Dan Rattiner's Stories

Debate Diary: One Man’s Experience Watching Hillary and the Donald

Mark Green and his wife, Deni Frand, invited about 40 people, including us, to watch the first Hillary vs. Trump debate at their loft in New York City last Monday. They set out a big table of food, provided drinks from a bar and had lots of sofas, cushions and chairs to sit on in their grand living room for the occasion.

“A show of hands,” Mark said before we began. “We can watch it on CNN or we can watch it on NBC. Who wants CNN?”

No hands went up.

“Who wants NBC?”

All 40 hands shot up.

I do not know what to make of that. Anyway, the debate chugged along with this huge audience, all of whom, as near as I could tell, were Democrats, if you were to count the cheers when Hillary made a point and the boos when Trump made a point.

I’m a Hillary fan. So it seemed I was in the right place. Either Hillary would win the debate and we’d all congratulate one another, or Trump would win and we would all commiserate with one another. This was better than experiencing it all alone.

The fear was that Hillary would break down in a puddle of tears or Trump would get all flummoxed, confused, and then angry enough to throw things or walk out.

The Trump flummoxed thing happened, and it was all helped by some bad things happening to him, which consisted of a bad makeup job on him (which made him look old) and a good makeup job on her (which made her look young) and also a microphone difference. Everything Hillary said was amplified in a pleasing way. Everything Trump said was accompanied by his loud inhaling or sniffing, which either indicated microphone sabotage, as in “it’s rigged,” or he has a cold and sniffs or he’s been snorting something backstage. Couldn’t tell which. It was also true that Hillary smiled nearly the whole time, while Trump frowned a lot and looked puzzled a lot.

As far as content was concerned during the debate, Hillary was full of facts and figures and seemed right on the money about what she intends to do about everything (if you can believe her), while Trump kept saying this was broken and that was broken and you’ve had all this time and why haven’t you fixed it—and then when asked what he’d do would simply repeat how bad it was over and over.

This I thought was particularly bad for Hillary, because at this party (not a political party, but a birds of a Democratic feather party) a Boston newspaper editor commented to me that this reminded him of a long-ago debate at which Michael Dukakis, running for governor of Massachusetts, had all the facts right, but his opponent, Edward King, who just repeated his mantra over and over about what was wrong in the state. King, in the end, won the election.

Indeed, after this evening of Democratic exuberance and joy was over, I went online to look up who people thought had won. There were both minor and major media outfits doing this—CNN, Drudge, Breitbart, the Hill, etc.—and all you had to do was press one button for Trump and another button for Hillary and then you’d see how the voting was going. And in almost every case, Trump was leading and pulling away. How could this possibly be?

I began to doubt my own judgment. Hadn’t everybody seen what happened? Apparently not. And if apparently not, then it was me who hadn’t seen what happened.

Am I that out of touch?

The next morning, I found out. In the media, Trump and several other supporters happily announced that he’d won the debate by a wide margin with those who voted right after seeing it. However, turns out that Trump had his people go online right after the event and ask all his supporters to vote in these polls. Groups of internet trolls got around the rules of many of these online polls to manipulate the votes in Trump’s favor.

He’d used every means necessary—including, I suddenly realized, the actual polling sites where I had registered my Hillary votes. In scrolling down on these sites, I noticed that every few scrolls there was a square ad you had to scroll over to continue, which featured a smiling picture of Donald Trump with the words TRUMP WINS. I thought, after casting my vote for the loser, that this meant that Trump had won or, so far, was winning. What I had not seen, so eager was I to vote, was the little rectangular button below WINS, which read JOIN IN. Click that and it did indeed show results that had Trump winning. There was even a report of a group putting up a fake pro-Trump poll that looked like an official ABC poll.

Imagine that—the polls are rigged so that afterwards he can say he won. It’s like a high school prank.

No one has denied that Mr. Trump often exhibits adolescent behavior. No one denies that he is fairly clueless in the ways of politics, international relations and tact. His great strength is in his ability to negotiate, take action, be charming, be fearless and be somebody other than those who have gotten us into what he perceives is a mess.

And there is something to this. If you look at what has happened since 2000 (eight Republican Years and eight Democrat Years), you see floods, droughts, assassinations, people chopping off each other’s heads, climate change, recession, terror in public places, prejudice, refugees, guns, an inability of the government to act, an immigration policy featuring “just come on in,” radical Islam, student loans, a drug epidemic and did I leave anything out?

Yes, the decline of education, and the rise of online X-rated sex and games and movies where everybody blows everything up using CGI. Also, a crumbling infrastructure and the ability, with your smartphone camera, to see and capture every bad thing that’s ever happened in the moment it happened. And lousy salaries for the American worker.

Trump is excellent at pointing these things out, blaming them on everybody else but having no sensible plan to do anything about them himself. Since he has had ample time to develop a plan on what to do about any of this, one can assume that he’s of the opinion that he will know what to do when he gets there—and that’s a terrible risk, and it could be extremely dangerous.

So that was one side of the debate.

There really was no other side. There was simply a whole other debate. The Hillary Clinton debate. She expresses wit, knowledge, humor, lots of experience, plans and solutions, and she made a mistake with her e-mail. Big deal.

I’m voting for Hillary. But then we have the second and third debates coming. As Trump would say, what great entertainment. I’m filling the house.

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