The Sept. 29 presidential debate showcased the blinding egos of two desperate presidential candidates. Actually, their egos were the main attraction because no substantive policy debate took place. 

President Donald Trump’s main strategy was to steamroll his opponent into submission, including moderator Chris Wallace. Trump couldn’t even resist debating Wallace’s questions. Joe Biden came the closest to talking about policy or how his presidency could help the American people, but the president hardly allowed Biden more than a few sentences at a time. Unsurprisingly, Trump never articulated an agenda for the next four years.

Enter a new era of presidential debates. Debates are now about entertainment—who can intimidate the most, scream the loudest, or deliver the pettiest insult. For Trump, the presidency has become another form of reality TV entertainment. 

Now, instead of watching the next episode of “Love Island,” Americans can watch the news. It produces the same can’t-look-away reaction of reality TV. The news initiates the same level of morbid fascination, another version of cringe horror that attracts just as much as it repels. Trump played into that feeling at the debate. He delivered a performance that shocked, offended, and astounded. It worked in that all that anyone remembers from the debate is the behavior of the president. People don’t remember any of Biden’s talking points or what he plans to do for the country. It’s all about Trump. Americans left the debate just as confused and groundless as when they entered. 

What became clear from the debate is that American government needs a renovation. Something about American democracy clearly isn’t working. No candidate represents the common interest of the people. Biden has been steeped in politics so long, he doesn’t resonate with Americans. Trump is a “billionaire” who knows nothing about the average life of an American. There’s a large disconnect between the presidential nominees and American life. Notice just how little either candidate talked about the interests of the people or the general well-being of the nation, regardless of party. No amount of political screaming can bridge that gap. — Hannah Kendall

Photo: Trump, Biden, and Wallace at Cleveland Debate. Creative Commons Image

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