But the debates are not debates. They have nothing to do with ideas or substantive policy views. They are spectacle, and spectacle is the thing for which Donald Trump has a great talent. Clinton is good at satisfying convention and expectations, whereas Trump is good at making a ruckus. George Bernard Shaw advised against wrestling with pigs on the grounds that “you both get dirty, and the pig likes it.” But there is no way for Clinton to avoid wrestling this particular pig: She is too much of a creature of political convention to refuse to participate in these ceremonial debates, and too much of a creature of convention to know what to expect out of them.
One can only imagine what is going on in the Trump camp. Trump has made a lot of money and endured four humiliating bankruptcies (so far) and literally has been in the business of rolling the dice. He has won big and lost big, and it surely must be a temptation to him and to those who have bought into his daft messianic cult to borrow from the old Reagan approach and “let Trump be Trump.” That could mean anything from simply peppering Clinton with humiliating schoolyard taunts to showing up in a fur pimp coat with a stripper on each arm.
Trump is capable of almost anything, which is why the usual conservative argument for him — Clinton is 100 percent guaranteed evil, but with Trump there’s a chance! — always leaves me cold. There’s a chance with Trump, sure: a chance of almost anything. He might put Randy Barnett on the Supreme Court. He might put Judge Judy there, too.
In a politics of pure spectacle, the advantage belongs to the creature of pure celebrity.