Today, Donald Trump met Joe Biden, but it wasn’t a debate. It was closer in tone and format to Jerry Springer.
For those who missed it, today’s Presidential debate was, if anything (debatable), the antithesis of a debate. It wasn’t even a conversation, it was a wall of noise, a spectacle of two old men yelling at the same cloud. In reality, it was a donnybrook at a wake. As the corpse of American exceptionalism sat on display in the corner, Joe and Donald fought over the last crumbs of the apple pie on the counter.
Simply put, it was draining, it was difficult to watch, and above all, it was embarrassing.
As a veteran of the 2016 election cycle, I immediately felt a longing for the hideousness of that debate. It was misogynic, it was partisan, but at least you could follow it. This debate was like a failed attempt to read Ulysses. From the first sentence, there was a lack of context, interrupting run-on-sentences and preambles within preambles; but much like Joyce’s opus, today’s debate was pushed by assumptive importance. We had to experience it, because it mattered.
It did, at least in theory. On paper, the 2020 election is the most important in living memory, but we were third-wheeling a counselling session of a union doomed for divorce. There was no structure, no narrative, and certainly, no debate. Today was about the airing of dirty laundry.
“It’s my turn to talk”, “you shut up”, “every time you see him, he’s wearing a mask”, “you’ve done nothing, Joe”, “You play more golf than I do”. Hideously, the son of Joe Biden’s cocaine addiction was unearthed, but somehow, it didn’t seem out of place. It was yet more ugliness to place on the pile of ugliness.
Joe Biden on Hunter’s cocaine usage “he’s worked on it”
— Kyle Kashuv (@KyleKashuv) September 30, 2020
Even Donald’s taxes (a pre-debate home run, one would assume) was a moot-point. He “didn’t want to pay tax”, and he paid “millions” in taxes, and we’ll see the proof “when it’s ready”, mind you, we’ve been waiting since 2011. Through the prism of this nonsense, Donald not paying tax was Biden’s fault. The debate existed in a context-free zone, a sort of upside-down where questions were obsolete and complete sentences were hunted down and killed. It was, for all intents and purposes, just like owning two toddlers. You had to hear them both out, but they made no sense whatsoever. Today was about the death of logic, the final ticks of the American century, turned up to eleven by constant noise, a numbing din, completely untethered and inherently draining.
“That was a hot mess, inside a dumpster fire, inside a train wreck,” says @JakeTapper about the first presidential debate between Pres. Trump and Joe Biden. “We’ll talk about who won the debate, who lost the debate … One thing for sure, the American people lost.” #Debates2020 pic.twitter.com/ATsne4ldB8
— Anderson Cooper 360° (@AC360) September 30, 2020
I suppose we Australians have the luxury of compartmentalising, placing an ocean between us and them, but there are two realities we should be aware of, a) all vacuous American trends arrive on these shores years later, and b) there’s two more of these to go.