Like an estimated and record-breaking 84 million people across 13 television channels, I watched the first presidential debate between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. Like most I, unfortunately, wasn't surprised by what I saw. Leading up to the debate, voters were promised a contentious and unconventional night, and that's exactly what we witnessed. However, I was surprised by (a now obvious) realization I had mid-way through the program. I looked at my partner and said, "I've seen this before." I realized that arguing with a toddler is like debating Donald Trump, and the discourse playing out on screen is one I have shared with my two-year-old son, and on more than one occasion.
My son was sleeping during the debate at Hofstra University Monday night, and for good reason. First and foremost, it was past his bedtime, and I know better than to mess with a toddler's sleep schedule. Secondly, I had known enough about Donald Trump to know that there was no way to predict what he was going to say. Was he going to insult women and make fun of how they look, likening a former beauty queen to "Miss. Piggy" and calling her "Miss Housekeeping," because she had gained weight and was Latina? (He did.) Was he going to fat-shame someone, and blame the DNC hack on a 400 pound person sitting in their bed? (He did.) You never know, and sense I can't properly prepare my son for what may or may not come out of the Republican presidential nominee's mouth (he's only two, after all), I thought it best to keep him in bed and blissfully unaware of our current political climate.
Plus, I didn't want my son learning any tips on how to act more like a toddler. Turns out, the entire presidential debate was a crash course on how to argue with a defiant two-year-old. The same tactics Trump seemed hellbent on using during the debate, are tactics I have seen my son use when I ask him to go to bed, or ask him why there's a mess in the living room, or ask him to say "please" and "thank you." Trust me, he doesn't need help learning how to dodge questions or raise his voice or change entire subjects on a whim. My son has the toddler-speak down like a boss and, well, apparently so does Donald Trump.
They Think Being Louder Automatically Makes You Right
During the first presidential debate, Donald Trump raised his voice on more than one occasion. Usually, it was when he was trying to interrupt or otherwise cut off his opponent, Hillary Clinton, or the moderator, Lester Holt. It's as if he thought that simply raising his voice a few decibels would give credibility to the often fictitious words that were coming out of his mouth. Hmm. Sounds familiar.
When I'm telling my toddler to put his cup away or pick up the mess he has made in the living room, and he either denies his cup being in the wrong place or the mess being his, he starts to raise his voice. Make no mistake, little man (and you too, my sweet toddler son); making yourself louder doesn't make you right.
They Think It's Perfectly Acceptable To Interrupt
In just 26 minutes, Donald Trump interrupted Hillary Clinton 25 times. Twenty. Five. Times. Sure, it's pretty common for a debate to turn into nothing more than toddler-like bickering because, hey, this is American politics we're talking about. However, interrupting your opponent doesn't make them wrong and you right. It just makes you a prepubescent child that hasn't mastered the common acts of human decency; like waiting your turn or being polite or, you know, conversing with another person with an ounce of intellectual capacity.
My son interrupts me regularly, and especially when I am trying to reason with him. It's as if he truly thinks that derailing a conversation will make the conversation any less necessary. Sorry, two-year-old son of mine, but just because a presidential nominee can do it, doesn't mean you can.
They Can't Differentiate Fact From Fiction (Or Just Tell The Truth, In General)
During the first presidential debate, Donald Trump made an astounding 139 false claims. Everything from Clinton starting the "birther" movement to Clinton fighting ISIS her "entire adult life" to Trump denying that he supported the Iraq war to Trump denying ever claiming global warming was a hoax (his camp deleted a tweet he sent out, calming global warming was a concept created by the Chinese in order to make United States manufacturing non-competitive); truth wasn't necessarily the name of Trump's game. It's astounding (not to mention extremely disheartening) to factcheck the Republican presidential nominee and see just how many falsehoods he can spew in a relatively short amount of time.
Then again, if you have a toddler you're well aware that fact and fiction tend to "blend" together, and "telling the truth" is somewhat of an arbitrary concept. My son can knock a glass over right in front of me, then swear up and down that he didn't actually knock the glass down. I guess the only difference is, my son doesn't have a group of people that can go back and delete the tweet he sent about how much he enjoys knocking glasses over.
They Actively Avoid Answering Certain Questions
When my son knows he has done something wrong, or just knows that mom is right and he is wrong, he will avoid answering my questions entirely. If I ask him, "Dear, did you make that mess in the kitchen?" instead of answering me outright, he will tell me something along the lines of, "Mama pretty today," or "Love you, mama," or he will start showing off by counting to ten, essentially attempting to change the conversation entirely (and he's adorable, so I won't lie: it usually works).
Trump has an infamous reputation for avoiding or refusing to answer questions about policy. Instead of giving straightforward answers to questions about proposed budget cuts or how to fight foreign terrorism threats, Trump tends to ramble; running out the clock on his answers so he won't have time to give more than a sentence or two as a response. The problem? Trump isn't as adorable as my toddler, so this tactic doesn't (or, you know, shouldn't) work.
They're Fantastic At Deflecting And Saying Something That Literally Has Nothing To Do With Anything Else
During the presidential debate, Trump was asked when (if ever) he plans to release his tax returns. Every GOP presidential nominee since 1970 has released their tax returns to the public, save Trump. Initially, Trump claimed he cannot release his tax information until he is done being audited by the IRS, but that is simply incorrect; he can, legally, release his tax returns to the public while being audited, as the IRS doesn't bar him from doing so. Then, Trump changed the subject entirely, claiming that he would release the requested information "against my lawyer's wishes, when [Hillary Clinton] releases her 33,000 emails that have been deleted." Sigh.
My kid does the same thing. When I ask him why he thought throwing a toy at our cat was a good idea, he starts deflecting, saying, "Cat poop! Cat poop!" because the cat did, indeed, poop in her litter box. Sure, the cat has stunk up our bathroom, that can't be denied and it's pretty annoying. Still, that doesn't change the fact that my kid threw a toy at the cat. Stop changing the subject, child.
They're Go-To Argument Is "Well, You Started It"
After finally admitting that President Barack Obama was, in fact, born in the United States, Donald Trump tried to pin the "birtherism" movement on Clinton insiders, claiming her camp started the attack against Obama when she ran against him in 2008.
Trump raised doubts about Obama's birthplace for a solid two months in 2011, essentially demanding Obama produce his birth certificate to prove he was born in Hawaii. Trump told CNN prior to the first presidential debate, "They were pressing it very hard," blaming Clinton's 2008 campaign manager for creating the birther movement entirely. In other words, instead of taking responsibility for his actions, Trump basically said, "Well, she started it!" (He also lied. His claims are incredibly false.)
My toddler son does the same thing. When playing with his friend, and starting to get a little too rambunctious — jumping off of couches, throwing toys or yelling — he will point to his friend and say, "He, too! He, too!" hoping that the blame will be miraculously transferred to someone else.
They Make Ridiculous Faces
This just goes without saying. Tell me you haven't seen the above face made by your own darling toddler when you tell them it's time to go to bed, or they have to pick up their toys, or that they cannot, in fact, play with something incredibly dangerous.
They're Both Unreasonable
I can reason with my son until I'm blue in the face, but he's at an age that leads him to believe certain rules (including gravity) don't apply to him. I can promise him that, yes, if you jump off that couch you will fall and get hurt, but he honestly doesn't believe me. There's no line of logic he can follow, because he has yet to learn about logic, in general.
Trump is much of the same. You can tell an American citizen that they have to pay taxes (especially an American citizen with an estimated net worth of $3.92 billion dollars) but, when he doesn't think the rules apply to him, he won't pay his taxes anyway. During the presidential debate, Clinton claimed Trump hadn't paid federal income tax in years. Trump's response? "That makes me smart."
They're Both Infuriating
There are moments when I "just can't," with my son. Normally, it's when he has resorted to throwing toys or hitting me; as toddlers do. Those are the moments that I become increasingly upset and frustrated, and really don't know how I am going to make it through another second without exploding in a fed-up rage of complete and utter despair.
I feel the exact same way every time Trump says something sexist, racist, homophobic, or xenophobic. Whether he's mocking a disabled reporter, claiming a judge was biased against him because "he's a Mexican," or being sued by the Justice Department (twice) for not renting to Black people, there are moments when I simply can't. I just, you know, can't.
When They Don't Get Their Way, They Both Throw Tantrums
You only have to look as far as Trump's twitter account to watch him throw tantrums the likes of which every parent with a toddler has probably seen (although, they're arguably meaner). Trump has used his personal account to call women "pigs," "ugly," "fat," blame them for their sexual assaults, and call them "losers." In fact, it has been reported that Trump has insulted over 258 people, places and things via his personal Twitter account.
My kid throws tantrums, too. However, he has yet to call people names or insult people. So far, he just throws himself on the ground, kicking his arms and legs around until he realizes no one is paying attention to him anymore.
Still, One Is Much Easier To Put Up With Than The Other
Then again, there is one resounding difference between arguing with my toddler and debating Donald Trump.
Honestly, I tend to lose my cool. When my son is blatantly lying, raising his voice, avoiding certain questions, changing the subject and making ridiculous faces to the point that I am frustrated, I have to leave the room. I have to remove myself from the situation lest I start yelling and screaming in return, because it's all just so ridiculous.
Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, stood there and smiled during the first presidential debate. She didn't yell or get upset or walk off the stage, throwing her arms up in the air like a fed-up mother trying to teach a man-child how to behave in public (and in front of an estimated 84 million people). She was calm, cool and collected.
Yo, Hill: any chance you can give me some tips on how to handle a toddler? You seem to be doing a bang-up job.