If there is one thing that President Trump and former vice president Joe Biden did in their 90-minute debate on Tuesday night, it was to bring a deeply polarized nation together to say, collectively, “that debate was really horrible.”
And it was easily the worst presidential general election debate in American history. There were so many interruptions and candidates talking over each other that the word “crosstalk” appeared 140 times in the debate transcript.
And it was so unwatchable that the Commission on Presidential Debates, the North Star of nonpartisan organizations, released a statement saying that they will have to put in new structures in place so that next time it is, you know, an actual debate.
Immediately after the 90-minute hot mess ended, there were calls to just end the debate season. After all, for those who felt this was a national embarrassment and looked on with horror as one candidate, namely Trump, didn’t let his opponent speak, what was the point of doing two more?
They ask a good question. But here is the answer: of course we should have two more debates. Here are three quick reasons why:
1. To cancel the debates is to let Trump win
Debate moderator Chris Wallace of Fox News didn’t have to say that Trump was the main problem during the debate, but he did anyway. Trump has shown that he likes to disrupt political institutions and he did so again Tuesday.
To simply call off the rest of the debates is to let him destroy an American institution that serves a very important purpose. Most people in both parties and independents, too, believe that it is a good thing that a nonpartisan, nonmedia organization works to find the neutral ground and organize all television networks to simultaneously broadcast meetings of national importance.
2. The town hall debate is a chance for everyday Americans to interact with the next leader of the free world
We are living in serious times when regular people want answers from their potential leaders about the economy, the coronavirus, and the movement for racial justice. The antidote to all the poisonous shouting in the first debate might be the format of the next one, a town hall.
There are no guarantees that Trump won’t try to hijack that debate either. And in 2016, Trump used the lack of podiums in that year’s town hall debate to get into Hillary Clinton’s space in a way that was commented on for weeks. That said, in the age of COVID, there are basically no chances for everyday people to ask the next leader of the free world a question. We should not deny them that.
3. More questions and dialogue is always better
Without these debates, the nation will never stop and consider issues or the candidates at all. It would just simply end with commercials, Zoom meetings, whatever campaign rallies Trump decides to have, and limited media interviews that tend to only allow for soundbite answers.
America should not scrap opportunities for candidates to actually give full answers to complicated, nuanced questions on the major issues of the day, from COVID-19 to taxes, foreign policy to health care.
And, really, America deserves a chance for its presidential candidates to redeem themselves.