The Slatest

Today’s Trump Apocalypse Watch: Something Debate Prep Can’t Fix

Donald Trump looks on during the Presidential Debate at Hofstra University on September 26, 2016 in Hempstead, New York.

Drew Angerer/Getty Images

The Trump Apocalypse Watch is a subjective daily estimate, using a scale of one to four horsemen, of how likely it is that Donald Trump will be elected president, thus triggering an apocalypse in which we all die.

The last time I was left alone in the watchtower, I was a wee bit jumpy. It was two weeks ago, and the authoritarian antichrist was inching ever closer to Hillary Clinton in the polls and a race that once looked to be a laugher had turned frighteningly serious. And so I did what watchmen do: I sounded the alarm. And today? Today, I’m just enjoying the view.

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A quick refresher on what we’ve seen this week. On Monday, Trump unraveled during a primetime debate that was watched by more people than tuned in for the season finale of Seinfeld. On Tuesday, he and his team wasted valuable time complaining about his microphone and the moderator (while also feuding with a former Miss Universe over her weight), which allowed the Trump bombed narrative to cement itself even further. And then on Wednesday, the world learned that the reason the GOP nominee appeared so unprepared on Monday was because he apparently failed to pay attention during his Roger Ailes-led study sessions. And there was also this: Trump’s aides are suggesting they aren’t even sure they can convince their candidate to commit to taking his prep seriously before the second debate because there’s a non-zero chance that Trump thinks he actually performed well at the first one. So, yeah, the sun is shining, the horizon almost inviting.

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For the sake of argument, though, let’s entertain for a moment the idea that Trump will hit the books and then at the second debate display the kind of discipline and clarity that he has failed to display in any meaningful way at any point in a campaign that has now lasted more than a year. What then? Well, as Adam Gopnik pointed out in the New Yorker, that wouldn’t come close to solving Trump’s actual problem, which isn’t the delivery of his ideas but his very ideas themselves. Take Trump’s absurd answer Monday to questions about his birther cheerleading, which Gopnik helpfully unpacks like so:

Talking, again, about President Obama’s birth certificate, he displayed not only the usual pathological inability to admit to an error—any error, ever—but an underlying racism so pervasive that it can’t help express itself even when trying to pass as something else. …

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[T]his was all of a piece with the rest of Trump’s racial attitudes: he believes that, as a rich white man, he had a right to stop and frisk the President of the United States and demand that the uppity black man show him his papers. … The idea that he had a right to force a black man to go through what Obama rightly saw as the demeaning business of producing his birth certificate showed his fundamental contempt for any normal idea of racial equality. … This isn’t the case of someone misarticulating an otherwise plausible position; it was just a case of someone repeating, once again, not only a specific racist lie but also the toxic underlying set of assumptions that produced it.

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Trump’s ignorant worldview is terrifying when it’s delivered via his usual word salad, but it would only become more obviously ludicrous if he were willing and able to articulate it clearly. I live in constant fear of the Trump-ocalypse, but at this particular moment I’m feeling far more relaxed than I have been in quite some time.

Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by Getty Images, Wikimedia Commons
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