“Oh, oh, oh
It’s magic, you know
Never believe it’s not so
It’s magic, you know
Never believe, it’s not so”
–Magic by Pilot (1974)
When I was a child, in reward for enduring countless hours of watching my mother try on every pair of shoes in the Harrods shoe department with minimal outbursts and complaints, I was allowed to visit Harrods’ famed Toy Kingdom. My interest was always instantly drawn to the Marvin’s Magic display, where Marvin would perform the tricks on sale. Upon the completion of each trick the captivated audience, myself included, would ask Marvin “how’s it done?” and his response was always that “a magician never reveals his secrets”.
The first Presidential debate, in which Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump will finally talk to each other rather than about each other, is set to take place on the 26th September at Hofstra University in New York. Whilst the public have ample amount of time to set their DVRs, the candidates have started preparing for the big day albeit via very different methods.
Hillary Clinton is said to be conducting extensive research in preparation for the debates. Such research includes, getting advice from psychology experts to determine Trump’s personal profile, analysing Trump’s performances in the primary debates, conducting mock debates with stand-ins mimicking Trump’s debating style, and even hiring the ghostwriter behind The Art of The Deal to tap into Trump’s deepest insecurities. Quite simply, Clinton is taking the detailed and structured approach to preparing for the first debate.
Donald Trump, meanwhile, is taking a more relaxed approach, stating that ‘I believe you can prep too much for those things” and that in preparing there is a danger “you can sound scripted or phony”. Reports have revealed that Trump has shown very little interest in preparing responses and taking part in mock-debates because he “doesn’t see a real need”. Instead, he claims he is relying on his confidence in knowing “how to handle Hillary”.
The way in which the candidates choose to prepare for the debates is largely unimportant, only their respective performances at Hofstra University on Sept 26th will matter. However, their different strategies are very much suggestive of their overall approach to policy-making and the Presidency.
Clinton policies are extensive and in-depth, formed from a foundation of research, experience and preparation. When pressed to outline these details, Hillary can do so not only seamlessly, but also in a comprehensive and consistent fashion. In her views concerning a Clinton Presidency, we see the same sense of consistency and preparedness. Hillary Clinton has prized herself as being a seasoned campaigner and someone used to the rigours, demands and intensity of decision making at the highest levels. Her campaign slogan, ‘Stronger Together’ indicates that the secrets in transforming America for the better won’t be hidden from us – the people, together with Hillary, will be the magician. Clearly, Clinton’s approach to her campaign and the policies it promotes is just as structured and organised as her approach to preparing for the first debates.
Donald Trump’s carefree and come-what-may attitude towards preparing for the debates is also indicative of his campaign approach. Since announcing his run for the Presidency he has promised to “make America great again’, build a wall on America’s southern border and make Mexico pay for it, ban Muslims from temporarily entering the country, get rid of Obamacare and replace it with something “terrific”, save Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security without cutting benefits, “take care of women”, improve the lives of minority communities, make the military “so big and so strong and so great”, shut down parts of the internet, bring back jobs from China, and allow America to “start winning again” to name but a few.
Despite the vehemence of their announcement, these policies are not necessarily steadfastly held. Donald Trump has jumped back and forth on issues ranging from immigration, abortion, the banning of Muslims from entering the country, and a range of other issues depending on the audience he is addressing. All this exemplifies that the impulsiveness and flexibility exhibited in preparing for the debates is also being applied to campaign policy stances.
Instead of providing in-depth policies to solidify his campaign promises, Trump, like all magicians, simply asks us to believe him. His aides and supporters can only add that he will have the right people advising him, because Donald Trump only hires “the best” people. During the Republican National Convention, Trump presented himself as the master magician by claiming “I alone can fix it”. Clearly like the captivated audience at the magic show, we the people are not meant to know how the trick is done.
Unfortunately for him, Donald Trump is not Marvin, and the most pivotal US election in decades is not a magic show. When it comes to the debates, assuming Clinton’s preparation pays off and she presses Trump to reveal his policy secrets or lack thereof, there will be no place to hide for the magician. How long before Trump’s promises are revealed as the empty tricks they really are and the magician is revealed for the empty showman he really is?