Who Will Win the 2nd Presidential Debate?

They’re calling this one a do-or-die event for Donald Trump’s candidacy.

After the leaked Access Hollywood audio revealed that Trump refers to women as sex objects — no! — and admits to assaulting those he finds “beautiful” (while they “let me do it” because he’s a “star”), some Republican lawmakers are reportedly finally abandoning ship, perhaps fearing for their own political lives. Meanwhile his hardcore supporters continue to stand by him, dismissing the banter with host Billy Bush as “locker room talk.” Indeed, is this really so surprising?

Maybe it’s the admission of the aggression piece, but somehow it appears Trump will not get away with this one. There is no doubt that this story is gaining more traction, and some are even clamoring for his resignation. Of course he is refusing, so observers are now saying that he needs to land an outstanding debate performance on Oct. 9 if he is going to have any chance of preserving a viable campaign that will enable him to at least lose with dignity.

Clinton, meanwhile, is facing some trouble of her own. The leaked emails (presumably belonging to her campaign chairman, John Podesta) also seem to confirm suspicions that Clinton is not truthful to constituents, holding “public and private positions” on issues, such as trade.

What does the I Ching have to say about the upcoming debate?

Before the first debate, I had asked the I Ching to comment on how the “mainstream” press (e.g., the CBS and NBC networks) would rate each candidate’s performance. From this remove of almost two weeks, the reading seemed to come out somewhat stronger for Trump’s performance than what was actually observed, and it downplayed the impact of Clinton’s masterful attacks, including her late salvo regarding Trump’s demeaning treatment of the former Miss Universe, Alicia Machado.

But I think I asked the wrong question — a very common mistake to make with the I Ching. In its attempts to maintain “objectivity,” mainstream network coverage does tend to regress to the mean, i.e., sometimes under- or overemphasizing key points to present a balanced view. So the press said that Trump made some convincing points during the first 20 minutes or so, and then Clinton outmaneuvered him from then on. So the I Ching did predict that Trump would be seen as somewhat ineffectual and Clinton would be seen as commanding.

However, the most interesting reading was the I Ching’s response to whether there would be no clear winner. While strong, Clinton did not blow Trump out of the water in the last debate. But the I Ching predicted that the debate would stoke a revolution 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, and how to ensure that the “wrong person” doesn’t ascend to power.

Sound familiar?

This time, I decided to use a more objective measure of the impact of the Oct. 9 debate: the polls. So, concerning this second debate, here were my three questions:

As demonstrated by most polls, what is the likelihood that…

  1. Donald Trump will be judged the “winner” of the Oct. 9 debate?
  2. Hillary Clinton will be judged the “winner” of the Oct. 9 debate?
  3. There will be no clear “winner”?

Likelihood that Trump is the winner: The reading was Hexagram 23 (title: “Splitting Apart”*) changing to Hexagram 62 (“Preponderance of the Small”). There were 3 change lines, in the third, fourth, and sixth positions.

Hex 23 is all about decay. There are various images in the text: wood falling away from a carving, a bed being split apart. The third and fourth change lines in this reading address this splitting process. The third line indicates that the querent (in this case, Trump) may be able to withstand some assaults (perhaps at the beginning of the debate) by disavowing current connections with certain people or reporting. However, as the event wears on, the situation described in the fourth line will manifest: the decay worsens. “Falling away: the skin of the bed. Calamity is near at hand.”** The sixth line mentions a “large fruit” that “has not been eaten.” This could indicate Trump will miss a crucial opportunity. The result is that “He ends up not being employed.”

Hex 62 is about birds staying close to the nest. After the debate, Trump will find he cannot accomplish “great things.” He will need to hunker down with his supporters (“the nest”) so he can cut his losses, and perhaps consider what “little affairs” can be accomplished to prevent an election-day blowout and restore his brand, if not his reputation. The I Ching, through this hexagram, indicates that his efforts along this vein can be modestly successful. The text says, “Not appropriate to ascend, appropriate to descend. Great good fortune.” This could also be an indication that Trump will continue to take the low road in his attacks on his opponent.

Likelihood that Clinton is the winner: The reading was Hex 46 (“Pushing Upward”) changing to Hex 5 (“Waiting [Nourishment]”) with 2 change lines in the first and fifth positions.

Prevailing images of Hex 46 are those of wood breaking through the ground and growing out of the earth and also the rising sun. The I Ching is saying that Clinton’s performance in this debate will establish her ascendancy as the preferred candidate, a position the change lines affirm. The first says: “With confidence, growing upward. Great good fortune.” And the fifth adds: “Being steadfast and upright: good fortune. Ascending step by step.” However, the resulting hexagram is Waiting, indicating that the bounce in the polls may not be immediate, even while success is near.

Likelihood there is no clear winner: The reading was Hex 39 (“Obstruction”) changing to Hex 15 (“Modesty”) with 1 change line in the fifth position.

This position will be hard to hold, given the candidates’ performances in this debate. However, some Trump supporters will continue to press the point, and their main comfort will be that they are not alone: “Great hardship. Friends come.” Finally, in trying to justify such a position, they will end up being humbled. However, the I Ching does not consider this a bad thing because “It is the Tao of Heaven to decrease the full and increase the humble…[and] It is the Tao of humans to dislike the full and love the humble.” Trump supporters could ultimately receive some measure of reward for their loyalty: sympathy from the larger electorate and, perhaps most important, attention to their concerns.

*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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