Presidential Debate 24 Hour News Cycle

The Biden-Trump Debate: Divisiveness And The 24 Hour News Cycle

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As the debate started, COVID rules were followed, introductions were made, and they jumped right into it. It didn’t take long before the interruptions started as it became clear the President doesn’t like it when people besides him talk.  Biden was left to dig for sense and truth from a haphazard discussion and Wallace as a moderator was barely heard. The time allotments were out the window and it was quickly becoming a circus. 

It is sad that the debate became what it did, but I feel like we have to ask ourselves, how much of this is their fault. Sure, Trump was out of control, but, are we just so used to excessive drama, flashy one liners and un-verified discussion points that we accept it? In the age of the 24 hour news cycle, I think we have to look at ourselves as well as the candidates when we ask how did it get this way.

THE REASONS THE DEBATE WAS A FAILURE

The Topics:

The debate went places it didn’t need to go.  Places that only feed the fire of divisiveness and solve nothing.  First chance he got, Trump brought up Bidens sons which have nothing to do with making America great again.  In my opinion this was a low class move for a Presidential debate and it was not on topic. 

“I guess im debating you not him but that’s OK Im not surprised.”

Trump to moderator during 2020 “Presidential” debate

Sticking to an intelligible topic simply wasn’t an option and that needs to change if we are going to have an honest discourse in this country.  The moderator tried to reign it in with little result.  Wallace, in a reach for control, seemingly yelled at Trump to stop talking and asked him “do we need to switch seats?”   Mr Trump even took aim at Mr Wallace when Wallace tried to get him to stop talking during Bidens time saying “I guess im debating you not him but that’s OK Im not surprised.”  America deserves better than this, the moderator should be respected, but like so many police officers and teachers nowadays in this country, the respect simply isn’t there, so we fall into disrepair and play the blame game.

Trump perhaps has reasons to be bitter about the press but that gets thrown out the window when you blatantly break the debate rules in person. At the end of the day though, he is a victim of the 24 hour news cycle.

When we discuss topics it is important to point out that Trump repeatedly brought up Biden’s record on certain topics after decades in public service. While this may or may not be relevant, its important to keep this in context.  There are more circumstances in play over those decades in service than the average person would care to shake a stick at.  Pushing bills through congress isn’t easy. Only about 100 out of 7000 bills a year become law. So let’s take into account that Republicans and Democratic infighting causes barriers and pork barrel politics.  Why hasn’t any one of hundreds of senators solved healthcare already?   It didn’t really matter as none of those things he brought up had to do with Wallaces questions. It makes one wonder how much listening Trump does to experts in the White House.

The Nice Try With The Supreme Court Pick and the Judges:

This is another case of scoring imaginary meaningless points based on emotional sound bytes. Trump’s touted his “success” at installing top-level judges – he has placed more, faster, than any previous president – Its not a success per-se as it has to do with timing and the Republican control of both the presidency and the US Senate, which is in charge of confirming judges. Trump also has benefited from dozens of retirements by judges who were appointed by previous Republican presidents.  To tout this as a success or advantage doesn’t make sense and he should be awarded no “points”

 If ever there was credit go give for the justice’s situation it would be to Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, who by blocking nominees under Barack Obama helped create 17 appeals court vacancies for Trump when he took office, more than any of his recent predecessors. McConnell also held a Supreme Court seat open for Trump, and he has changed Senate rules to speed the confirmation of Trump judges. The situation has handed to Trump, he did nothing in the way of progress besides read over a list of nominees to pick one that would most likely get him re-elected.

The Rules: Ignored.

The President flouted the agreed upon rules and refused to allow Biden to respond to questions.  Wallace had to yell at one point, “Let him answer”.  The rules that were agreed upon beforehand were clearly just a suggestion to Trump.  Both candidates interrupted Wallace or their opponent 90 times (71 by Trump 19 by Biden according the Washington Post).  So we have to ask ourselves, do we want a reality tv mindset where drama is king, nobody knows what is real, what is fake, what is factual, and what is fantasy, on a national stage in a public discourse for the highest office in the land?  The mention of reality tv wasn’t just a reference to Trumps past. The invention of the 24 hour news cycle and quest for the best sound byte has changed the rules. It causes us to go for what’s emotional instead of what’s logical, and what sounds good in a headline, but has no real substance in the body.

How Could The Debates Affect The Election?

Debates rarely if ever have an effect on the outcome of an election. Many candidates have had great first debates and end up losing the election.  To the extent that the debates are important in terms of persuasion, the format may slightly favor the challenger, about whom the public knows less. Biden has decades in office and we know Trump all too well from his past media ventures. The debates have become a tool for the talking heads to sell commercials, not inform the public. We need to change that by electing good role models for public office.

Summarily: What Happened?

Summarily, Trump wants to make America great again and Biden wants to restore the soul of America.  This begs the question: If we make America “great” what does that mean?  What is great in this context?  On one end you could go the economic route and say that Americas GDP goes up and unemployment drops. Fine. But what if our GDP growth consists of a massive pickup in guns and cigarettes? Is that great? If America moves full steam ahead on using oil instead of renewable energy, is that great? I think we have come to a point where we have to define great and part of the definition parameters should be long term sustainability for our children for the economy and the environment.  Not to harp on the “Keep America Great” motto, it’s a good motto, but you can’t just print it on a hat and not have a definition that doesn’t single out short term fixes.  Which leads me to the soul of America.

Biden is largely running on a platform of saving America’s soul from the divisiveness between the left and the right that has been born out of the media, politics, and COVID. As good a goal as any in these hard times but these goals are directly catering to problems largely out of the hands of government intervention and action. There could be a plan for COVID from the government but we are largely past that point now.  So in some ways, Trumps agenda is short term and economic.  Biden’s goals are a band aid for the damage done the country already and then its business as usual. 

To really get at the true goals, we would need to have a civilized discourse by two intelligent candidates that uphold the virtues of patience, honest discourse, preparation, passion for knowledge, oratory finesse, respect for their opponent, and respect enough for the people listening to know that they deserve more than click bait phrases and headlines. Hopefully sometime soon.. #vote

Jay Johansson
Jay Johansson

Jay is a multi year veteran in the online publishing industry in many verticals including politics, autos, and finance.

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