At first, users on a 4chan forum — home to the many racist, sexist, and anti-Semitic memes and political commentary of the alt-right — were sharing meaningless live online polls showing Donald Trump’s success last night.
It was clear to them that Trump had won the debate, even though mainstream pundits’ opinions seemed to be coalescing around the idea that his opponent, Hillary Clinton, had trounced him.
But then some 4chan users chose to “cut the bullshit.”
“Trump actually sucked tonight,” anonymous ID 3h7UYcU0 posted, the Daily Beast’s Ben Collins first reported. “Let’s talk about where we go from here. What does Trump need to do better next debate?”
What followed on the thread was something rarely seen in American politics: fans who are all in on their candidate coming to terms with the idea that their chosen one didn’t live up to expectations.
Trump wasn’t prepared. He wasn’t on the attack. He was angry. And he didn’t talk about his strongest points: terrorism and immigration.
“Start by not going on a rant and then saying ‘I have good temperament,’” one user posted.
“Be offensive. He was just shielding himself the entire time,” another responded.
“He can't win a debate if they ask basically no questions about terrorism or immigration. He can only shove those things into other questions so hard. To win a debate, he needs to not have the whole thing being run by CTR shills,” a third followed up.
It went on and on.
“Someone needs to tell him to stay the fuck on topic. He literally just rambles and he needs to get it under control,” one user posted.
Another chided Trump for pinning the Democratic National Convention hack on possibly a 400-pound hacker, commenting, “[Your face when] Trump calls you out for being a 400 lb hacker,” with a photo of an obese man in his underwear behind a computer.
“Trump did terribly,” a user conceded. “There was so much gold to go after, like her emails, how she sold uranium to Russia, the DNC leaks, etc. and he said maybe 1 or 2 sentences about it while spending 20 minutes ranting and raving trying to defend himself over trivial things while Hillary just sat there looking pleased with herself. Goddamnit Donald, there was so much you could have hit her on ... I'm pissed as fuck.”
These sentiments were reflected in CNN’s post-debate poll — which the Trump campaign has called irrelevant — showing that 62 percent of viewers named Clinton the victor.
The sentiments on 4chan are surprising from a community that has stood solidly with Trump from the beginning. His alt-right fans have been something of a problem for the Trump campaign, which has found itself sharing some offensive 4chan-spawned memes — like Trump’s tweet of a meme showing Clinton’s face and the Star of David over a pile of money and Donald Trump Jr.’s tweet with Pepe the Frog, often used as a symbol of white nationalism.
Earlier in the campaign season Clinton addressed the Trump campaign’s close ties with the alt-right, after Trump appointed the alt-right-friendly website Breitbart’s CEO, Stephen Bannon, to lead the campaign.
"Of course, there’s always been a paranoid fringe in our politics, steeped in racial resentment," Clinton said in August. "But it’s never had the nominee of a major party stoking it, encouraging it, and giving it a national megaphone. Until now."
The fact that even these fans couldn’t get behind Trump’s debate performance is a testament to just how much the candidate missed the mark on Monday, failing to excite his base by pushing the rhetoric on immigration and terrorism embraced by the alt-right and letting his anger get the best of him.