There Were No Winners at Last Night’s Presidential Debate – and the Biggest Loser Was the American People

With a break from the norm I have decided to briefly turn away from British politics.

In equal parts awe and dismay I turned my eye to the first of the Presidential debates between Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden. My expectations were low, and boy they didn’t disappoint.

The pair certainly delivered. It’s just a shame they delivered everything except a coherent, well structured, policy informed debate. Instead, we got a mudslinging match full of interruptions, snipes and unpleasantries.

Trump was in his usual form: glowing like a luminescent tangerine he bulldozed his way through the debate with his usual rhetoric to score cheap insults and blast mistruths, rarely venturing beyond disyllabics.  

Biden…well he was Biden. At times slow and stuttering, he failed to retort to many of Trump’s quips and missed opportunities to combat Trump’s wild claims with substantiated rebuttals. Apart from getting visibly irritated when defending his son and former veterans against Trump’s past remarks, Biden remained pretty uninspiring.

If this debate was marked solely on inane point scoring it was worthy of its box office billing.

From the blue corner Biden labelled Trump a “liar”, a “fool” and a “clown”. At one point he even pleaded with Trump to just “shut up, man” after repeated interruptions.

In the red corner Trump met Biden punch for punch: stating that Biden “graduated last in his class”, that “there was nothing smart about [him]” and accused his opponent of wanting to “destroy” the USA.

Unfortunately for the American people this wasn’t a mudslinging contest but an actual Presidential debate. For the most part it was at best elementary, devoid of grown up discussion and lacked any hint of serious policy proposal.

If anything, Biden and Trump neatly encapsulated how deeply divided the political landscape really is across the pond and perfectly illustrated how crass political debate has become in the 21st century.

Now, perhaps more than ever, the American people need a measured candidate which seeks to deal with the social, economic and racial divide which has been further exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Of the two Trump is likely to have done best – I use that term very lightly – as his usual rhetoric and insults will have likely solidified his supporters further. For Biden it was less of a success: distancing himself from Medicare for All and the Green New Deal he will have successfully alienated parts of the left which he so desperately needs.

Ultimately, I doubt the debate will have done much for swing voters and given the busy scheduling from now up until election day it is unlikely to stay fresh in the memory of voters for too long – not least because it was so dire.

With the next debate just over two weeks away one can only hope that both candidates come more prepared for serious debate, but I wont be holding my breath.

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