The first presidential debate for the 2020 campaign was an international disgrace. On display before the entire world was the breakdown of American democratic norms in real time. President Trump conducted himself in a manner that was unbecoming of a President of the United States. His COVID-19 diagnosis is just another reason why former Vice President Joe Biden should no longer debate his Republican opponent.
The presidential debates incentivize behavior that is erratic and brazen as there is no accountability from the moderator. Donald Trump was not the only one who failed to rise to the occasion during the first debate: Fox News’ Chris Wallace repeatedly failed to enforce the rules and civility of debate. A moderator of a political event only has this one job, Wallace and others who are unable to fulfill that sole responsibility should find a new line of work.
As a result of Wallace’s incompetence and the weak rules laid out by the Commission on Presidential Debates, the American people watched a piece of political theatre rather than a discourse on public policy. There was hardly any substance that came from the Republican nominee. President Trump resorted to spewing lies and deeply personal attacks that made many very uncomfortable with the state of partisan politics in this country.
This storm of chaos completely drowned out the solutions that Democratic Nominee Joe Biden tried to propose. This was the Trump Campaign’s strategy all along: create a spectacle that would prevent Joe Biden’s agenda from gaining traction. Their strategy blew up in their face and polls showed that most viewers trusted Biden on the issues.
It is clear that there is no advantage for the Biden Campaign to debate the president. Continuing to stand on the same stage as Donald Trump will only sully Joe Biden’s reputation and his lead in the polls. The president made it extremely clear that his sole intention was to derail any civil exchange of ideas when he refused to participate in a debate that was to be held virtually. In a virtual setting, President Trump knows he cannot act in such a vile and revolting manner.
Of course, the reason the Commission decided to change its rules was to ensure the safety of those in attendance and managing the debates. It is still an open question when the president had his last negative coronavirus test. Many even believe that Donald Trump was exposed at a White House ceremony and was already infected onstage at the debate while he mocked Vice President Biden for wearing masks in public. A continuation of the debate schedule would not only be a disservice to the political interests of the Democratic Nominee, but it would also pose a public health crisis if they were to be held in person. The first 2020 presidential debate should be this year’s last.