‘The Election Ended Wednesday Night’

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Media Outlet: Politico

Theodore Johnson contributed to Politico in an article about the third presidential debate:

Wednesday night was supposed to be the “prepared” Donald Trump. What we saw, though, was that even the most prepared version of Trump couldn’t avoid the self-sabotage that’s become typical of his campaign. He started off steady enough throwing red meat to the party base on the Constitution and tax cuts. But he then made the unthinkable declaration that the yet-to-occur election is somehow rigged, and, as such, he isn’t sure if he will accept the results. This admission will dominate the election conversation not just for the foreseeable future, but as a moment forever etched in political history. We have all heard of a faithless elector. But a faithless nominee?
Yet somehow, this will not seal the deal for Hillary Clinton any more than the previous serial missteps of the Trump campaign. Trump’s performance Wednesday was not about expanding his appeal to undecided and independent voters; the goal (at least in theory) was to stick to policy, bringing Republicans off the fence and white voters off the sidelines. His approach was to paint a depressed and defeated America that only he can fix. The prevailing lesson of 2016 is that there is, indeed, an audience for it.
Conversely, Clinton painted a bright and hopeful vision for America, centering her pitch on the middle class. But she also knows how to play the game, and she was not shy about intentionally provoking Trump in the hope that he would lose his cool. She needled away at his machismo demeanor, accusing him of shedding “crocodile tears” over his hotels, musing that he “choked” to not bring up with wall with the Mexican president, incessantly teasing him over his daddy’s money and, in a twist on the Trump-style epithet (Little Marco?), called Trump Putin’s Puppet. He took the bait—hook, line and sinker. Her strategy was to get him angry and ranting; she succeeded.
What will 2016 be remembered for? The heaving sigh of thankfulness, exhaled from an exhausted nation.

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Theodore Johnson is an Eric & Wendy Schmidt Fellow at New America. He is a national security research manager and an adjunct professor at the Georgetown University McCourt School of Public Policy.