Trump to be; nothing that he did himself.
This unique rise to power gave birth to Trump’s most distinctive quality: that he can say/do almost entirely as he likes with virtually zero repercussions. Trump even acknowledged this himself when he recognised that he could “stand in the middle of 5th avenue and shoot somebody” and “not lose any voters”.
This was all well and good when things were going well for Trump, but his handling of his own altercation with Covid seems to have been some sort of inflexion point; I say with cautious optimism. Any ‘strongman’ leader getting Corona virus was always going to pose the obvious problem of being incapacitated by something which they claim to be so above. So, with the polls falling following his debate Trump, panicking, reverted to his traditional playbook and doubled down.
Returning to the Whitehouse on Monday Trump, looked out from the Truman balcony, tried to catch his breath and then took of his mask. A classic Trumpian move. Contradict, confuse and dismay. With himself gasping for breath, his inner-circle ridden with Covid and 210,000 Americans dead, he succeeded in doing all three.
With Biden leading in the polls, now more than ever Trump needs to shake things up. Especially as Biden has a strong lead in key swing-states, including Michigan and Wisconsin, which Trump one by a razor 4 years ago. But now what was once Trump’s greatest asset, immunity from reality, has left him isolated from the electorate and unable steer himself of his collision course.
Image Credits: Gage Skidmore via Flickr