Trumped Up, Trickle Down

trump-vs-clintonTonight I am here watching the debates with some Film & Media Studies graduate students…

First it is interesting that there is only one shot–a split screen–of the two candidates, which runs throughout the debate.  The sole exceptions are occasion cuts to the moderator asking a question.  HRC is calling him Donald, perhaps because she would like to be called Hillary–making a clearer separation from her husband.  DJT makes a point of calling her Secretary Clinton perhaps because he wants to appear respectful and so more presidential.

It seems that Hillary is doing pretty well so far. I quickly looked at their Twitter pages. Trump’s twitter page is silent while Hillary Clinton’s page is active as her staff tweets away–very effectively.  This is the upside of the third person twitter feed.  The Donald can’t tweet while he is on stage.



Hillary’s twitter feed on the other hand is often voicing her debate highlights.  I am intrigued by their consistency but at this moment, hers is clearly more effective.

clinton-twiitter-during-debateWoops, I take it back.  His Twitter page must have frozen on my computer–and maybe on others since the Clinton page kept on updating. Did someone hack his twitter page?

Note that Trump is wearing a blue tie and Clinton is wearing a red pants suit.  They switched colors, flipping the usual blue states and red states dicotomy.  What is this about? Was that agreed on in advance–or just coincidence.  A shared gesture to reduce polarization?  I don’t normally go for these fashion analyses but red was a strong color for her–better than white (at the Democratic Convention) or blue. And clearly she has decided that pants suits are the right dress code for these occasions.  She looked good–not like some of those zombie pictures the alt-right likes to show on sponsored posts.


It is going to be interesting to see how voters who are not deeply committed to either candidate are reacting.  It certainly seems from my vantage that Hillary is showing an authority and confidence that make her impressive.  Her line on Trump’s economic plan –“trumped up, trickle down”–is clever.

According to Politico…

A composed Hillary Clinton got under Donald Trump’s skin during their high-stakes showdown on Monday night, with the Republican nominee persistently interrupting Clinton as she needled him on his business record, the size of his fortune and his relationship with the truth.

Certainly Trump’s acknowledgement that he paid no federal taxes and was proud of it should not endear himself to most voters I would think.  But you never know.  Much of this is in the eyes of the beholder.

I bet FOX News disagrees. But maybe not so much.  Here are the headlines:


Some sites are saying that she won big.

So how might this be compared to the 1890s? Grover Cleveland and Benjamin Harrison never met face to face in 1888 or 1892.  In 1896, the only places where William McKinley and William Jennings Bryan met were in the phonograph parlors where adjoining phonographs offered speeches from each one––their words but voiced by someone else. Patrons often compared:

A phonograph parlor arond the time of the 1896 Presidential Election
A phonograph parlor around the time of the 1896 Presidential Election

In 1900, the phonograph was moving into the home.  In their rematch, the candidates were more likely to be given equal time in the vaudeville theaters–by impersonators who would mimic both candidates and by motion picture exhibition services which would show films of both candidates.  These theaters needed to offer balanced programming–otherwise they could lose many of their patrons.

Tonight’s split screen goes back to this notion of symmetry.  As I remember, in the past, the cameras would move around to keep the shots interesting.  Here the candidates knew that they would both be on camera the whole time–speaking or reacting to the other’s speaking.

And of course, this discretely reinforces the two party system.  In the 1890s, there were third, fourth and fifth parties but the major newspapers consistently favored either the Democrat or the Republican.  The media does a lot to keep the two party system in place–then and now.  The televised debate would have us see voting for Johnson or Stein is clearly a throw away vote. They were kept safely off the stage.  The Coke/Pepsi comparison–the split screen–would not have worked nearly as well with three or four candidates. The two candidate comparison undoubtedly worked to Clinton’s advantage. Moreover, I think she ended up on the more desirable side of the screen.  One might also argue that this, too, was a conscious reversal with Trump on the Left and Clinton on the right.  But it was more important for her than for DJT.  One must assume that these were all carefully considered and negotiated.cnn-trump-hillary-998x699The other thing that happened was that she appeared on the right side of the screen

Next time around Donald may insist that he be allowed to be Donald.  The gloves will come off. As he said, he could have said mean things about her and her family but he was trying to be nice.  But it didn’t work.