After each presidential debate, both party tend to claim victory. This time, there might have been no winner at all.
« Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light. »
This is the famous ending of the poem from Welsh poet Dylan Thomas (1914–1953). In many ways, this summarized Donald Trump’s state of mind during this week’s first presidential debate. From the first second Trump arrived on stage, you could see it all. He was not there to laugh. He was the ultimate bully entering the classroom, looking like Biff Tannen, the famous bully from Back to the Future.
Right from the start, Trump utilized the exact same strategy that he used and that worked so well against all of the Republican candidates as well as Hillary Clinton, four years ago. When seeing all the gaffes from Joe Biden in the last months, he probably thought he would crush the Democratic winner. So he fully went at it.
Trump spent most of his time interrupting Biden. Non stop. All the time. Every second of it.
Organized by segments, the goal was that each candidate had two minutes to speak. Trump talked all the time.
Annoyed by being constantly interrupted, Joe Biden couldn’t take it anymore, and after seventeen minutes of an awful beginning, he said to the President of the United States: "Shut up, man".
Throughout History, there were definitely high stakes every four years. Campaigns were tough, but the debates were, somehow civil. One of the most memorable rough moments (before the 2016 debates with Trump) was during the Vice-Presidential debate of 1988, when Lloyd Bentsen said to Dan Quayle, after he tried to compare himself to John Fitzgerald Kennedy: "Senator, I served with Jack Kenney. I knew Jack Kennedy. Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. You’re no Jack Kennedy".
Thirty-two years later, the level of the debate reached unbelievable lows. Biden said to Trump to shut up, Trump told Biden he was not smart, Biden replicated later saying that Trump is a clown and "the worst president we’ve ever had." This made by far yesterday’s debate the worst debate in History. There was no decency, just a plain verbal war that culminated with insults – from both men.
Fox News journalist and debate moderator Chris Wallace clearly did a better job than Lester Holt during the first Trump/Clinton debate. Wallace asked Trump many times to refrain himself from interrupting all the time, but with little success. One solution could be to simply cut off the mike of the opponent while the candidate is speak. This might be the one and only solution if we want the next two debates to not be as chaotic as this week’s one.
After the debate, many called out the bullying attitude of President Trump and made him responsible for ruining the debate. But at the same time, Biden did not rise to the occasion as he could have and ended up joining Trump in the gutter. Maybe not as much, but the facts remain. Both men lost the debate. Maybe Trump lost even more, but it is always highly difficult to predict any impact on voters.
Finally, if someone won the debate, it is surely not democracy.
The next debate will take place next week, between Vice President Mike Pence and Senator Kamala Harris. There is little chance that their debate will be as horrendous as the one from this week. And that is positive.