Nicholas Kristof Admits Illiberal Leftist Overreach In Purging Conservatism And Dissenting Views From Academia

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“I say unto you that likewise more joy shall be in Heaven over one sinner that repenteth, than over ninety and nine just persons who need no repentance” – Luke 15:7

In the email introduction to his Sunday column in the New York Times, Nicholas Kristof writes:

My Sunday column will probably provoke a number of you to roll your eyes or curse me under your breath. I’m sure many will disagree with it, but here goes.

[..] I’ll get a torrent of angry emails and indignant comments, but as you read this I’m actually in southern Africa reporting a story. If the criticisms get too bad, I’ll seek asylum.

Such are the delicate eggshells that commentators on which the American Left must tread whenever they even think about holding up a mirror to the behaviour of their own side and calling out flawed thinking or bad behaviour.

What is the subject of Kristof’s column? You can probably guess. With great trepidation, Nicholas Kristof is asking his readers to consider the possibility – just the possibility – that the atmosphere of seething intolerance for conservative voices or opinions on the university campus may be a negative thing with potentially harmful consequences.

Kristof writes:

After Donald Trump’s election, some universities echoed with primal howls. Faculty members cancelled classes for weeping, terrified students who asked: How could this possibly be happening?

I share apprehensions about President-elect Trump, but I also fear the reaction was evidence of how insular universities have become. When students inhabit liberal bubbles, they’re not learning much about their own country. To be fully educated, students should encounter not only Plato, but also Republicans.

We liberals are adept at pointing out the hypocrisies of Trump, but we should also address our own hypocrisy in terrain we govern, such as most universities: Too often, we embrace diversity of all kinds except for ideological. Repeated studies have found that about 10 percent of professors in the social sciences or the humanities are Republicans.

We champion tolerance, except for conservatives and evangelical Christians. We want to be inclusive of people who don’t look like us — so long as they think like us.

I fear that liberal outrage at Trump’s presidency will exacerbate the problem of liberal echo chambers, by creating a more hostile environment for conservatives and evangelicals. Already, the lack of ideological diversity on campuses is a disservice to the students and to liberalism itself, with liberalism collapsing on some campuses into self-parody.

One can already imagine thousands of triggered New York Times readers spitting out their morning coffee and clicking away from Kristof’s column in disgust at having their worldview and prejudices challenged instead of flattered.

And Kristof continues in a similar vein:

Whatever our politics, inhabiting a bubble makes us more shrill. Cass Sunstein, a Harvard professor, conducted a fascinating study of how groupthink shapes federal judges when they are randomly assigned to three-judge panels.

When liberal judges happened to be temporarily put on a panel with other liberals, they usually swung leftward. Conversely, conservative judges usually moved rightward when randomly grouped with other conservatives.

It’s the judicial equivalent of a mob mentality. And if this happens to judges, imagine what happens to you and me.

Kristof goes on to recommend to his readers a number of prominent American conservative personalities to follow on social media, so as to get a taste of arguments and perspectives which may otherwise have been long ago purged from Facebook timelines and Twitter streams. Again, this is a good thing – other publications have preferred to ensconce their readers deeper in the bubble by publishing hysterical lists of “fake news” publications which cannot be trusted because they do not reflect the Democratic Party’s view of the world.

And he concludes:

I fear the damage a Trump administration will do, from health care to foreign policy. But this election also underscores that we were out of touch with much of America, and we will fight back more effectively if we are less isolated.

When universities are echo chambers, they become conservative punch lines, and liberal hand-wringing may be one reason Trump’s popularity has jumped since his election.

It’s ineffably sad that today “that’s academic” often means “that’s irrelevant.” One step to correcting that is for us liberals to embrace the diversity we supposedly champion.

This blog has not always been a fan of Nicholas Kristof, having only recently taken him to task for comparing the American Left’s coming endurance of Donald Trump to the agonies of somebody suffering from addiction and receiving treatment through a 12-step programme.

But as a reader pointed out at the time, the people who need to hear this message are not likely to accept it from people like me and blogs such as this, with a proud tradition of beating up on “liberal” intolerance and the Cult of Social Justice and Identity Politics.

Nicholas Kristof is clearly one of their own, however, as evidenced by the fact that he thought it was appropriate to compare surviving the Trump administration to attending AA. When somebody with otherwise impeccable social justice credentials like Nicholas Kristof questions the culture and dynamic on the American university campus, people might actually listen, and so one cannot entirely dismiss his work.

Overall, this is a positive development. Nicholas Kristof is a prominent and celebrated left-wing columnist and commentator, as well connected to the establishment as a writer can be. If he is now expressing reservations about the oppressive climate for academic freedom on campus, then there must truly be disquiet growing about the takeover of academia by the Cult of Social Justice and Identity Politics.

The Right cannot hope to win this fight on their own, but finally it looks as though we may be gaining a few unexpected allies. May many more follow in Kristof’s footsteps.

 

Postscript: At present, there are 93 comments to Kristof’s column, the majority expressing angry incredulity that anybody might think that hostility toward conservatism on American university campuses is in any way a bad thing. However, there are exceptions. One reader, a professor at a university I happen to know very well, writes:

An example: I am a professor at a university (Washington University in St. Louis) that brandishes “prestige” it doesn’t quite have—an Ivy League wanna-be. My web page contained some semi-controversial essays—arguing that science is a terrible career choice, that perhaps Summers’s ideas are worth consideration, “diversity”, “political correctness”, that some moral responsibility attaches to the movements that gave us the AIDS epidemic.

My essays, clearly marked as personal opinion, were censored—kicked off my university web page. As expressions of personal opinion, they didn’t belong in the classroom, and were never mentioned there. As thought-pieces on current issues, they are part of being a public intellectual, part of a professor’s job. Academic freedom? Not here.

As Yale University proved with the whole Halloween costume saga of 2015, Ivy League universities are often the worst offenders, so from that perspective Washington University in St. Louis is absolutely heading in the right direction.

Back in the real world, however, they are hurtling off a cliff, and threatening to take what is left of academic freedom down with them.

 

Danger Unsafe Space Sign - The Koala - UCSD

 

Safe Space Notice - 2

Top Image: World Economic Forum / Wikimedia Commons

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Donald Trump’s Second Presidential Debate Performance Was Red Meat To The Alt Right

Who is Donald Trump trying to impress? And why?

If you were wondering exactly what audience Donald Trump was playing to with his combative debate performance in last night’s second presidential debate, here’s a clue.

Donald Trump’s “braggadocious” threats to prosecute Hillary Clinton if he wins the presidential election will do nothing to temper the fears of undecided voters who have no love for Hillary Clinton but harbour reservations about throwing their support behind an authoritarian wannabe strongman.

But this kind of language is absolutely lapped up by Trump’s strongest source of support – the conspiracy-tinged alt-right, who see Hillary Clinton not merely as an ethically challenged creature of Washington D.C., but as evil incarnate – the “wicked witch of Benghazi, cackling over her cauldron” as one pro-Trump social media user put it.

And the conspiratorial InfoWars site certainly lapped up Trump’s second debate performance, as seen in the instant reaction video shown above, and again at far greater length in that site’s six-hour coverage of the debate at Washington University in St. Louis.

But in the midst of the pro-Trump cheerleading, InfoWars reporter Owen Shroyer actually makes a very pertinent observation:

You know, it is an amazing dynamic where it seems like if you like Donald Trump, no matter what, he wins, if you like Hillary Clinton, no matter what, she wins. How do we break any ground on that? How do we break through that paradigm where only your candidate can win the debate? I think that that illustrates the polarisation that we’re seeing in this country in this election cycle.

Indeed, different sites and journalistic outlets have called the debate in line with their partisan leanings or the supposed proclivities of their readers, preferring to pander than to challenge or upset. The Guardian declared a victory for Clinton, while the Spectator and numerous American conservatives (even those opposed to Trump) declared him the victor.

As this blog commented following the debate:

My initial assessment: if you disregard actual facts (as we now seem to do), Donald Trump probably had the better of this debate. He went on the (nuclear) attack, hit Hillary Clinton hard, gave his supporter base something to cheer about and managed to do enough incendiary things to bump the Trump Tapes story fallout down the news agenda. Hillary Clinton didn’t commit any significant gaffes and was more poised, but again there was nothing tremendously inspiring about her sales pitch for the presidency.

And it seems that we do now disregard facts and adherence to them when judging a candidate’s debate performance. While Hillary Clinton certainly was not consistently truthful during the debate, Donald Trump made significantly more blatant falsehoods. But can he still be said to have “won”, by virtue of having been more combative in tone and unapologetic about his deceits? Apparently so.

What is clear is that more than ever – even more than four years ago, when Republicans trapped in an ideological echo chamber of their own making were convinced that Mitt Romney was going to lead them to victory – is that both sides have retreated to their respective ideological bubbles, hermetically sealed safe spaces of bias confirmation in which awkward facts or revelations are diminished or entirely ignored in order to avoid the slightest cognitive dissonance in the minds of their supporters.

Donald Trump’s combative performance and willingness to step into unprecedented territory in his attacks on Hillary Clinton will have been red meat to those of his supporters already firmly ensconced in the bubble. Threatening to send “crooked Hillary” to jail is red meat to the ascendant alt-right movement.

But will it have done anything at all to convince wavering voters that Donald Trump is capable of carrying out the duties of the presidency in a calm and measured way, or that he represents a safe choice for those unwilling to vote for Hillary Clinton? Almost certainly not.

And with less than a month to go until the election, Donald Trump still has all of his work ahead of him to reach that low but mysteriously elusive bar of acceptability.

 

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Live Blog: Donald Trump vs Hillary Clinton, Second Presidential Debate

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Live Blog: Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton face off in the second of three high-stakes live televised debates

Debate Time: 8PM US Central Time / 2AM UK Time

Watch Online: Live Stream Here

Contact: semipartisansam@gmail.com

 

9:43PM St. Louis / 03:43AM London

Initial post-debate reaction

Well, how to respond to all of that? Donald Trump clearly had the harder task going into this debate, having to defend his indefensible historic statements about women and try to staunch the bleeding of endorsements from prominent Republicans.

Trump certainly came out swinging, remaining combative throughout rather than flaming out in the second half as he did during the first debate. Donald Trump didn’t have the kind of breakout moment that he probably needed to really alter the trajectory of his campaign, but he probably succeeded in steadying the ship.

And in a way, that probably makes it harder for establishment Republicans trying to decide their next move. If Donald Trump had imploded, the momentum towards disowning Trump or even replacing him at the top of the presidential ticket would have gained traction. As it stands, they are probably stuck with him.

My initial assessment: if you disregard actual facts (as we now seem to do), Donald Trump probably had the better of this debate. He went on the (nuclear) attack, hit Hillary Clinton hard, gave his supporter base something to cheer about and managed to do enough incendiary things to bump the Trump Tapes story fallout down the news agenda. Hillary Clinton didn’t commit any significant gaffes and was more poised, but again there was nothing tremendously inspiring about her sales pitch for the presidency.

And as for the overall impression:

Yeah, that just about sums it up.

9:38PM St. Louis / 03:38AM London

And that’s it, until 19th October at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, when the final presidential debate will take place.

9:36PM St. Louis / 03:36AM London

Rod Dreher is looking ahead, and having declared a Donald Trump victory thinks that it will be very difficult for uneasy GOP elites to now disown their presidential candidate or continue rescinding endorsements:

9:34PM St. Louis / 03:34AM London

Oh, what’s the point of that last question? Getting each of the candidates to choke out something positive about the other when they clearly loathe one another adds nothing to our understanding of the issues.

9:32PM St. Louis / 03:32AM London

A lot of conservative discontent (naturally) with Hillary Clinton’s remarks on the Supreme Court:

9:29PM St. Louis / 03:29AM London

For a supposedly Town Hall-style debate, there have been remarkably few questions from the audience, with most of the time given over to the two candidates railing at one another.

9:27PM St. Louis / 03:27AM London

Hillary Clinton wants new Supreme Court justices to have more “life experiences”. Sounds good as a glib soundbite, but is she right? Surely a good potential justice should understand and revere the constitution, and seek to be as neutral and fearless arbiter of constitutional questions as possible. The only reason one would want someone to bring their “life experience” to bear is if someone wants to usher in much more judicial activism, and have Supreme Court justices who bend their interpretations to fulfil a progressive ideological bias.

Donald Trump says that he favours candidates who “respect the Constitution”, which is the much better answer, even if his own constitutional literacy is near zero.

I don’t normally quote Michelle Malkin, but she’s not wrong in her observation here:

9:23PM St. Louis / 03:23AM London

To be fair, there has been a lot of pacing as well as lurking. Trump has certainly been more energetic in this debate, addressing one of the key criticisms of his debate in the first debate:

9:21PM St. Louis / 03:21AM London

Dreher thinks that Donald Trump’s continued skirmishing with the debate moderators will actually do him good:

9:20PM St. Louis / 03:20AM London

Hillary Clinton put on the spot about her “deplorables” insult of Donald Trump’s supporters. She doesn’t seem very contrite.

9:18PM St. Louis / 03:18AM London

It’s amazing how quickly we normalise all of the unprecedented things which have happened in these presidential debates, and indeed the campaign in general. One candidate standing mere feet from the other, pointing at them and declaring them a liar – even that they should be sent to jail.

Hillary Clinton seems unable to believe her luck at times – the broad smile on her face is reminiscent of the recent SNL skit, in which a jubilant Clinton (played by Kate McKinnon) keeps breaking out in smug laughter:

9:14PM St. Louis / 03:14AM London

Trump’s whining about Hillary Clinton supposedly being allowed extra time to speak by the moderators is really starting to grate. Even if true, he should adopt the pose of a happy warrior, fighting under the circumstances in which he finds himself rather than railing against them. But of course that would require Trump to be something other than a thin-skinned sore loser.

9:13PM St. Louis / 03:13AM London

Donald Trump loves to bring up ISIS at every turn, yet has remained curiously vague about his Secret Plan to tackle the terrorist quasi-state:

9:10PM St. Louis / 03:10AM London

And Bill Kristol weighs in:

Well, at least he isn’t a trigger-happy neocon itching to wage war with everyone…

9:05PM St. Louis / 03:05AM London

Rod Dreher concurs with Tim Stanley. Interesting:

And Rich Lowry:

9:04PM St. Louis / 03:04AM London

Tim Stanley thinks that Donald Trump is having a better debate than Clinton:

I would concede that Trump has been more combative and made some genuinely newsworthy attacks on Clinton. That will probably fire up his base, some of whom will have become dispirited after recent polls and the Trump Tapes revelation. It may rally the faithful, but will it turn the needle on Trump’s poll ratings and trajectory? I remain doubtful.

9:01PM St. Louis / 03:01AM London

Hillary Clinton takes the opportunity to talk about her 30 years in politics, and hopefully set a rather more positive spin on it than Donald Trump has been doing.

8:59PM St. Louis / 02:59AM London

Anderson Cooper gets an honest answer out of Donald Trump – that yes, he used his near $1bn loss in 1995 to offset his future federal income tax. To which the correct response is “so what?”. Trump followed the tax code. If deductions and loopholes exist, nobody should be rending their garments in horror when they are used.

8:57PM St. Louis / 02:57AM London

Hillary Clinton: “Everything you’ve just heard from Donald Trump is not true. I’m sorry to have to keep saying this, but he does seem to live in an alternate reality”.

Clinton has been cool and competent for much of the debate thus far, even when under quite sensational and withering fire from Donald Trump. She has perfected the resigned, bemused but entertained smile as Trump rails on. Donald Trump, by contrast, is now gripping the chair in front of him and staring fixedly ahead – has he hit the wall again?

8:55PM St. Louis / 02:55AM London

Donald Trump is comparing the GDP growth of China (a developing nation) with the United States (an advanced nation). Economically illiterate.

8:54PM St. Louis / 02:54AM London

Donald Trump is now referring to himself in the third person.

Rather more successfully (from his perspective) he is making the point that somebody marinated in DC political culture for 30 plus years can scarcely claim to be an agent of change with any plausibility.

8:53PM St. Louis / 02:53AM London

You can release your tax returns even if you are under audit by the IRS! Will nobody ever ask a determined follow-up question when Trump makes his now-standard evasion?

8:52PM St. Louis / 02:52AM London

“I have no knowledge of Russia, I don’t know about the inner workings of Russia”, says Donald Trump. Reassuring, from someone who wants to be Commander in Chief.

8:51PM St. Louis / 02:51AM London

Aaaand Donald Trump seizes on the opportunity to draw a contrast between Hillary Clinton and President Lincoln.

Trump, of course, claims to have “the best words”, so he would doubtless get on like a house on fire with the author of the Gettysburg Address.

8:49PM St. Louis / 02:49AM London

And Hillary Clinton’s speeches come up – regarding her statements about financial regulation. A questioner asks “is it okay for politicians to be two-faced?”

Hillary Clinton evokes Abraham Lincoln’s dealings with Congress trying to pass the Thirteenth Amendment (abolishing slavery). Nice try, attempting to cloak her own political dealings with Lincolnian nobility. Not sure it will pass muster, though.

https://twitter.com/matthew_sitman/status/785296411697016837

8:46PM St. Louis / 02:46AM London

Clinton hammering Trump on his plan to freeze Muslim immigration, rightly noting that it violates the Constitutional right to freedom of religion.

8:45PM St. Louis / 02:45AM London

Not everyone in Europe is in a retreat to their safe space in response to Donald Trump’s words:

8:43PM St. Louis / 02:43AM London

And Martha Raddatz brings up Donald Trump’s planned “total shutdown” on Muslim immigration. Was that panicked policy announcement wise, and does he rescind it, goes the question.

Trump tries to wriggle away, Raddatz admirably holds him to the question. Trump now talking about “extreme vetting”, whatever that might involve.

8:40PM St. Louis / 02:40AM London

Andrew Sullivan notes:

Trump is now hovering over her in the background, looming like a predator. Her response on Obamacare was pretty good – although her proposals to fix it weren’t actually honest or relevant.

How have we come to the position where “yeah, she’s obviously lying but at least she isn’t Trump” is the best reason to vote for a candidate?

8:38PM St. Louis / 02:38AM London

I’d be remiss if I didn’t flag my blogging hero Andrew Sullivan’s excellent live blog of this debate. Check it out – but don’t forget me!

8:37PM St. Louis / 02:37AM London

It’s not good when NBC’s Chuck Todd runs out of words to describe this debate:

8:35PM St. Louis / 02:35AM London

“If we were to start again, we might come up with a different system. But we have an employer-based system of health insurance” says Clinton, nicely summing up her political philosophy of late. Namely: don’t attempt anything ambitious, focus on grinding out incremental improvements.

The question of this debate: will the American people accept the promise of incremental progress this electoral cycle?

8:33PM St. Louis / 02:33AM London

Some people seem to be prematurely predicting a Trump victory in this debate – not very wise, given the way that Trump lost energy and began flailing as the first debate dragged on:

8:32PM St. Louis / 02:32AM London

Finally we are actually talking about policy – specifically the Affordable Care Act, or ObamaCare. Hillary Clinton details her assessment of the law’s flaws and a plan to address some of them, scorning Donald Trump’s plan to simply repeal the bill.

Trump, predictably, spends most of his time talking about how “disastrous” ObamaCare is, without detailing any policy prescriptions beyond its repeal.

8:29PM St. Louis / 02:29AM London

Trump being more combative, openly mocking Clinton’s answers and pretty much calling her a criminal. He doesn’t have much to lose, so why the hell not?

And he takes a swipe at Anderson Cooper for not spending long enough on the subject of Hillary Clinton’s emails. Lobotomised Trump didn’t gain any traction, let’s see what flame-throwing Trump can do.

8:27PM St. Louis / 02:27AM London

“There is no evidence that any classified information ended up in the wrong hands” – a classic Clintonian non-denial.

8:26PM St. Louis / 02:26AM London

If Trump knows what is good for him, he needs to not let Hillary Clinton wriggle off the hook on the question of her homebrew email server and continued evasions / changed stories about that howler of a security lapse. At the first debate he barely pressed the issue. He needs to go for the kill this time – though perhaps not by openly threatening to send her to jail…

8:25PM St. Louis / 02:25AM London

Wait, did Donald Trump literally just say that Hillary Clinton should be in jail?

8:24PM St. Louis / 02:24AM London

Hillary Clinton directs people to the fact-checker on her website again, saying that she cannot possibly refute all of Trump’s falsehoods in real time.

8:24PM St. Louis / 02:24AM London

Trump needs a game-changer in this debate, something that might actually somehow draw a line under the unmitigated disaster (though entirely predictable revelation) which was the Trump tapes. And so far we aren’t seeing it.

8:21PM St. Louis / 02:21AM London

And Trump calls into question the legitimacy of Hillary Clinton’s victory in the Democratic primary, with the benefit of the Wikileaks email release. A fair point. It would be helpful to be whiter than white when going up against Trump. Sadly, Hillary Clinton is decidedly grey.

8:20PM St. Louis / 02:20AM London

And Clinton gets in her crowd-pleasing line: “When you go low, I go high”.

The moderators, who admonished Trump’s supporters for cheering, allow Hillary Clinton’s supporters to cheer without comment.

8:19PM St. Louis / 02:19AM London

Donald Trump asked by a questioner on social media whether he is still the same man from 10 years ago who made the derogatory remarks in the Trump Tapes, or whether the campaign has indeed “changed him” as he claims. Again, he apologises for the locker room talk, clearly hating every moment.

And then Trump hits back, talking about a rape victim whose alleged attacker was successfully defended in court by a young Hillary Clinton. Trump contrasts his words with Clinton’s supposed action – and the audience applauds. Could this be the gloves coming off?

8:16PM St. Louis / 02:16AM London

Is anyone else getting tired of the wheedling, finickity “but he/she interrupted me!” complaints?

8:14PM St. Louis / 02:14AM London

Hillary Clinton calls for America to signal its virtue to the world by rejecting Donald Trump. Finally an instance of virtue signalling which this blog does not automatically reject out of hand.

8:13PM St. Louis / 02:13AM London

Now Hillary Clinton gets to weigh in on the Trump tapes.

“I never questioned their fitness to serve” says Clinton of past GOP presidential nominees, but not this time.

“He has said the video doesn’t represent who he is. But it is clear to anyone who heard it that it represents exactly who he is. Because we have seen throughout this campaign him insult women, rate women … embarrass women. We saw him, after the first debate, spending nearly a week denigrating a former Miss Universe in the most harsh terms. So yes, this is exactly who Donald Trump is”.

Ouch.

8:11PM St. Louis / 02:11AM London

And Anderson Cooper goes in for the kill, pointing out that Donald Trump’s “locker room talk” amounts to an admission of sexual assault. Somehow, twenty seconds later Donald Trump is talking about wars and trade. Anyone looking for an expression of genuine contrition will be disappointed.

Cooper: “Did you kiss women without their consent?”

Trump: “I have great respect for women” – and then pivots back to making America safe again.

8:09PM St. Louis / 02:09AM London

Trump doing his usual masterful job describing, restating and restating again the problems which supposedly ail America. And as usual, his solutions consist of “doing things that haven’t been done” – with the juicy detail missing.

8:07PM St. Louis / 02:07AM London

Bright start from Clinton, pivoting quickly away from question about the vulgar tone of the campaign to talk about her policies. A potential punch pulled by Clinton?

8:06PM St. Louis / 02:06AM London

Ooh, no handshake as the candidates take the stage. That will get the cable news channels aflutter, saves them from having to analyse boring points of policy.

8:05PM St. Louis / 02:05AM London

As the debate gets underway, Martha Raddatz reminds us that all of the audience members at this town hall debate are currently undecided voters from the St. Louis area. One wonders how anyone can possibly be undecided in this election campaign – rather calls to mind this blog’s take on undecided voters.

8:04PM St. Louis / 02:04AM London

The republic may be crumbling, but that’s no reason we can’t all have a laugh as the debate unfolds:

8:02PM St. Louis / 02:02AM London

Would Trump be the first immensely vulgar president? No. Does dismal historical precedent make his words any more acceptable? Also no.

https://twitter.com/LouiseMensch/status/785279395233730560

8:00PM St. Louis / 02:00AM London

Yes, there is something very artificial about the pre and post-debate handshakes and smiles:

7:58PM St. Louis / 01:58AM London

And the moderators, Anderson Cooper and Martha Raddatz, have taken the stage. We’re about to kick off.

7:55PM St. Louis / 01:55AM London

I know Washington University in St. Louis, have spent a significant amount of time on the campus and even sat in on some of the classes. It is a great institution. However, the president of the WashU Students Union, now citing Lincoln as he tries to set an appropriate tone for the coming debate, is quite probably setting our hopes too high with his ringing paean to American democracy.

There is nothing poetic or praiseworthy about the example America is setting to the world in this presidential election campaign.

7:49PM St. Louis / 01:49AM London

Newsweek gives us a reminder of where things stand in the polls as the second presidential debate is about to get underway:

As it stands, current polls are in favor of Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, even before #TrumpTapes roiled the Republican party. The New York Times election forecast has Clinton ahead of Trump by 4 percentage points, at 45 percent versus 41 percent, with an 82 percent chance of her winning the presidency.FiveThirtyEight’s forecast also indicates the Democratic nominee has an 82 percent chance of winning, with Clinton commanding 329.6 electoral votes to Trump’s 208.3, as well as 48.8 percent of the popular vote versus Trump’s 43.2 percent.

So rather less close than the polls stood ahead of the first presidential debate…

7:47PM St. Louis / 01:47AM London

I’m not going to go on a massive Social Justice tangent here, but it is telling that self-identified progressives love to support every victim group under the sun, unless they happen to support or benefit a conservative cause, in which case they are either evil or being used as pawns:

7:43PM St. Louis / 01:43AM London

The fact that we are even talking about the possibility of one of the two major party presidential nominees dropping out less than a month before the election is testament to the recklessness and democratic self harm of nominating somebody like Donald Trump:

Of course, if the Clinton email scandal had ignited a bit more we could well be making the same point about the Democratic Party nominee.

7:26PM St. Louis / 01:26AM London

Chris Matthews on MSNBC just compared Donald Trump’s likely approach to this debate to a suicide bomber strapping on an explosive vest and preparing to bring the whole building down on everyone – a rather crass comparison, even if it is evocative of the desperation of a man with his political back against the wall.

If Trump does go nuclear, will we see an “at long last, have you left no sense of decency” response from Clinton, the moderator or an audience member?

7:26PM St. Louis / 01:26AM London

Watching along online

As well as the BBC feed, I will be watching along on MSNBC here (for more partisan pro-Clinton coverage) as well as CNN. MSNBC have veteran Clinton political operative James Carville on as a guest, which should be entertaining if nothing else.

7:20PM St. Louis / 01:20AM London

Donald Trump, unable to resist hitting back and fighting fire with fire when provoked, has decided to make sexual assault a theme of this utterly depressing presidential election. And in the hour before the debate is due to begin at Washington University in St. Louis, Trump decided to hold a press conference with four women – including Juanita Broaddrick – who accuse Bill Clinton of sexual violence.

From Politico:

In a dramatic move less than 90 minutes before the second presidential debate on Sunday night, Trump made a surprise move in St. Louis in a desperate attempt to shift the focus from his own bragging of sexually aggressive behavior by appearing with four women who have alleged they were victimized by Bill and Hillary Clinton.

It was the first shot in an increasingly ugly battle expected to play out on national television later in the evening before tens of millions of Americans.

Trump, flanked by the four women, ignored shouted questions by a small group of reporters ushered in for the photo-op, as he introduced them. “These four very courageous women have asked to be here and it was our honor to help them,” Trump said, “and I think they’re each going to make an individual short statement.”

And so they did. Whether this indirect nuclear attack on Hillary Clinton pays off for Donald Trump remains to be seen.

7:17PM St. Louis / 01:17AM London

Rod Dreher makes the important point that to fully-committed Trump supporters, these revelations will not be a deal-breaker. They will support their man regardless of the Trump Tapes or any future revelations, no matter how scandalous:

6:45PM St. Louis / 00:45AM London

The “watch Donald Trump squirm” debate

This debate of course takes place in the aftermath of shocking, unexpected and totally out of character revelations that the Republican presidential nominee is not the humble, politely-spoken, women-respecting saint of a man we all unanimously believed him to be prior to the release of certain audio recordings from 2005.

Amid all of the media outrage (much of which is justifiable) there are a couple of nagging questions – like whether Trump’s words, however coarse and unbecoming to someone seeking high public office, are really worse than known physical transgressions by presidents past (Kennedy and Clinton come to mind) who retain the respect of the establishment. Expect to see Donald Trump use some variant of this discussion as he tries to wriggle off the hook during what will undoubtedly be a barrage of hostile questions from the Town Hall debate audience and attacks from Hillary Clinton

Received wisdom seems to be that Trump will try to paint a false equivalence and suggest that Hillary Clinton was somehow complicit in the supposed sex crimes of her husband. It won’t work as a tactic, and if Trump tries it then he will only succeed in making this presidential election campaign even more tawdry, shameful and sensationalist than it already is. Far better from a purely tactical standpoint that he tries to choke out the words “I apologise” early on, and then try to keep his head in the game for more than the first 45 minutes of this debate.

Of far more interest to this blog has been watching the reaction of big-name Republicans who previously endorsed Donald Trump, either enthusiastically (Rudy Giuliani, Chris Christie) or through gritted teeth (John McCain, Ted Cruz). To some extent, this blog appreciates the difficult situation in which Republicans find themselves, confronted with a candidate overwhelmingly chosen by their party base but anathema to their own values. And when covering British politics, this blog has firmly taken the side of the Labour Party base over the centrist interloper MPs in the parliamentary party.

But this situation is different. Semi-Partisan Politics supports Jeremy Corbyn and his left-wing takeover of Labour because no matter how outdated their vision, it is they who more closely resemble anything like the socialist principles on which the Labour Party was founded. The centrists – as two leadership elections in the space of a year have plainly revealed to us – stand for absolutely nothing beyond winning and holding power.

However, in the case of American conservatism it is Donald Trump and his Republican grassroots supporters who have drifted away from core Conservative principle, replacing it with their own zesty blend of authoritarianism, protectionism and proud ignorance. To be sure, the GOP elite and mainstream conservatives brought this fate on themselves by governing in a self-interested way and continually betraying those voters who have defected to Trump in sheer exasperation (or despair for their futures). But nonetheless, if one holds that the Republican Party is supposed to be the small-c conservative party of American politics then supporting Trump is indefensible.

And yet many household name Republicans have willingly thrown their arms around Trump, despite knowing who and what he is. The revelations from the Trump Tapes are hardly surprising – anybody who was genuinely shocked that Trump holds demeaning and unreconstructed attitudes towards women is so naive that they probably belong in an institution of some kind. And while some braver Republicans have withdrawn their foolish endorsements of Trump, far more have shamefully fudged the issue and hunkered down until the media storm passes, hoping to then be able to continue cheerleading for Trump without being sullied by charges of sexism.

To this blog, that is an unforgivable cop-out. Either defend the man you endorsed (maybe condemning his comments but going on record that you don’t think that such character flaws disqualify him from the presidency) or rescind the endorsement. Trying to keep a low profile in order to benefit from any eventual outcome is cowardly.

And as the Washington Post notes, the stain of Donald Trump’s presidential candidacy will prove impossible to wash out in any case:

Trump’s turbulent campaign, on display here at Sunday night’s second presidential debate with Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, has damaged far more than his own White House prospects. It threatens to diminish an entire generation of Republican leaders who stood by him and excused his behavior after attacks against women, the disabled, Latino immigrants, Muslim Americans, Syrian refugees, prisoners of war, Gold Star parents and others.

“There is nobody who holds any position of responsibility who in private conversations views Donald Trump as equipped mentally, morally and intellectually to be the president of the United States,” said Steve Schmidt, a veteran GOP strategist. “But scores of Republican leaders have failed a fundamental test of moral courage and political leadership in not speaking truth to the American people about what is so obvious.”

[..] “Everything Trump touches dies,” said Republican consultant Rick Wilson, who is advising independent candidate Evan McMullin.

[..] Wilson fears that the legacy of Trump’s campaign could haunt Republican candidates for many election cycles to come, just as Democrats in the 1980s and 1990s were hurt by their ties to former president Jimmy Carter and iconic liberals like Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (Mass.).

“This is going to last forever,” Wilson said. “For years now, Democrats will be able to roll out TV ads and say, ‘When John Smith says today he’s for a brighter future, remember who he stood by: Donald Trump. He stood by Donald Trump’s misogyny, racism, sexism and stupidity.’ ”

The mere fact this debate is going to focus in large part on Donald Trump’s decade-old X-rated language (and long standing, long-excused character flaws) is depressing enough. But given that he begins with such a handicap it is difficult to predict anything other than a second Hillary Clinton victory, this time on public perception as well as technical points.

4:55PM St. Louis / 10:55PM London

Welcome to the Semi-Partisan Politics live blog of the second 2016 presidential debate between Hillary Clinton (Democrat) and Donald Trump (Republican).

Yes, I’m braving the insomnia and doing it all over again.

I’m out of Red Bull but I have a constant stream of coffee brewing, and will be glad of your company as I live-blog the second debate. Please feel free to use the Comments, or contact/troll me on Twitter or by email.

Read my live-blog of the first debate here. New readers – welcome, see my About page here for a brief bio.

 

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Top Image: RTE

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