The final debate proved that Donald Trump does not have the substance to beat Hillary Clinton. He knows that. And is now prepared to sacrifice democracy on the altar of his narcissism, writes DW's Ines Pohl.
It was the final, and so far most matter-of-fact, debate. The moderator was Fox journalist Chris Wallace, who with his precise and confident delivery showed that it had been the right decision to allow the conservative broadcaster to host a presidential debate for the first time.
For those who choose not to waste precious time watching the entire 90 minutes, the closing statements of both presidential candidates can be recommended. They are enough to allow you to form your own impressions regarding the qualifications of these two applicants for the highest political office.
The moderator invited the candidates to make a closing statement without forewarning. And while Hillary Clinton confidently delivered a concise summary of her political agenda, Donald Trump, lacking any structure, stumbled from one topic to the next. As was already indicated during the debate, he offered no concrete plans as to how he will implement his extravagant promises. And for all the evils in the USA, as well as in other parts of the world, he offered one culprit: Hillary Clinton.
This is a man who operates by blaming others for his mistakes. And this is a dangerous trait. A danger that will extend beyond election day.
He is only interested in the brand "Trump"
It is easy to underestimate Donald Trump. But he is not so unrealistic as to think he can still win this election. His inadequate preparation for the all-important live TV debates, together with his constant humiliations of certain party members, have led some people here in the USA to believe that he never really wanted the gruelling office of President. There are both Democrats as well as Republicans who speculate that from the beginning it was really about making the brand "Trump" more famous and thereby more valuable.
Perhaps this is true. And if Trump were a politician with style and decency, this would essentially be something for the Republican Party to ponder on. They could consider the question of how such a charlatan could manage to hijack the party once led by Abraham Lincoln.
But Trump has neither decency nor respect. Not even for the fundamental principles of democracy. His pathological narcissism prevents him from accepting defeat. For weeks now he has set about preparing his campaign accordingly. A defeat in the election will be blamed on an undermined and corrupt system. And he is able to find an audience for this premise amongst his hard-core supporters of the "Trump movement." These are people who have long since lost all faith in the government in Washington and who take any opportunity to grasp at conspiracy theories and blame "others" for their own failures. Trump has invested a lot of energy during his campaign in making wider the gulf between "us" and "them.
The unshakable basis of democracy is the consensus that the will of the majority of voters is recognised. Trump is currently setting about undermining this bedrock. And through social media he is able to find the perfect wide-reaching forum for his conspiracy theories. It is not only Hillary Clinton who will have to find a way to deal with such destructive trends. It is also the Republicans who will have to think about how they are going to get this anti-democratic genie, which they have enabled in the last years with their boycotting political tactics, back in the bottle.
At its heart this is about whether white, Christian America is prepared to accept a demographic shift. It is about whether it is prepared to accept that the America of the past no longer exists and that out of the minorities new majorities will evolve that will make other decisions.
Through Trump a political powder keg has been created that calls into question a centuries old established social order. And that is a danger that extends far beyond the figure of Donald Trump.