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Democracy Derailed: A Sh*tshow for the Ages

On this episode of democracy-ish, Danielle and Toure have a presidential-debate hangover that no amount of Gatorade or weed can cure. [Ed. note: This episode was recorded on the evening of Sept. 30, prior to the news of President Trump's COVID diagnosis on Oct. 2.]

  • The first presidential debate between Donald Trump and Joe Biden was a chaotic mess of the incumbent’s making.

  • Among the lowlights of Tuesday’s event: Trump refused to condemn white supremacists –– again. Instead, it seems he sent them a signal.

  • The Commission on Presidential Debates claims it will change the format for subsequent debates. But it’s doubtful any revisions to “format” can stop Trump’s lies and bullying. So why debate at all?

“I am still traumatized,” says Toure. “It was horrifying … the yelling, interrupting, lying, and just refusing to have a civil, adult conversation.”

From the outset, Danielle “wanted to throw the whole country in the trash.”

And she wasn’t the only one. Cable-news analysts roundly decried the debate as chaotic. International papers characterized it as a “street fight.”

CNN’s Dana Bash –– “of all people, a super classy, super-serious reporter,” Toure notes –– summed up those unfortunate 90 minutes as a “shitshow.” Her colleague Jake Tapper went further, calling it a “hot mess inside a dumpster fire inside a train wreck.”

Danielle would have added: “wrapped up in vomit. It was literally the worst thing I’ve ever seen,” she says.

In lieu of a cogent argument about why he should be reelected, Trump’s debate strategy was to “sow chaos,” says Toure. “Talk the whole time, interrupt, never pay attention to decorum and the rules. Just attack.”

Let’s get this shitshow on the road.

Episode Highlights –– That Was a Shitshow

Should we cancel presidential debates entirely?

Aside from the debate being just “icky and gross,” Toure says, “It didn’t serve anyone. I don't know who could say, I’m more informed –– even one iota.”

Some of the blame should be placed on Chris Wallace, who has been relatively tough on Trump in interviews. But as moderator, he kowtowed to the president like a flustered parent bargaining with a toddler.

Reactions from the Twittersphere and beyond suggested future debates need something like a mute button –– anything to give moderators more control.

“That's impossible,” says Toure, noting that everything from the rules to where they'll stand on the risers are negotiated beforehand between the commission and the campaigns. The fact that Wallace, a Fox anchor, was tapped for the first debate is a testament to Trump’s incumbent leverage.

But the larger question, considering how little substance came from the first one, is: Should we have any more, at least in this cycle?

Format vs. dysfunction

The Commission on Presidential Debates claims it will enact changes to the format moving forward. But it’s doubtful anything it does will keep Trump from being an asshole.

“I can't imagine there will be different interactions in the next debate,” Toure says.

“I don't understand why the fuck we are continuing with this pageantry as if Trump is normal,” says Danielle. “It’s normalizing his dysfunction. We're in the midst of so many crises –– of his creation. We're treating him like any other president instead of the hostile fucking domestic terrorist he is.”

She thinks Biden performed well overall, but debating “a known, rabid, compulsive liar and sociopath –– who is that benefiting?”

Squawk and troll

The entire production was a panoply of low moments: Trump refusing yet again to condemn white supremacists. Trump’s absurd claim that insulin prices will soon be so low, “it’s like water.” Trump interrupting Biden as he talked about his son Beau, who honorably served in Iraq and later died of brain cancer, to smear his other son, Hunter.

But Biden spoke frankly and compassionately about Hunter’s substance abuse. And he showed incredible restraint as Trump slandered his children, Danielle says.

“You want to come for a member of my family who passed away? I would have walked across the stage and cold-cocked him.”