All Air and No Thunder: How Trump Blew the Presidential Debate (Gonzo & Conjure ’16)

“Ten years before — even five — I had been the same way. I wanted it all and I wanted it fast and no obstacle was big enough to put me off. Since then I have learned that some things were bigger than they looked from a distance, and now I was not so sure anymore just what I was going to get or even what I deserved.” – Hunter S. Thompson


You ever heard a Florida thunderstorm deep within the state’s interior? Far away from the tourists and the oceans and the calm breeze that hints of tropical weather and carefree days? It rolls in carrying all the wind and movement for miles tightly bound around it. You can sense it before you see it, some weird animal knowing causing you hairs to tighten and your blood to thicken.  When it booms the sound bounces off of every building and acre of land like a metal sheet. You realize you are in the presence of something far greater than yourself, an event that carries away individuals and sets trees alight with nothing to stop it.

This was the same energy the first presidential debate of 2016 was supposed to deliver. Instead we were left with a confused man chasing shadows while an upright alligator stood by and laughed.

Anticipation was heavy at the Bones’ house and the beer flowed freely, a weird tension twisting around my root chakra as I waited for something to chew on. Here I was, a lone Hyena far off from New York and banking on a thrill, one voice among many bouncing around on the couch to watch what was touted as the Greatest Show on Earth.

That’s all it was, wasn’t it? A big fake drama we were all binging on? A carefully written script we would all quote and cackle at over water coolers we didn’t own and at desks we were forced to work from?

I should have known the debate would be less than stellar when the moderator arrived. Lester Holt was clearly out of his element. Scared, terrified, his voice cracks like a wood floor with too much house on it. As I try to ignore him some dickweed on CNN talks about the lightning speed these debates are judged at, the first 15 minutes usually deciding “who won the debate” altogether.

15 minutes? Why bother then? Why not take 30 minutes each day and let the candidates scream at each other in real time? Hell why not give them revolvers and shoot at one another? If all it took was one cheap shot to win why not just give the American people the blood we were all eagerly waiting to splash across our televisions?

The candidates arrived and shook hands like old friends, teeth dripping with venom. The curtain rose and we, like so many others, became glued to the spectacle.

Trump seemed confident, a Cheeto-colored con-man peddling his wares to an ignorant and savage audience. Like the snake oil salesmen of old he promised miracle cures with simple doses of folksy know-how and fake business acumen; he was a liar, a thief, a no good scoundrel brandishing a flag while swearing he’d make everything okay. He spoke to intellectual children, unkept men who missed the authoritarian father they publicly reviled but secretly loved. Women, turned off by his open scorn and meat-hungry eyes, had fled his waters in droves to seek higher ground. Those that remained called him a gift from god and very publicly prayed for his victory, never stopping to wonder what kind of god would damn a Syrian child to hell while promoting a property-pimp to the highest office in the land.

Hillary in comparison was muted. She smiled, but not too much, laughed but kept composure. A dinosaur-esque level of experience seemed to be guiding her.

“What kind of country do we want to be?” That was Hillary’s lead off as she began a laundry list of typical politician fare touting “an economy that works for all,” a concept she’s miraculously come around to just recently and never acted on before. Nobody buys it for a minute, at least not this reporter. The words themselves were horribly worn, a cheap knock-off of Bernie’s already borrowed Mao coat.

Trump however seemed to be biting at the bit. Rather than go the usual route he lashed out with an obtuse, weird attack on China and Mexico. He starts by talking of leaving jobs, yet remains very respectful towards Hillary. I foolishly thought we might actually have a debate of substance.

Clinton speaks, arguing for a plan that “rewards work” and not financial guessing games, seemingly oblivious to the massive amounts of Wall-Street money donated to her campaign.

Trump, “in all fairness” cracks a joke but begins to show fangs. Hillary has been in office for what, 30 years? Why is she saying all this now? We howl and hoot with laughter. Bravo! We despise the man but enjoy seeing the powerful taken to town. We chug beer with the full knowledge we’ll never have enough power to do the same, try to absorb some of the vicarious essence of the puppet show on TV. Shotguns fire in the distance as tribal hicks toast their new Chieftain.

Trump directly addresses her, tells her to be quiet, interrupts. He is a rabid hound who barks loudly. Clinton maintains a nuanced argument, talks specific numbers and developments. Empty air we half-listen to as we anticipate the next insult. Trump rolls in to every well-reasoned argument like a road-warrior with a club and smashes it.

People cheer. Even those who would never vote for Trump crack smiles. Clinton is trying to reach an audience. She already has one. Trump is here to beat her up. He is.

This is clearly not a a debate. The people’s champion has been brought here to do battle with the spitting image of the establishment, perhaps something symbolic in a nature. Even I appeared to be caught up in a psychic storm, one I imagine many Americans were, rooting not so much for Trump as anybody who was against Hillary. I put down my beer and looked at my wife, who was laughing just as hard as I was.

“What foul sorcery would cause me to root for such vile slime?” Trump might be the first politician to openly say “I’m here to help the wealthy” and here I am, a poor person, laughing at his jokes and cheering his jabs. The air seems thick with ions and I began to feel uneasy.

While Lester Holt stumbled, mumbled and shakily tried to bring order I had to step back to look into my spiritual body. There I saw it, something weird indeed going on: my aura above my chest and shoulders was red with excitement and at a higher angle then normal. These words, HIS words, should not be having this effect. But they were.

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Dr. Bones

Dr. Bones is a conjurer, card-reader and egoist-communist who believes “true individuality can only flourish when the means of existence are shared by all." A Florida native and Hoodoo practitioner, he summons pure vitriol, straight narrative, and sorcerous wisdom into a potent blend of poltergasmic politics and gonzo journalism. He lives with his loving wife, a herd of cats, and a house full of spirits.

His writing can be found at Gods & RadicalsDisinfo, and Greed Media. He can be reached at The Conjure House and through Facebook.

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