In the second debate, Trump said he’s above the law
Photo: Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump listens to Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton during the second presidential debate at Washington University in St. Louis, Oct. 9. Patrick Semansky |

After thinking for a full day about Sunday night’s debate between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, I have two takeaways that differ from those headlined in the media:

I agree with the commentators who say that the “hot mic” tape and his performance in the debate demonstrate that Trump is a misogynist, a bully and a bigot. But in addition I believe he has shown he is convinced he is above ordinary norms, laws and ethics.

My second take away after rumination is something the press failed to mention. For the first time in a while this year, Sunday night Clinton listed some of her specific accomplishments during more than 30 years in public service. I wish she’d do this more frequently. Even her ads don’t portray her qualifications to be president; they point out that Trump is unfit to serve.

Despite this, polls show Clinton will win because more and more voters have finally seen through Trump, but I think she can do more to reassure the nation that she’ll be an effective president.

Although she took Trump on regarding the unfair advantages the wealthy have under the tax code, she is running on the most progressive platform the Democratic Party has ever had. It would have been good to see her answer more of Trump’s “low road” tactics by turning attention to some of the programs she supports including raising the minimum wage, creating good non-exportable infrastructure jobs and liberating students and their families from the slavery of college debt. Granted, it can be difficult to stay on these messages, however, when faced with the unprecedented “low road” tactics of a Donald Trump.

“I and I alone.”

Most observers just snickered when Trump said in his acceptance speech “I and I alone can fix” the system. They figured he was just being megalomaniacal.

The observers were right about Trump’s megalomania, but did not realize that Trump believes a person such as himself has prerogatives most people do not.

For example, on the audio tape released this past weekend, he said, in effect, that he was “allowed” to assault women for his own pleasure because he’s a “celebrity.” On another recently released tape, he bragged that because he owned the Miss Universe beauty pageant, he had a right to ogle the contestants while they were undressed.

Furthermore, during the debate Sunday night he said almost explicitly that he is entitled to duck paying federal taxes because “I understand the tax code better than anybody.” Furthermore, he seems to think it’s right and proper, as part of his presidential platform, to propose a tax code written to benefit himself.

Moreover, commentators estimate that Trump lied about 80 percent of the time during the hour and a half debate, a practice he justifies in his book The Art of the Deal. In effect, he says that superior negotiators such as himself can and should use “hyperbole” to achieve their ends.

Most frightening, Trump said Sunday night that he would use his power as President to jail his opponent, Hillary Clinton. He previously said he would use presidential power to “investigate” the judge presiding over the Trump University fraud case.

Never mind that using the power of the presidency in this way is completely illegal. Trump seems to believe that because he’s Trump, if he gets elected, he has the right to use his power to serve himself.

More than 30 years of public service

On the other hand, Hillary Clinton understands both the strengths and limits of presidential power, how it works and how to exercise it.

“When I was First Lady,” she said, “I worked with Democrats and Republicans to create the children’s health insurance program. Hundreds of thousands of kids now have a chance to be adopted because I worked to change our adoption and foster care system.”

She also practiced using the tools of the presidency as head of the presidential Task Force on National Health Care Reform and drew up a system that was commonly called HillaryCare.

According to a recent CNN special, The Essential Hillary, she was the first First Lady to have an office in the West Wing of the White House, near the Oval Office. Staff members recalled she became a “senior advisor” to the President on just about every policy issue.

Later, she traveled to 82 nations including a trip to Beijuing, China where she attended the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing. Her speech became to the Women’s Rights Movement what Martin Luther King’s I Have a Dream speech was to the Civil Rights Movement.

“Women’s rights are human rights,” she said, “and human rights are women’s rights once and for all.”

In Arkansas Hillary Clinton ran the statewide effort to improve and expand the state’s educational system. She also worked hard in Arkansas to kill the final vestiges of segregation there.

Building a Movement

While Hillary Clinton was serving in government, Donald Trump was serving himself.

He gets indignant when he perceives he’s getting anything less than the obeisance he feels he deserves. He’s used to getting his way and seems not to have developed adult skills for handling situations where he does not.

During the Sunday debate, for example, he felt the moderators were cutting him off too soon and questioning him too much. They were treating him and Clinton exactly alike, but Trump whined like an eight-year-old in a school yard that “it’s three against one;” not fair.

When confronted with spreading lies about President Obama’s citizenship, he countered like any child caught throwing toys around with a sibling: “She started it first.”

He also stalked Clinton around the stage menacingly, as if trying to show how much “stronger” than her he is, and as if he could not tolerate being off camera for even a minute.

With more and more people from across the political spectrum expressing disgust and dismay toward Trump, in the last few days, Clinton has soared 14 points ahead of hiam in head to head polls.

At the same time, across the nation there are organizations and movements being built that have been inspired by the platform of the Democratic Party; the platform Clinton has embraced.

Most important, there are efforts being led by unions to organize among workers who are being misled by Trump.

The Democratic Party platform calls for the protection and promotion of the rights of working people, minorities and immigrants and the preservation of a woman’s right to choose. It demands that climate change be addressed and supports the fight for what Hillary Clinton says is her main goal: “creating an economy that works for all, not just those at the top.”

Trump is one of those at the top.

Those involved in the new movements know that if Trump is elected he will work to destroy them.

If Clinton is elected, she will, in large measure, owe that election to labor and the many progressive movements that are supporting her. Her election will allow those movements space to grow and to continue to push for their agendas. She will, undoubtedly, also receive pressure from her Wall Street backers to pursue their interests. It is clear, however that if Trump were elected he would answer only to the top one percent.

During Sunday night’s debate and the one two weeks ago, while deflecting Trump’s mysoginistic insults, Clinton re-affirmed her commitment to the Democratic Party platform.

If the unions, progressives and advocates for people’s rights continue to build the new movements, they could help ensure that a President Hillary Clinton will stay faithful to the platform of candidate Clinton’s campaign.



Larry Rubin
Larry Rubin

Larry Rubin has been a union organizer, a speechwriter and an editor of union publications. He was a civil rights organizer in the Deep South and is often invited to speak on applying Movement lessons to today's challenges. He has produced several folk music shows.