This week’s presidential debate was, in no uncertain terms, a disaster. Incumbent Donald Trump showed little regard for the rules of the debate: continuing to speak well beyond his allotted two minutes, constantly interrupting opponent Joe Biden and even arguing with moderator Chris Wallace. Biden, for his part, fired back by telling Trump to “shut up” and repeatedly called him a “clown.” The debate was met with criticism from all sides, from Republic Senator Susan Collins calling it “the least educational debate … I’ve ever seen” to Wallace himself confessing to the New York Times that he was “sad with the way [the debate] turned out.” The Commission on Presidential Debates, the nonpartisan organization tasked with facilitating the debate, announced Wednesday that they will be instituting changes to the next round of debates to “ensure a more orderly discussion of the issues.” Naturally, Trump has already declared that he will not abide by any changes made by the Commission, though he has little say in the matter.
That being said, there doesn’t seem to be much of a point in discussing future debates at all, let alone any potential changes to the next one. Early Friday morning, Trump announced via Twitter that he and the First Lady have tested positive for COVID-19. As of the writing of this article, little is known about the severity of his symptoms, though he is currently seeking treatment at Walter Reed Military Medical Center. However, the next debate is set to take place in Miami on Oct. 15, before the President’s two-week quarantine has ended. The debate is supposed to be a town-hall format with undecided voters posing questions to each candidate. It goes without saying that there is no way the debate can occur in this fashion. With the election less than a month away, there is hardly time to reschedule. Depending on Trump’s condition, there is potential for a fully or partially virtual debate. However, I feel that there is simply no use in holding any further presidential debates this election season.
As the Atlantic’s David A. Graham points out, presidential debates do not tend to have much of an impact on the election even in the most extreme of cases. In this instance, viewers hardly had an opportunity to learn anything about either candidate between the interruptions and insults. This, of course, says nothing about the majority of Americans whose minds are already made up, nor the two million and counting who have already cast their ballots. In this unprecedented election season, Americans are deeply divided and entrenched in their own political ideologies. I doubt that any debate could make much of a dent in the vast partisan divide of our electorate. For the few of us that are still undecided, there are plenty of other means to base your decision on. We are inundated with talk of the election between news coverage, television ads and social media content, and there are plenty of online resources to learn about the candidates and their policies. There is no need for another shouting match between the men seeking our nation’s highest office. At its best, it may sway some voters in either direction. At its worst, it exacerbates the tension and dissent among us.
Shannon Montgomery is a fourth-year English major with minors in Creative Writing and Women’s & Gender Studies. SM916394@wcupa.edu