On the night of Monday, Sept. 26, a family defied great distances between them to exchange ideas and banter with one another on social media while Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton engaged in their first one-on-one debate.
One of them, a Mom, was currently working in California for family reasons. Her son, Me, is a liberal political pundit. Her brother, John, is a hardline conservative and a master surveyor. Her daughter-in-law, Mary, is an independent contractor. Her cousin, Karl, is a recent retiree. Her other cousin, Stephen, is an idealist. Her “surrogate” son, Drew, and her nephew, John, Jr., son of John the surveyor, are homosexual millennials.
This family, like so many others across the nation, has a personal stake in this Presidential election. This is their story.
The candidates emerge onto the stage…
Me: “Red was a bad choice.”
Mom: “Think so? I would have worn red.”
Me: “Red is antagonizing.”
Mom: “It’s also the power suit.”
On the subject of job creation, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump threw their first punches. Mrs. Clinton spoke of the creation of “new jobs, good jobs with rising incomes” and investments in the American people, the future, infrastructure, advanced manufacturing, technology, and small businesses. She also spoke of raising the minimum wage, equal pay for women, profit-sharing, paid leave, sick pay, affordable childcare, and debt-free college education.
Me: “She’s speaking directly to millennials.”
Donald Trump, on the same subject, took a more apocalyptic stance when asked the same question by Lester Holt, who proved to be a weak moderator. Trump spoke about “our jobs fleeing the country,” notably mentioning Ford Motor Company’s small car division and that thousands of jobs are leaving Michigan and Ohio.
Mom: “Didn’t Ford say they were retooling the plant and no one is losing their job?”
Yes, they did.
On the subject of taxes, both Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Trump fought over the supremacy of their respective proposals. Trickle-down economics — “Reaganomics” — was criticized by Mrs. Clinton, prompting this exchange to take place:
Karl: “Ha, Trump is talking trickle-down? What a joke!”
John: “Trickle down worked for the first 8 years. It got screwed when [President Bill Clinton] screwed it up.”
Stephen: “John, trickle down never worked and Reagan had to walk a bunch of his nonsense right away.”
John: “The 80s were good, Stephen.”
Donald Trump called Hillary Clinton a “typical politician” and accused her of being “all talk, no action.” He noted that what she’s saying “sounds good,” but “doesn’t work,” prompting me to think for a moment about those choppy sentences and come to stunning realization:
Me: “All talk, no action? Sounds good? Doesn’t work? Dammit, perhaps Trump is a typical politician after all?”
Eventually, Benghazi would make a slight (very slight) appearance in the debate in the form of an off-handed, muttered remark. Meanwhile, Benghazi became a subject in the family’s conversation, but suddenly pivoted into comments pertaining to Donald Trump showing up Secretary Clinton up in terms of vocabulary:
John: “What does it matter? She lies as much, Stephen. They both suck.”
Karl: “Trump lies more!”
Me: “Considering this election is more about ethics than anything else, it matters a great deal.”
John: “I was quoting her about getting four Americans killed.”
John: “Trump’s using the biggest words he knows tonight!”
Me: “Wait, my Mac autocorrected… braggadocious! Is that even a word…?”
I consult a dictionary.
Stephen: “She didn’t get four Americans killed. Literally the only people who believe that are people who get all of their news from Breitbart, Drudge, and Fox… and even Fox eventually gave up.”
Drew: “Trump’s SAT prep is paying off.”
Mom: “How much does he think he’s going to get through Congress?”
Me: “Holy shit – braggadocious is a word.”
The debate took a turn into Donald Trump’s businesses being built, as Secretary Clinton put it, “on the back of the little guys.” So did the family’s conversation.
Stephen: “I swear, it’s a pathetic showcase of American business acumen that anyone has done business with this guy. One meeting and anyone with a brain should be out the door.”
John: “Oops… She’s slapping him now.”
Mom: “I’m moving to Malaysia.”
Mom is very disenchanted with this whole Trump v. Clinton experience now.
Stephen: “But considering the fratastic dipshits I knew who were ‘management majors,’ it’s not surprising.”
I’m looking up the word ‘fratastic.’ I found it. It works.
Me: “Hasbro should have balked at Trump: The Game, Stephen.”
Stephen does the Facebook “thumbs up” thing in the message box.
Mom: “It was incredibly complicated.”
The debate shifted to topics about police and race-relations. The family cringed. Hillary Clinton commented on restoring trust between police officers and the communities they serve, as well as making sure police are adequately trained and using the “best techniques.”
Me: “… And make sure police officers have easy, effective access to people who can help them understand and deal with the psychological ramifications of being law enforcement?”
Drew: “Robert, they do have that, but it’s only mandatory in certain situations.”
Mom: “It needs to be mandatory.”
John: “I’m staying out of this conversation.”
Drew: “I agree with Mom.”
Mom: “John” *smiley face*
Moderator Lester Holt told Donald Trump that stop-and-frisk was ruled unconstitutional. Mr. Trump told Mr. Holt he was wrong.
Me: “Holt is wrong? Umm… stop-and-frisk was ruled unconstitutional.”
Mom: “Omfg – He’s not wrong.”
Drew: “He’s heading down the road to saying something accidentally racist.”
Me: “Dallas? Umm… relationships between the Dallas police and the people of Dallas weren’t that good before the shooting. It wasn’t sunshine and rainbows in the West End and Oak Cliff.”
Drew: “It is since the gays gentrified it.”
An hour into the debate, the family was getting restless. So far, it had been an uninspiring affair.
Me: “So, we’re an hour in. When is Milo Yiannopoulos going to crash the debate in a puffy vest and orange hot pants?”
Drew: “Soon, I hope.”
Mom: “Oh, please. Something has to be done to keep me awake.”
Karl: “I’ve been half-watching. Atlanta is tough tonight. Have they talked about the wall yet?”
They hadn’t. They wouldn’t. But the family would.
Mom: “Nope. No wall yet.”
Me: “But we’re talking national security, so fingers crossed!”
Karl: “Any wall between Texas and Mexico is not feasible, right John?”
Drew: “Not when the most common thoroughfare is tunnels.”
Karl: “How do you build a wall in the middle of a river?”
Mom: “Build a wall, and bam! Tunnel collapses and down goes the wall.”
John: “I say shoot them as they come across.”
Karl: “Tunnels would fill with water!”
John: “You can’t build a wall in a river.”
Mom: “The wall that exists is on this side of the river.”
Me: “Ha! Effectively giving the Rio Grande to Mexico, right?”
John: “We build it on their side and dare them to tear it down.”
John, Jr.: “Let’s ask Berlin how well walls worked out for them.”
Mom: “It worked for 50 years.”
Mary: “Define ‘worked.'”
Mom: “Worked… the rate of people getting from East Berlin to West Berlin alive was miniscule.”
Mary: “Ah, yes Mom, in that sense it did work.”
Mom: “That was the purpose of the Berlin Wall, but it’s an invalid allegory for the wall in Mexico.”
Me: “I believe an argument could be made that building it on their side could be considered an act of war.”
John: “And you think Mexico is going to attack us?”
Me: “Mexico attacking us isn’t the point. Building a wall on their side of the river is a violation of their borders. A violation of their sovereignty.”
John: “Don’t care. Mexico’s problem.”
Karl: “A wall is not feasible and would not work.”
By the final segment of the debate, the family was pretty much done.
Me: “Final segment… and I’m sad.”
Mom: “I’m not.”
Me: “No Benghazi conspiracy theories…”
Drew: “There will be more.”
Me: “No Milo Yiannopoulos…”
John: “Kill ’em all and let God sort ’em out.”
Me: “That’s the Duke Nukem way.”
Drew: “There should be a button to cut off the mic when they go over.”
Mary: “Andrew, yes!”
John: “Okay, okay… April fools has gone too far. Where are the real candidates?”
Me: “I think Trump read ‘stamina’ in a word-of-the-day calendar and thought it was cool.”
John: “Maybe that’s why Bill goes elsewhere… no stamina?”
Drew: “The stamina counter!”
Mom: “It’s on his erectile dysfunction pills.”
Me: “White House interns have stamina… Wait, am I cleared to go there?”
Mom: “You’re too old.”
Drew: “YAS GIRL!” *snaps*
John: “Go there!”
Mom: “Oooh, here we go.”
John, Jr.: “Splash zone. First 10 rows will get wet.”
Me: “It’s like a Gallagher show.”
Drew: “Don’t forget to bring a towel.”
Me: “Trump is a towel.”
Drew: “You’re a towel.”
So, who did the family think won?
Mary: “So, who won?”
Mom: “Me. I didn’t open a vein.”
Featured image via Jonny Lawrence/YouTube.
Special thanks to NPR for providing a full transcript of the debate.