Last night was not a presidential debate. It was a call to arms.


First published in September 2020.


The President of the United States when asked to condemn white supremacy instead looked into the camera and told the Proud Boys, to “stand back and stand by.” Seemed pretty clear to me that when you tell a (mostly) white, male-only organization that was formed to engage in political violence to “stand by,” Donald J. Trump is telling them to get ready for election night and do what you do.

Trump likely cannot win this election without suppressing the vote. And if that doesn’t work, he is promising violence.

Let’s quit pussyfooting around with Trump. If he doesn’t win, he will watch as his most right-wing supporters, from the Proud Boys to the KKK, start violence. Don’t believe me? Watch what happens.

I hope I’m wrong but every signal Trump has given during his time as President is to oppose and fight his opponents. And believe might makes right. Even before his presidency he was a racist. He remains so.

The instruction got through because the Proud Boys chairman, Enrique Tarrio, said after the debate: “That’s basically what we did in (Portland). We stood back, stood by.”

Need anything clearer? Portland was besieged by protests and/or rioting for 100 days.

One question I had after the debate: If Trump lies about everything, which he does, then why couldn’t he lie about condemning white supremacists? An easy enough lie, seems to me. He’s refused to condemn white supremacists every time he’s been asked for years. Every Time.

Who won? No one. Not Trump. Not Biden. Not the American people. And not the United States of America which is now further portrayed internationally as a country on the decline.

Seconds after the debate ended CNN’s Dana Bash, as articulate a TV person as there is, said, “That was a shit show.” Mic drop.

Trump was rude, boorish, lied, acted like a mob boss/bully. Didn’t play by any rules agreed to by his campaign.

Former Vice President Joe Biden wasn’t a paragon of virtue either but he was far less intrusive and loud than Trump. Far less. He told the President to “shush,” called him a “clown,” told him to stop “yapping.” Not exactly what we know as presidential language.

But Trump set the bar so low for Biden, claiming he is addled, dumb, old and on drugs, that Biden came out just fine. If anyone can come out fine from last night.

Trump’s strategy seemed to be: break glass and cut my opponent. Whatever Biden’s strategy going into the debate, during the debate he decided he just had to look sane. And he did. As I said, low bar.

Clearly one of Trump’s aims is to fog the election enough to do what he’s done for years after his failures: cry foul and, and go to court.

Former Republican National Chairman and chief of staff to Trump Reince Priebus was on TV this morning and said it out loud: low turnout helps Trump. He didn’t even pretend to be a diplomat and say what normal people would say about an election: Please vote. Everyone. May the best person win.

So there you go. That’s the Trump campaign strategy: Keep turnout low and challenge every vote you can. So far in the mail-in voting far more Democrats have voted than Republicans, data show. That’s gotta worry Republicans, not just at the presidential level, but down ticket.

Violence may be Trump’s backup plan but when you tell the Proud Boys – created four years ago to foment political violence – to “stand ready” you likely will get violence even if you didn’t want it. Clearly, though, the President wants it.

Prominent Proud Boys posting after Donald Trump addressing them. | Parler

Face it. He will not only not go quietly into that good night, he will break every norm in sight. And do far worse damage to this country.

One of Biden’s best lines of the night, if anyone could hear it over the President’s bullying and shouting, was “It is what it is because you are who you are.” That covers just about everything Trump does.

But the most chilling quote of the night belonged to Trump. He said, “No, this is not going to end well.”

Can he be any clearer?🔷



B. Jay Cooper, Former deputy White House press secretary to Presidents Reagan and George H.W. Bush.


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[This piece was originally published in The Screaming Moderate and re-published in PMP Magazine on 30 September 2020, with the author’s consent. | The author writes in a personal capacity.]

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(Cover: Screenshot from the presidential debate on PBS.)

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