Before the Clinton vs. Trump “Super Bowl” of Presidential Debates, will you kneel with Time cover boy Colin Kaepernick?
I’ve had pneumonia before, and it knocked me on my butt for nearly two weeks.
So to see Hillary Clinton bounce back to continue her presidential campaign has earned her “Iron Woman” status in my eyes.
But I’ve seen her in action and bounce back all throughout her career. There was the stinging setback in her drive for health care reform as First Lady. The countless attacks on her character from the media and right-wing partisans. The fundraising scandals with Asian Americans. The personal scandals throughout the Clinton Administration. The stunning rebuke in the 2008 campaign.
Hillary Clinton has weathered it all.
And here she is again for the American people, the top surviving politician vying for the highest political office in the free world, battling an opponent who, by choice, is running an anti-political campaign to appeal to voters who have given up and are willing to throw their votes away.
It’s made this the most frustrating campaign ever, and now the two candidates will be side-by-side for easy comparison.
I don’t expect Hillary to wither on Monday for the biggest debate of her political life.
One hundred million people are expected to tune in for the high point of a campaign that has been less on the issues and more on the visceral appeal of the candidates.
The polls suggest these are the two most disliked candidates ever to run for the presidency.
It’s the Nose Clip Presidential Debate of 2016.
The big question to ask as you watch: Who comes out smelling best?
Who will allow the majority of Americans to breathe freely about the future of our democracy and our country?
It would be great to look at a list of issues and check them off.
But the issues seem to matter less than ever before.
For Clinton, the key visceral issue seems to be her “likeability.”
Maybe that’s why this week, the most engaging thing to come out of the campaign was Hillary’s participation in the satirical talk show, “Between Two Ferns” with comedian Zach Galifianakis.
And why not?
The thing that made Donald Trump famous was a primetime reality show.
If you doubted Clinton’s sense of play, watch the short segment.
It shows the Hillary that the media, the stump speeches, and the Trump portrayal don’t let you see.
She’s no liar. She’s no buffoon. The talk show may have been scripted, but it shows Clinton as a woman who can take a joke, have fun, and still look like the leader of the free world.
Real issue-wise, people I know are still concerned about Hillary’s e-mail issue. But they’re feasting on thin, watered down gruel, which one does when there’s nothing else.
More substantial concerns are raised by those who actually like Clinton, but watched the Sanders-Clinton debates and saw big red flags when she mentioned former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger as a mentor. It further cast Clinton as a war-hawk in a time when war and terror can disrupt life at a moment’s notice.
Still, compare her to Trump, whose reactive stances are so unpredictable. Again, ask yourself, who would make you breathe easier in these tense times?
Domestically, it’s not even close.
If you’re an Asian American or person of color, Hillary has reached out. DAPA and DACA under the Obama plan would not be endangered. But Trump has defined the perimeter for our country. He’s ready to put up a wall of any kind, literally or metaphorically, at any time, anywhere, most likely with you on the other side.
And when there are no walls, Trump is all for invading your private space. His response to the recent outcries against violence and terrorism has been to suggest a law-and-order approach that has already been declared unconstitutional by a federal judge when it was implemented in New York.
Trump’s advocacy of stop-and-frisk shows how quick he is to throw out the Constitution and restore his own reign of terror in urban America. But stop-and-frisk just doesn’t work.
CNN reported that between 2004 and 2012, out of 4.4 million stopped, 87 percent were African American or Latino.
Only 12 percent were charged with crimes, meaning a whopping 88 percent were needlessly harassed.
In a constitutional democracy, you can call that unnecessary uber-policing.
You’d expect a leader of the United States to have more respect for the Constitution.
But time and again, Trump, the anti-politician, has shown a profound misunderstanding of the foundation of our country and the civil liberties we all have.
For example, here’s Trump on the peaceful protest of Colin Kaepernick, the NFL’s kneeling Gandhi/MLK hybrid: “I think it’s personally not a good thing. I think it’s a terrible thing. And you know, maybe he should find a country that works better for him, let him try. It won’t happen.”
Because Trump apparently believes an America without constitutional rights to dissent and free speech should be just fine for those of us like Kaepernick—people of color concerned with their civil rights and issues like police brutality.
I live relatively close to where Kaepernick went to high school in California. Once a beloved NFL hero, his demotion has actually been a good thing. It’s allowed for the rise of his self-identity, not just as a person of color, but as a person of conscience as well. It’s earned him his place on the cover of Time magazine.
But as we come to the presidential campaign’s big debate, the coincidence of the police shootings in Charlotte and Tulsa should make us all understand how Kaepernick’s stand is more relevant than ever.
And it provides yet another way to view Monday’s debate.
Ask yourself which candidate sees America the way it should be for all.
And before the debate starts, as it likely begins with the playing of the national anthem, as is often done at public events, don’t rise reflexively, as if it doesn’t matter.
Think about it. Wherever you are. Rise if you must. But kneel, if you feel, and pray for the better America we want for all of us.
Your candidate should be the one who doesn’t make us hold our breath to see what happens next.
Likely, she’ll be the one who will allow us to breathe more freely in our democratic society.