The first general election debate will be held tonight. The contest between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton is stubbornly close with the two candidates polling neck and neck, according to today’s national averages reported by RealClearPolitics. Tonight, neither candidate will win, but it is difficult to see how Donald Trump can lose. His strategy is simple: help Clinton be a loser. Hillary Clinton, however, has an opportunity to do the unexpected: to distinguish herself by not cooperating with Donald Trump’s strategy and taking the wind (mostly hot air) out of his sails.
To be clear, the next chapter endorses Hillary Clinton. TNC has summarized the positions of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump on six issues. The contrast is stark. TNC sides with Clinton on all six issues and disagrees with Trump on all six. But many voters–maybe a majority–do not care so much about “issues.” If Hillary Clinton spends most of her debate time on “issues,” she will have squandered her opportunity to show voters the person she is–instead of confirming Donald Trump’s characterization of her.
Hillary Clinton, in an address to the Laborers’ International Union of North America last week, asked: “Why aren’t I 50 points ahead?” It seems she cannot help herself. Her vulnerability is political tone-deafness. Either she is not being given good advice from those who are in a position to influence her, or she is not listening to the good advice she is given. To help her escape from the quagmire, TNC will offer its own advice, for free.
She must be prepared for the “basket of deplorables” question that is bound to come up in the debate tonight. It is likely that she will be asked if she wants to apologize for saying, at a fundraiser last Friday, “you can put half of Trump supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables.” On Saturday, her walk-back of her “grossly generalistic” statement was…well, deplorable: “I regret saying ‘half’ — that was wrong.” What should she have said? Only forty-seven percent belong in the basket? Or maybe just ten percent? How many of those–again in her words–are “irredeemable” and “not America?”
No, she needs to own her original statements and give an unequivocal apology. If she would be president, she must be president of the whole country. She seems to believe in an inclusive America when it comes to immigrants, gays and Muslims. The principle of inclusiveness must also apply to those who disagree with her and to those whose ideas she finds deplorable. Let divisiveness and name-calling be Donald Trump’s tactics. A leader must be prepared to accept the goodness and humanity of all people–including members of Congress who may hold violently opposing ideas.
Hillary Clinton could completely flummox Donald Trump tonight by expressing acceptance of him and of all of his supporters. If she will not take TNC’s advice, perhaps she might heed the words in Matthew: “But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.”