Wednesday, September 30, 2020

A Nation Diminished


The Commission on Presidential Debates hosted a 90+ minute farce, falsely labelled a "debate," in which President Trump gleefully trashed the established debate format, symbolically reenacting on-stage his trashing of the institution of the presidency  and established norms of governance these last four years. Now I am already on record (cf. "Why Debates?" August 26) as no fan of these quadrennial performances, especially now when many have already started voting and when, in our deeply divided country, most voters' minds are already made up. I doubt this debate changed many minds. But it did diminish - if, after four years of this, it were possible  further to diminish - the stature of the United States, which once held itself up as a model of stable, democratic, constitutional governance.

Since no one seriously expects the President to follow the rules in subsequent debates, any more than he did in the first one, the Commission on Presidential Debates could cancel them. But, of course, it won't. Too much is invested in maintaining this absurd practice, no matter how embarrassing and demeaning to our national self-respect it becomes. But then, of course, our entire presidential electoral process has become embarrassing and demeaning - from its absurd length to its increasingly undemocratic outcomes in which twice already in less than 20 years (2000 and 2016) the candidate rejected by the majority of voters has become president.

Some 83 million watched the first  presidential debate four years ago. My guess is that as many or more probably did so this time. It will be interesting to learn how many actually watched - and how many turned it off at some point.

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