Kenneth Bone, American Hero

On CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360 Monday night, the eponymous host took a moment to describe the anxiety he experienced the previous evening, serving as a moderator for the second of three presidential debates of the 2016 campaign season.

He knew the tone would be combative, and he was ready for it. But for all the surprises that emerged over the course of the debate, few were as jaw dropping as that of one unassuming Kenneth Bone.

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Kenneth Bone, Illinois coal plant operator, American folk hero. (Image from Elite Daily)

Bone, 34, an Illinois coal plant operator, portly and mustached, interrupted the insults and contrivances to ask an earnest question on energy policy.

It was a distraction, but it was also a throwback to a simpler time. Bone — somehow — was still an undecided voter. He asked a question that affected his livelihood. He did it with aplomb and without fanfare. And social media quickly made him a hero.

Cooper’s description served as an introduction for Bone, who — still clad in his suddenly popular red Izod sweater — served briefly as a guest on the evening news program.

Bone admitted that he had been leaning toward Trump, in no small part because of his concerns at how increasing regulation could affect the industry in which he worked. But then he knew he had to look at the bigger picture, too: That voting for Trump could mean giving up many of the victories and freedoms that Americans have earned through the years, including marriage equality. He had a son, Bone said. He had to think about what kind of nation his vote would mean for the children.

He watched Trump’s debate performance, and he considered the answers the candidates gave to his and other questions. He also was aware of the especially damaging audio released over the weekend in which Trump described sexually assaulting women.

Now, Bone admitted, he was still undecided. But he felt pulled to vote for the Democrat, even if it was against his best interest in the short term.

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Clinton, at this point, trying not to ‘blow it’

Sometimes, you don’t need to excel.

It’s not about how well you stand out from the crowd or rise above the competition — because the competition, such as it is, is already vanquished.

You’re the pitcher brought in during the ninth inning with an eight-run lead, and you just have to get the last out. It doesn’t matter if it’s a pop-up, an easy grounder or a strike out; all you have to do is make sure they can’t come back. Your only job, then, is not to screw this up.

Your job is not to blow it.

After months of bad press and worse decisions from her rival, Republican nominee Donald Trump, that is where Hillary Clinton stands. A Wall Street Journal/NBC poll released over the weekend showed Clinton gaining an 11-point lead nationally over Trump, bolstered in the aftermath of a crude 2005 audiotape in which Trump boasts of using his power and influence to sexually assault women — a bridge too far even for some fellow Republicans, who have begun to defect from their nominee in hopes of salvaging their congressional majorities.

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Clinton at an early October rally in Toledo, Ohio. (Image from the New York Times)

Trump had hoped to stem the defections with a successful debate performance on Oct. 9. But the town hall-style debate played to Clinton’s strengths, who moved effortlessly around the stage and did not react to Trump’s hulking presence as he appeared to encroach into his rival’s personal space — a move many saw as an effort to intimidate the comparatively diminutive Clinton. Trump also made outrageous promises, including a vow that he would jail Clinton were he president — a reaction more typical in third-world countries than in a first-world Western democracy.

For virtually any other Republican nominee, the race should’ve been at least close. Clinton’s favorability ratings are fairly low, and the future of the Supreme Court is on the line. Plus, the Democratic nominee is tied closely to the incumbent administration, providing plenty of room to expound on perceived shortcomings within the present administration. These tactics can shore up the base and possibly swing some undecided voters to your camp.

But Trump isn’t interested in picking those fights. He’d rather tilt at windmills like the former Miss Universe pageant winner that he went after on Twitter in the small hours of the morning.

So for Clinton, the goal is to keep quiet and let the show play out. In the New York Times Magazine, Brian Fallon, the national campaign spokesperson for Clinton, said that he regretted that the negative stories involving Trump seemed to all come so quickly, wishing that voters could really explore and understand each one before the next negative story dropped. Instead, voters are subjected to one crazy after another, day after day.

And Clinton has gone from the groundbreaking candidate she set out to be as the first female nominee of a major party to, as she told the Times, “the last thing standing between you and the apocalypse.”