The first debate: Trump sabotages himself

1. Elections matter. The two major parties in the U.S. are close to each other on issues. And yet there are very important differences. Had Gore been elected instead of Bush, Iraq war would have never happened. The incredibly wasteful tax cut would have never happened. And a concerted effort to combat climate change would have happened. These are enormous differences.

2. Too much TV watching makes you think that the world is going to hell. In fact the opposite is true. The world has never been as rich, as peaceful and as equal as it is today. And the trend is up. But you can mess it up, short-term. That’s what happened when the Americans elected “authentic” Bush over “nerdy” Gore. They can do it again, by electing “authentic” Trump over “nerdy” Hillary.

3. The U.S. presidential election is the ultimate reality show. The first nominee debate is the peak moment of that reality show, the ultimate showdown. And this was the most exciting such encounter ever. Most watched one too. Both candidates were under incredible pressure. But Hillary being the favourite, the pressure on her was simply immense.

4. Hillary is a flawed politician, but her performance in this debate was beyond excellent. She appeared calm and steely. Despite Trump interrupting her ceaselessly, she never lost her cool. He, on the other hand, got more and more flustered and angry, bordering on incoherent by the end of the debate. Every detail in the way she acted was immaculate, from her clothes to her body language to her laughter to the substance of what she said. She was the Sun and he was the Moon. She projected strength and appeared Presidential. Considering what pressure she was under, this is ridiculously difficult. And for all that, she appeared to be having fun.

5. Trump lost the debate. We know he didn’t prepare properly and this is what happens when you don’t prepare. I wrote that he doesn’t want to win. In truth, he’s probably torn. The presidency is too big of a prize not to want it once it’s in your sights. But it’s hard work, and I very much doubt he seriously wants to do this hard work. When you’re ambiguous like that, you sabotage yourself. His behaviour fits this pattern.

6. People are irrational creatures. We act based on emotion and then we rationalise our behaviour using reason. That’s why in “id” versus “intellect” elections, “id” often overperforms. It’s clear that Trump is the “id” and Clinton represents “intellect”. But in this debate, in addition to being obviously more competent, Hillary projected leadership and strength. She looked the winner. Whereas Trump, with his angry interruptions and petulant sighs, looked unhappy and weak. This is the type of mental picture that will diminish Trump’s “id” advantage.

7. Who will win? Last time (on 3 August 2016) I said that Clinton had the advantage, but Trump may still win “accidentally”. I stick to that view.