It’s no secret that US presidential candidate Donald Trump engages in misogyny and racism on the regular. But during the presidential debate on Sept. 26, he revealed that his behavior could be even worse. There are times in his life when he could have said or done something horrible and then he didn’t. And for that, he would like our deepest congratulations.
Perhaps the most noteworthy example was Trump’s suggestion that he deserved credit—nay, applause?—for opening a country club that did not actively discriminate against people of color:
In Palm Beach, Florida, tough community, a brilliant community, a wealthy community, probably the wealthiest community there is in the world, I opened a club, and really got great credit for it. No discrimination against African Americans, against Muslims, against anybody. And it’s a tremendously successful club. And I’m so glad I did it. And I have been given great credit for what I did. And I’m very, very proud of it.
In other words, Trump is very, very proud of … obeying federal law and basic human decency. At least in this one instance. The Palm Beach example was an effort by Trump to counter Clinton’s reminder that his real estate firm was sued by the Justice Department in 1973 for allegedly discriminating against minorities seeking housing.
That wasn’t the only time Trump suggested he deserved a proverbial cookie for occasionally managing to avoid being sexist, racist or otherwise unfair. Clinton also reminded the audience about his degrading remarks regarding former Miss Universe winner Alicia Machado, whom Trump once called “Miss Piggy” and “Miss Housekeeping.” Trump attempted to counter this damning anecdote with a story of his own:
I was going to say something extremely rough to Hillary, to her family, and I said to myself, “I can’t do it. I just can’t do it. It’s inappropriate. It’s not nice.”
Later, it emerged that Trump had been considered bringing up Bill Clinton’s affairs during the debate, but opted not to “with Chelsea in the room.” So, there you have it. Trump says offensive things to and about women with regularity—and make no mistake, it is very misogynistic to attempt to use a husband’s infidelities as evidence of his wife’s failings. But he did manage to avoid saying something deeply out of line until a few minutes after the debate, and for that, he deserves our praise.
These exchanges reaffirm one of the most troubling things about Trump: This is a candidate who doesn’t understand that treating all people with respect and consideration is the bare minimum for human behavior. The fact that he wants our congratulations for all the times he has met this extremely low bar only highlights the many, many times he has failed to reach it.