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Donald Trump in Debate Tried Lowering the Bar for Racism

Donald Trump in Debate Tried Lowering the Bar for Racism


Americans can't let Trump get away with setting a low bar for civil rights.


Donald Trump during the debate once again redefined "president of the United States" by his depressingly low bar. The Trump case for becoming president always boils down to a belief the whole country is in the garbage and needs to be made great. But it's actually Trump making us worse, by defining us downward.

During Monday's debate Trump subtly lowered the standard for who is racist. Trump is, after all, very proud and wants to be congratulated for letting black people into his country clubs.

"In Palm Beach, Fla., tough community, a brilliant community, a wealthy community, probably the wealthiest community there is in the world, I opened a club," he bragged, "and really got great credit for it."

Credit for what?

"No discrimination against African-Americans, against Muslims, against anybody," he patted himself on the back. "And it's a tremendously successful club."

It was the 1990s. But it's almost as if Trump can't believe it himself. Smart, rich people actually let black people into their dining rooms and golf courses.

"And I'm so glad I did it," he said. "And I have been given great credit for what I did. And I'm very, very proud of it."

Remember when Trump thanked the audience at the Republican National Convention for applauding his creepy proclamation that he didn't want to kill LGBT people? That really happened.

The media let it slip right by, even congratulating Trump for mentioning LGBT people. Instead, journalists should've called Trump out for congratulating those who don't want to shoot us or beat us to death -- as if that were an accomplishment.

"Only weeks ago, in Orlando, Fla., 49 wonderful Americans were savagely murdered by an Islamic terrorist. This time, the terrorist targeted our LGBTQ community," he said during the convention. "No good. And we're going to stop it. As your president, I will do everything in my power to protect our LGBTQ citizens from the violence and oppression of a hateful foreign ideology."

That really should go without saying. No president should advocate for beating or murdering citizens, regardless of their race, religion, gender identity, or sexual orientation.

"I must say, as a Republican, it is so nice to hear you cheering for what I just said," Trump told his audience. "Thank you."

I wasn't thanking him then. And Trump isn't owed any thanks for letting Muslims or black people into his country clubs or serving any of us at his hotels or letting any of us live in his housing developments.

The whole topic came up because Hillary Clinton reminded viewers that Trump had been sued for marking applications to his father's housing developments with a "C" for people of color, an indicator the application should be turned down. Trump bragged that the lawsuit was settled without admitting guilt.

It's not a plus in my book that Trump never apologized to the people he'd discriminated against or that he escaped prosecution. But in Trump's America you are "smart" if you can skirt the rule of law and the rules of decency.

Here is a man who bragged on Monday that "I take advantage of the laws of the nation." When Clinton accused him of not paying any federal income taxes, Trump said "That makes me smart."

Donald Trump has been redefining what it means to be president for well over a year. At times, I couldn't tell whether we had any standards left. Whenever we let him get away with this creeping racism and homophobia and xenophobia, we're abandoning ourselves.

Even before Monday night, Trump was lowering expectations by bragging that he didn't need to study for the debate. Then, in one of the most inconceivable moments from Monday night, Trump actually chided Clinton for spending the usual time in "debate prep." Here was a candidate for president bragging that he isn't conscientious.

In one of Clinton's best lines, she stopped him from redefining the presidency by a remedial standard.

"I think Donald just criticized me for preparing for this debate," she said. "And, yes, I did. And you know what else I prepared for? I prepared to be president. And I think that's a good thing."

My faith in this country is that Americans will defend high standards for their president. And they will keep principled standards, not deciding who should be president by the size of their bank account. (Trump actually offered to release a list of banks Monday.) Donald Trump bragged all night, about his wealth, about not paying taxes, and then: "I also have a much better temperament than she has."

The audience actually LOL-ed.

The moderator, Lester Holt, had warned them never to applaud or react. But here is a man who spent the first 30 minutes or so of the debate in a near-constant yell at Clinton.

"Secretary, you have no plan!" he shouted at the other podium.

"Typical politician, all talk, no action," he started saying as Holt unsuccessfully tried posing a question -- which would happen all night.

Trump's "temperament" was so bad that the media made a game of tracking how often Trump snidely leaned into his microphone to bark at Clinton. "Trump interrupted Clinton 25 times in the first 26 minutes of the debate," read the headline from Vox.

With that collective guffaw from the audience, I hoped, Americans sent the message that Trump hasn't redefined their presidency. The American Dream is not to one day become a billionaire who says anything he wants, shuns whoever he wants, and congratulates himself for not discriminating against those he presumes don't inherently have rights.

LUCAS GRINDLEY is editorial director for Here Media. Contact him on Twitter @lucasgrindley.

Watch the moment the audience laughs at Donald Trump:

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Lucas Grindley

Lucas Grindley is VP and Editorial Director for Here Media, which is parent company to The Advocate. His Twitter account is filled with politics, Philip Glass appreciation, and adorable photos of his twin toddler daughters.
Lucas Grindley is VP and Editorial Director for Here Media, which is parent company to The Advocate. His Twitter account is filled with politics, Philip Glass appreciation, and adorable photos of his twin toddler daughters.