Who Will Win the First Presidential Debate?

I decided to go out on a limb here, and ask the I Ching about the outcome of the first presidential debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump on Monday, September 26.

Of course, in most cases, determining which political candidate has “won” a debate is generally a subjective exercise, often colored more by the observer’s politics than the candidate’s performance, but sometimes clear winners do emerge, especially in the case of particular pointed exchanges.

For this reason, crafting the questions was especially tricky. But I needed to come up with some sort of standard, so I decided to ask the I Ching to comment on how the “mainstream” press (e.g., the CBS and NBC networks) would rate each candidate’s performance. (Later, as the election nears, I will ask the I Ching to comment directly on the wisdom of the electorate choosing each candidate.)

So, concerning this first debate, here were my three questions:

As analyzed/reported by the mainstream press, what is the likelihood that…

  1. Donald Trump will be judged the “winner” of the Sept. 26 debate?
  2. Hillary Clinton will be judged the “winner” of the Sept. 26 debate?
  3. There will be no clear “winner”?

Likelihood that Trump is the winner: The reading was Hexagram 27 (title: “The Corners of the Mouth [Providing Nourishment]”*) changing to Hexagram 42 (“Increase”). There was 1 change line, in the fifth position.

I like to call Hex 27 the “you are what you eat” hexagram because it can be positive if you are taking in nourishing substances (including ideas, practices, etc.). However, the I Ching is not affirming that the querent is making positive choices. Instead, the text includes the admonishment, “Pay attention to what is in your mouth”** and does not include any judgment of resulting good fortune or misfortune. The outcome depends on what the querent chooses to put in his/her “mouth.”

Here the I Ching seems to be saying that some will find Trump’s performance “nourishing,” even while the I Ching is withholding judgment on the actual quality of that nourishment. The change line, however, ends with the judgment: “Not appropriate to cross great waters.” There will be some weakness in his performance; Trump will be judged by some as not up to the task of being president. However, his performance in the debate may inspire people to believe that his motives are pure, that he does want to help the people of this country. The second hexagram, Hex 42, is also somewhat positive even though, again, the text does not contain the judgment of “good fortune” or “misfortune.” But it does indicate that it is “favorable to have somewhere to go.” However, the structure of the hexagram suggests a situation where what is “above” (e.g., spiritual principles) is decreased to bolster that which is “below” (e.g., material concerns).

The bottom line: the media will report that Trump did not strike out, but that he did not hit any home runs either. And his performance will stoke deep questions: How good will he really be for this country? Will he be serving higher principles or base instincts?

Likelihood that Clinton is the winner: The reading was Hex 7 (“The Army”) with no change lines.

Readings without change lines are generally problematic unless the question is asking whether a current situation will prevail for at least a short while. Hex 7 describes a situation where power (including military power) comes from the people, not from the ruler. In this case, I believe it indicates that the media will report that Clinton’s performance won’t move the needle much in terms of her support, but that ratings remain strong. Hex 7 could also be alluding to the fact that Clinton will continue to appear hawkish in this debate by emphasizing how she plans to defend and promote U.S. interests and principles throughout the world.

Likelihood there is no winner: The reading was Hex 8 (“Holding Together”) changing to Hex 49 (“Revolution [Molting]”) with change lines in the first, third, and fourth positions.

This is by far the most interesting reading. Hex 8 is about a large group of people coming together to seek “union” centered around a leader, even though some “restless factions” may “lag behind.” I believe here the I Ching is referring to the anticipated large U.S. audience for the debate, and is predicting that it will result in heightened general interest in choosing the country’s next leader. There will be talk of how to get closer to people’s core concerns, how to prevent the “wrong person” from ascending to power, and how to unite the country.

The resulting hexagram, Revolution, indicates that, because no clear winner will emerge, the debates will stoke a dynamic process where more and more people will become engaged with how to “abolish the old and bring about the new” in our country’s leadership and practices. Given that both Trump and Bernie Sanders addressed this need for a “revolution” in their disruptive — and unexpectedly successful — campaigns, Clinton could now be challenged more than ever to demonstrate how her presidency will embody the “revolutionary tempest” now shaking American politics.

My next blog will analyze the seeming accuracy of the I Ching’s answers — and my interpretation of those answers. Stay tuned!

*Titles vary by translation. For this blog, I used those developed by Richard Wilhelm and Cary F. Baynes in one of the first authoritative I Ching translations to appear in English, The I Ching, or Book of Changes, (1950/1967). (R. Wilhelm & C.F. Baynes, trans.). Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

**Passages quoted in this blog are from Huang, A. (1998). The Complete I Ching: The Definitive Translation by the Taoist Master Alfred Huang. Rochester, VT: Inner Traditions.

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