How Donald Trump Can Still be a Hero: Force the Guardians of the Duopoly to Open Up the Debates

Listen up, Donald: as you know, you are on track for losing big time – to Crooked Hillary, no less.

Hillary’s people want voters to think that you stand a chance. Their friends in the media are pulling out all the stops, helping them out. We both know that they are full of it.

That you don’t stand a chance is so obvious that it is becoming hard for them to pretend that you do. Snippets of truth are popping up all over — even in such unlikely venues as NPR, The Washington Post and The New York Times.

Before long, even your most ardent fans will realize that you are about to get schlonged. Then it will happen for real.

You must be feeling conflicted. Everybody knows that you are one shrewd son of a bitch; even with your father’s money, you couldn’t have gotten as rich as you are by being oblivious. However, you also seem to believe your own hype.

And so, you too promote the idea that there is a real contest underway.

You even blabber on, from time to time, as if you were invincible. Doing that, while wondering, along with everybody else, what the hell you are doing running for President is no mean feat.

Unless I am very mistaken, you got yourself into this mess only to boost your brand. You never wanted it to get this far, and you never expected that it would. Surely, you understand that you are not cut out for the presidency. If you don’t, you are a lot less self-aware than I think.

But you “mis-overestimated,” as George W. Bush might say, the dunces you ran against in the primaries.  With card-carrying bozos for opponents, the situation got out of hand almost from Day One.

Even so, you should have bowed out while you still gracefully could. Too bad for you that your ego craved the adulation that came your way; too bad too that you couldn’t stand to lose – especially to someone you knew to be inept and second-rate.

You put yourself in a popularity contest, not all that different from your beauty pageants. That was a bad idea: you set yourself up to be slaughtered by one of the least popular politicians in America today. What were you thinking?

The explanation cannot be that you thought you could win while losing, the way you do in real estate. You could hardly fail to realize that this is different.   In electoral contests, there are no bankruptcy laws to take advantage of; and no workers, contractors and suppliers to cheat. You cannot shift the costs onto others, enriching yourself in the process.

Losing to Hillary is losing, pure and simple — end of story.

There is the shame of it, of course, but you could probably deal with that, at least to your own satisfaction. You already are by declaring, every chance you get, how the election is rigged against you.

The bigger problem is that you could end up harming the Trump brand. How ironic that would be!

The problem is not just that the kinds of people who buy the gilded crap you peddle don’t want to be associated with a loser. The bigger problem is the persona you will be remembered for projecting.

Your pleasure domes for the filthy rich, your reality TV schtick, and your tabloid escapades helped build your brand. Over-the-top bad taste sells.

But a late sixties – early seventies George Wallace veneer doesn’t sit well with your intended demographic. Parvenus, potentates, and oligarchs don’t want to be associated with the kinds of people who have made you their Fearless Leader. They want people to think they have “class.”

No doubt, you find this latest persona of yours demeaning too.

To get to where you now are, you have had to deal with quite a few bastards and sleazeballs. The real estate world is full of them. Ivanka’s father-in-law is a case in point; back when he was the U.S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey, even your pal Chris Christie saw fit to prosecute him.

You have also dealt with mobsters and with politicians as crooked as Hillary and Bill – in New York, New Jersey, Florida, Nevada, and wherever else you have done business.

But the unlovelies you have had to make nice to once your campaign got going are worse.

Thank Nixon’s Southern Strategy for that; it turned the GOP into a party of lowlifes. These days, even the Clintons hobnob with a better class of people.

With the company you keep, and with all you say and do to keep them on board, is it any wonder that the conventional wisdom has it that Hillary is, by far, the lesser evil?

On trade, job creation, relations with Russia, wars in the Middle East, and so on, your views, as best they can be ascertained, are less retrograde than hers; and you are probably no more racist, nativist or Islamophobic than the average billionaire.

But you do bring out the inner fascist in desperate white people. If they gave a prize for being America’s scariest boogeyman, you’d win hands down.

Do you really want to be thought of that way? Do you like being a laughing-stock in polite (“politically correct”) society?

This is now your future, and there isn’t anything you can do about it. Your money can no longer buy respect for yourself or your brood. Your brand is shot.

But wait – the situation is more complicated and therefore not quite as hopeless as that. You could even still come out on top – not in the foreseeable future, but in the judgment of history.

A lot depends on what you do in the next few weeks.


You have already driven a stake through the heart of the GOP.

If the monster doesn’t recover, you will be remembered for striking a blow against the duopoly party system that is suffocating democracy in the United States. No one in modern times has done more.

The duopoly deprives people of choice on matters of fundamental economic consequence.

The deeper problem, though, is that, under capitalism, economic inequalities spill over into the political sphere.

This happens everywhere to some extent, but the American system is especially susceptible to plutocratic influence. Democrats and Republicans have seen to that.

You are hardly one to campaign against plutocracy. You are a plutocrat yourself – and proud of it.

Are you not therefore amazed, as you gaze down from your multi-story Trump Tower penthouse, that people consider you a “populist?”

A billionaire populist; the very idea is oxymoronic. But in a country that worships wealth and celebrity, it seems almost normal.

Real populists, the kind America produced in the 1890s, would have you in their crosshairs. But you are safe: the populism you inspire targets cultural elites only.

The even odder aspect of it is that, except when you are rabble rousing, you are not affected by that populism yourself. Some of your closest associates are the kinds of people Spiro Agnew used to call “effete intellectual snobs.”

You socialize with them; you invite them, along with the Clintons, to your weddings.

Meanwhile, people who think you’d make a great President have as much chance of getting invited to Mar-a-Lago or to your digs on Fifth Avenue as the man in the moon.

You want them to come to your rallies and to vote for you, but then you want them to go away.

This somehow doesn’t offend them; they also seem not to care that you don’t share their animosities.

Neither do your class brothers and sisters care about the anger you’ve stirred up in the hearts and minds of the riffraff your campaign attracts. So long as their power remains unchallenged, they are fine with it. In their world, greed is all.


People like that, plutocrats, will, as they say of the poor, always be with us – maybe not forever, but for as long as capitalism persists.

The more powerful they are, the less democracy we have. Plutocracy is democracy’s foremost enemy.

Even if you wanted to, which you plainly don’t, you couldn’t change that law of nature, and neither could you change its corollary: that, as a general rule, electoral contests in capitalist societies do more to reinforce the capitalist order than to undermine it.

However, genuinely leftwing political forces in capitalist societies can help ameliorate some of the problems caused by the inequalities that capitalism produces — by instituting measures that keep those inequalities in bounds, and measures that counter the tendency for plutocratic power to spill over into the political sphere.

For roughly the first three decades of the post-World War II era, every developed capitalist country did this to some extent.

By mobilizing support for leaders determined to dust off the old techniques and to bring them up-to-date, a determined populace can do it again. Where there is a will there is a way.

But there is no will – none, anyway, that is politically efficacious — as long as Democrats and Republicans run the show.

This is why undoing their duopoly is the paramount political task of our time.

No doubt, it never crossed you mind to take up that cause. But, without realizing it, that is what you did. If only for this, you will be remembered as an American hero.

History will think especially kindly of you if, thanks to your efforts, the Republican Party expires. But even if a version of it survives, you will still be remembered for showing how vulnerable that part of the duopoly is — and for damaging it profoundly.

You will also be remembered for delivering the coup de grâce to the House of Bush, for humiliating Marco Rubio and a dozen or so other lesser or greater miscreants, and for raining on Ted Cruz’s parade.

Had Bernie Sanders not gone over to the Dark Side — or, as some believe, had he not been there all along — had he instead led his followers out of the Democratic Party, a party that sponsors everything he ostensibly opposed, his contribution might have been as great or greater than yours.

But he did nothing of the kind.

He and his more gullible admirers are still talking the talk. They have even launched a new organization called, of all things, “Our Revolution.” That venture got off to a bad start, and is unlikely to thrive. Whether it does or not, you don’t have to worry about being upstaged. Sanders had a chance to make history, and he blew it.

He will be remembered for showing that there is a progressive impulse in the American electorate that is aching to be expressed, for demonstrating how a presidential campaign can be run without depending on money from the “billionaire class,” for not kowtowing too blatantly to the Israel lobby, and so on. But he has not moved history along, even to the extent that you already have.

The talking heads who do the Clintons yeoman service are now promoting the idea that the Sanders insurgency arose out of the political inexperience and idealistic naivety of the so-called millennial generation — in league with hapless geezers who, like Sanders himself, are impractical dreamers.

Before long, when Hillary’s wars will have made her as reviled in liberal circles as the far more worthy Lyndon Johnson once was, it will be impossible for the people who now think that maybe her politics isn’t that bad to fail to see what condescending nonsense this is. For now, though, the story has legs, and the Clintonites are sticking with it.

For the sake of argument, let’s concede their point: Sanders and the people he inspired, young and old, were dreamers, naïfs.

Even so, nothing they dared dreamed of was as momentous as knocking off the Republican Party.

In fairness to them, it must be said that they did damage the Democratic Party in one respect – they exposed its utter rottenness. But sensible and informed people knew that the party was rotten already; and the fact that its corruption is even more salient now seems to be having little effect.

It is amazing that so many Sanders supporters aren’t more bothered by the fact that the party’s leaders rigged the election for Hillary. Many of them have acquiesced; others, like Sanders himself, are now actively working for Hillary.

Could they be oblivious to the broader picture in much the way that Trump’s “populist” followers are? Or is it their view, and maybe Sanders’ too, that they were cheated fair and square? In either case, how pathetic is that!

Others have emerged from the Sanders debacle sadder but wiser. They realize that, partly thanks to Hillary and Bill, the Democratic Party is, by now, too rotten to be reformed from within; and that it is pointless to try.

Many would-be Democratic voters are therefore beginning to see the wisdom of exiting the party altogether. The more who do, the better for (small-d) democracy.

But with so much effort now being expended promoting the idea that your candidacy poses a clear and present danger, it is unlikely that the numbers of people exercising the exit option will swell enough to make a significant difference November 8.

On that day of infamy, Hillary will win by a landslide; not because a lot of people actually want her to be President, but because they want you to be President even less.

You cannot change that. If you try, if you flip flop like a Clinton or if you soften your talking points, it would probably hurt you more with your base than it would help attract those suburban housewives that Hillary’s talking heads claim you are now trying to win over.

You are crusin’ for a brusin’, Donald; deal with it!


But all is not lost. You could, yet again, do a world of good.

Hegel maintained that, from time to time, world historical figures, individuals who move History along, appear on the world stage. They are moved by their own passions and interests, not by nobler ideals. But thanks to the Cunning of Reason, progress happens – as an unintended consequence of actions performed for other, baser ends.

The world historical figures Hegel had in mind were princes and generals, not real estate moguls or reality TV stars. It now seems that he was wrong about that.

Who knows what passions and interests led you to lock horns with the unlikely coalition of Country Clubbers and Tea Partiers, theocrats and libertarians that the GOP had become. You probably don’t know yourself.

And who cares? You moved History along. The only still unsettled question is by how much.

Now there is something more that you can do – in your own short-term interest again, but also, more directly and whether you care or not, for a more noble reason: for democracy’s sake.

It is a very simple thing that would require almost no effort on your part.

All you need do is demand that the Commission on Presidential Debates, a creature of the Democratic and Republican Parties, concocted for the purpose of keeping the duopoly intact, open the debates to Jill Stein, the Green Party candidate, and Gary Johnson, the candidate of the Libertarian Party.

You could insist on this as a condition for your participation. If you do, the Commission could hardly refuse; your participation is indispensible. Nobody, this side of Goldman Sachs would tune in just to see and hear Hillary.

Demand that they go back to League of Women Voters’ rules, according to which anyone with a theoretical chance of winning – anyone whose name appears on enough state ballots to gain the required number of Electoral College votes and in whom there is evidence of significant voter interest – gets to debate the Democrat and the Republican.

You have nothing to lose: a theoretical chance of winning is all you’ve got yourself.

And with “Jill, Not Hill” signs popping up all over, you have something to gain.   You cannot keep victory away from Hillary, but you can help assure that she doesn’t pile on the votes. This would lessen the humiliation headed your way.

With the duopoly parties in such sorry states, 2016 could be a breakout year for both the Greens and the Libertarians. The better they do, the weaker the duopoly’s stranglehold will be, and the more (small-d) democratic our politics will become.

With the GOP dead or dying, and with a Democratic Party that only a Clintonite could love, the duopoly is bound to expire sooner or later. It will happen sooner, if Stein and Johnson are in the debates; and the world will be better off for it.

Dumping on Hillary is fine; she deserves it. Thanks to the consequences of her bellicosity, it will soon become a national pastime; and there is no harm in landing some punches early on.

But, if you are the one leading the charge, little good will come of it.   After all, you are part of the same corruption. You have said as much countless times. You have boasted about it.

In the primaries and caucuses, visceral Hillary-bashing worked well for you. But it won’t pass muster for the sixty percent or more of the electorate that is not going to vote for you come what may.

What will move them to get off the Hillary bandwagon are arguments, sound ones. Stein has plenty of cogent and compelling arguments up her sleeve.  Johnson, a principled libertarian and opponent of Clinton-style imperialism is worth listening to as well.

Let the two of them be heard and the debates will all of a sudden become worth watching – not just for their entertainment value, but also for the insights they provide. No one can say that about your bluster or Hillary’s twaddle.

Therefore tell those damn Democrats and Republicans that if they won’t open up their debates, you will shut them down. You can do that. Yes, you can.

You can change the landscape of American politics

Hillary and her people will object, fearing, justifiably, that Stein and Johnson will show her up.   She will seem petulant and base; you will occupy the moral and intellectual high ground.

Try it out for once; you may find that it’s not a bad place to be. Taking the high ground could help rehabilitate your reputation too, and the reputation of your brand.

Too bad for you, though, that, in the near future, nothing can wipe away the stain left by your demagoguery.

However, if you do the right thing, for no matter what reason, you will have helped tear the duopoly asunder — securing for yourself a place in history the likes of which Hillary and Bill and Bernie can only dream.

You can take consolation in that.

ANDREW LEVINE is the author most recently of THE AMERICAN IDEOLOGY (Routledge) and POLITICAL KEY WORDS (Blackwell) as well as of many other books and articles in political philosophy. His most recent book is In Bad Faith: What’s Wrong With the Opium of the People. He was a Professor (philosophy) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a Research Professor (philosophy) at the University of Maryland-College Park.  He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press).