The only sufficient way to convey the showcase of misery that was the first presidential debate would be to force you to watch it in its entirety, however that would defeat the point. It was bad. So bad that not only did both candidates manage to lose, but the entire populous of the United States lost as well. So, what happened?
The number one reason for the chaos that was the presidential debate was the president himself. Over the course of the night, Trump exhibited a complete lack of self-control and respect for the debate process itself. His strategy was not to reflect on his own accomplishments, but rather to interrupt his opponent, Joe Biden in order to spew out a list of right-wing buzz words, lies and personal insults. Whenever the moderator (Fox News’ Chris Wallace) attempted to intervene, he would then direct personal insults towards him.
When he wasn’t interrupting his opponent or Wallace, Trump still did not perform well. When asked directly about whether or not he would condemned white supremacists, he told the Proud Boys, a white nationalist, neo-fascist group that has been described by U.S. intelligence as a white supremacist group, “stand back and stand by,” which many have pointed out sounds less like a condemnation and more like an order. The Proud Boys certainly interpreted it as such. Coincidentally, after that remark he was asked about the security of the election. During his response he told his supporters to go into the polls and “watch closely.”
Biden didn’t fare well either, although given the circumstances it’s hard to imagine anyone doing well in that debate. He didn’t get many chances to speak uninterrupted, but when he did, he often rambled and failed to make a complete sentence. When he was involved in “discussions” he got frazzled and distracted by the shouting coming from Trump’s end. While for the most part Biden managed to keep his cool and not engage with Trump’s insults, he did tell the president to shut up and that he’s “the worst president America’s ever had.”
The debate ended unceremoniously with Chris Wallace cutting off the president for what felt like the hundredth time that night. As things were wrapping up ABC news correspondent George Stephanopoulos said that it was the worst presidential debate he had ever seen, a sentiment that appeared to be echoed by many fellow journalists and viewers alike.
The question that still rattles around in my head after the debate is, “Did any of this matter?” I think the answer is no, but yes, but no. The obvious answer is that there was very little actual policy discussed. All I can really remember specifically is Trump failing to condemn white supremacists and Biden saying that he was going to raise some tax to 28%, other than that I can really only recall the yelling.
Alternatively, the way the two candidates acted was extremely revealing. In the midst of a global pandemic that has claimed the lives of 200,000 Americans, the president continues to push conspiracy theories and sow distrust. All the while Biden simply smiles as though nothing is wrong, and whenever he’s caught off guard for a moment, he freezes up and stammers. This train wreck of a debate gave the American people a direct look at how either candidate will govern, and it does not paint a pretty picture.
But then again, will this debate actually change anyone’s minds? Will the voters who see Biden as a bastion of kindness see him allowing himself to be bullied as weak? Will the voters who see Trump as a tower of strength see him interrupting as belligerent? Supposedly debates should sway the undecided, but how is an undecided voter supposed to glean anything from this debate other than that it may be time to check the prices for flights to New Zealand.
Are these two men really the best choices we have for president? Really? After this display of incompetence by, again, the only two viable candidates for president, it makes me wonder if this system that doesn’t have room for third party candidates and assumes everyone in a particular state voted the same way is broken after all. Presidents should be nominated because of their policies and skill at diplomacy, but yet again, Americans have to ask themselves whether they want to be shot in the leg or the heart.
By Jason Yearout