The momentum in the US presidential election has once again shifted towards Hillary Clinton. It has happened because of the disastrous performance of Donald Trump in the September 26 presidential debate.
The polls are now beginning to show Hillary Clinton gaining from her debate performance. Going to the debate, on his website "projects.fivethirtyeight.com" that many check for credible polls about the presidential and senate elections, Nate Silver had given Donald Trump numbers that showed he was catching up Hillary Clinton. He had given Hillary Clinton a 52.7 per cent chance of winning and Donald Trump 47.3 per cent with the momentum in the latter's favour. At the time of filing this article, in five days since the debate, Nate Silver has given Hillary Clinton a 67.7 per cent chance of winning against Donald Trump's 32.3 per cent with the momentum now in favour of the latter.
The debate has revealed a major change in the direction of the presidential election. Donald Trump had started his campaign as a rank outsider in the pack of 17 seeking the Republican ticket. No one gave him any chance. As he said incredible things that were mostly lies, racist and hate filled, etcetera, the media paid little attention. In fact, the media went into denial over what he was saying and cheered him as he defeated one candidate after another, ignoring that he was bringing into the mainstream of US politics ideas, thoughts and groups that were hitherto in the dark fringes of the country's politics.
The media picked one element of Donald Trump's campaign to turn him into a serious candidate. It thought that his contempt about Washington and its "political correctness" had touched millions among the middle class, particularly the huge number of white blue-collar workers, who are suffering serious economic hardships. It further thought that his message of change would bring these millions into play and send Donald Trump to the White House. It did not bother that he called the USA a Third World country to make his case that made no sense at all and that he did not provide credible plan or plans to turn the USA back again into a leading First World country!
The media finally realised in days leading to the first debate when he showed the prospect of winning, that he was also leading the United States towards a dangerous path. The media's wake up call came when he casually dismissed his racist 'birther' movement with which he had called President Obama an illegitimate President. In fact, he had built his candidature with the 'birther' movement aware that it would bring behind him millions of white voters who were never comfortable that a black had become the President of the country.
The change in the media was apparent in the debate and the spin in the media thereafter. Lester Holt, the debate's moderator, raised the bar higher for Donald Trump. He also did not allow him from getting away without answering some serious questions he had asked him like with his taxes, the 'birther' controversy, his contempt for women, etcetera. In contrast, he gave Hillary Clinton the pass on issues of concern like the email, Benghazi, etcetera with Donald Trump failing to bring these issues into play.
Since the debate, the mainstream media put Donald Trump under the microscope on a wide range of issues of interest to the swing voters. The role of CNN is revealing. It has been the first media establishment to state unequivocally together with the liberal MSNBC that Donald Trump had performed miserably although CNN is not known to be pro-Democrat. In particular, its spin to the case of former Miss Universe Alicia Machado has helped the issue to become so dangerous that it is developing more relevant against Donald Trump than his earlier problems with Khizr Hayat and the Mexican judge.
The media that had indulged Donald Trump to make the election a close contest is now his toughest critic. Major newspapers endorse presidential candidates as a routine. What is unusual this year is that many pro-Republican newspapers that have never endorsed a Democrat have endorsed Hillary Clinton not necessarily because she is the better candidate but because of Donald Trump's incompetence and the dangers he poses to the country. No newspaper has endorsed him so far, the first time ever that the candidate of a major political party has failed to get even a single endorsement.
US Today's Editorial Board did something extraordinary. In its issue of September 29 it told its readers the following: "This year, the choice isn't between two capable major party nominees who happen to have significant ideological differences. This year, one of the candidates - Republican nominee Donald Trump - is, by unanimous consensus of the Editorial Board, unfit for the presidency." The Editorial Board called him a "serial liar", "erratic", "ill-equipped to be the commander-in-chief", and that he "traffics in prejudice." The following day, The Washington Post took another unusual decision to write a series of editorials to tell Americans about the real dangers of electing Donald Trump.
The writer is a retired Ambassador.