By the time the second presidential debate rolled around, my 2-year-old son Declan was sound asleep. However, there was part of me that wanted to wake him up because the second debate in particular seemed educational. I don’t mean “educational” in the sense that viewers learned about the major candidates’ stances on the important issues of the day. I found the second debate, and Donald Trump’s whole campaign in general, to be educational in that it did a spectacular job of teaching people, particularly toddlers like my son, how not to behave in public. Or private. Or at all. In that terrible, horrible, no good, very bad debate performance, Trump illustrated through example how not to treat anyone — man, woman, child, plant, vegetable or mineral. It was almost as if Trump was unconsciously teaching about etiquette, like a vagina-grabbing Emily Post. Here were the very basic etiquette/morality lessons Trump unwittingly doled out.
1. Don’t insult
This is a pretty easy one, even in our online era. Don’t call people horrible names. Don’t be negative and treat people you disagree with or are competing with like they’re sub-human. Then again, if Trump had taken this one to heart, it’s impossible to even imagine what his campaign would be like. Can you even imagine a Bizarro-world race where Trump takes to Twitter to compliment Jeb Bush on his grace and poise or Marco Rubio for his charisma and youthful enthusiasm? If Declan were to talk to his friends the way Trump addressed Clinton, we would forcefully tell him, “No thank you! You do not talk to friends that way!” But at this point, it’s open to debate whether Trump even has any real friends since he seems to prefer to see most people as enemies — enemies it’s OK to insult and degrade.
2. Don’t threaten
In Trump’s mind, the segment of the debate in which he threatened to throw Clinton in jail registered as a moment of triumph. To people who want leaders to behave like responsible adults and not belligerent children, however, it was a moment of horror and embarrassment. Here was a man who posits himself as a role model for children bluntly threatening his opponent in ways that would mortify me if I were to see my son mimicking him on a playground.
3. Don’t be a bad winner
In the debate and elsewhere, Trump has vowed to be the worst winner in American presidential history . He thundered to the crowd, “If I win, I am going to instruct my attorney general to get a special prosecutor to look into your situation because there has never been so many lies, so much deception. There has never been anything like it, and we’re going to have a special prosecutor.” I want my son to think that winning isn’t as important as playing fair and giving his best. I particularly don’t want him to think that he must first defeat his opponent, and then further humiliate his opponent. This is a wonderful way to teach my son to win with grace and humility, by instructing him to never behave like the awful man on TV.
4. Don’t be a sore loser, either
Trump has vowed to be a vindictive winner, but he’s also established that he will be an even worse loser. He began the process of pre-blaming the electoral system for what even he must understand on some level will be his crushing defeat in the elections. And he hasn’t even lost yet! Imagine how petulant he will be post-defeat. I want my son to learn how to accept defeat gracefully, or at least as gracefully as he can. That’s called being a good human being, although I suspect Trump might consider it too P.C.
More: Manners for preschoolers
5. Take responsibility for your actions
Trump has almost never taken responsibility for anything he’s done. To cite but a single example, during the debate, he denied telling the world to check out the “sex tape” of the Miss Universe winner who spoke out against him, despite the existence of a tweet reading, “Did Crooked Hillary help disgusting (check out sex tape and past) Alicia M become a U.S. citizen so she could use her in a debate?” Yet he continues to blame everyone and everything for his mistakes, particularly the Clintons, the media and the Republican establishment. When my son does something wrong, I want him to own up to his misdeeds. For example, when Declan hurls something on the ground, I want him to help clean up, not blame his actions on the liberal press or say that Bill Clinton threw even more spaghetti on the ground.
6. Don’t brag
Trump spends a lot of time bragging about all the amazing things he’s accomplished, yet the more he brags, the less impressive he seems, which is a good lesson for my baby and everyone else’s. For example, my son could be incredibly arrogant about being, objectively, the cutest baby ever to live, but he’s too modest for that. Donald Trump, who isn’t remotely as cute as my son, could learn a lesson from that.