Why You Don’t Have to Feel Too Sick About What Happened Last Night

A counterintuitively optimistic take on the first presidential debate

Douglas Rushkoff
GEN
Published in
6 min readSep 30, 2020

--

Photos: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

I admit, it was a hard night. I’ve finally reached the point in my career where I get to live-tweet a debate on behalf of a publication. But now that I’ve gotten here, presidential politics has deteriorated beyond recognition. Tuesday night was a sick, depressing spectacle closer to late-stage Jerry Springer than civic discourse.

No one “won.” Not Trump, not Biden, and certainly not Americans.

But do not despair. The harder the president of the United States argues that democracy is over, that voting can’t work, that New York City is irreversibly failed, or that his thugs should “stand by” for civil war, the more certain I am that his reign is coming to an end. The emperor truly has no clothes.

Trump could have made a coherent and compelling argument for the power of the free market to solve our problems, the inalienable rights of individuals to express their autonomy, and the forced infantilization of leftist policies and the deep, neoliberal global elite profiting off it. But he didn’t do that, because he can’t connect real actions or positions with real results.

No, to understand our president’s great vulnerability — as well as the way it played out last night — you have to understand the magical tradition that informs his actions and beliefs. As a child, Donald Trump went to Marble Collegiate Church in New York City, where every Sunday he listened to the sermons of Norman Vincent Peale, author of The Power of Positive Thinking. Trump came to believe that the world is manifest through our thoughts. Thinking makes it so. We create our own realities, and those of others, with our thoughts and with our words. It’s all based on the hypnosis of oneself and others.

That’s why Trump doesn’t talk about Covid deaths or losing the election. Admitting the possibility, focusing on the negative, speaking those words…

--

--

Douglas Rushkoff
GEN
Writer for

Author of Survival of the Richest, Team Human, Program or Be Programmed, and host of the Team Human podcast http://teamhuman.fm