There are several ways I can approach this after watching what some of us watched last night. I could provide a summary of events. Of course, the trouble there is that most people have already made up their mind. My summary will be colored by my preconceived notions about who I will be voting for the moment the polls are open.
I could provide a commentary on the way that Chris Wallace performed his job. I could talk about what I would like to see moderators do in the future to prevent what we just saw from happening. I could also talk about the winners and losers from the debate. We will certainly see more than one article today going down that road.
However, what struck me is that the result was exactly what I predicted. In a CBS poll, 48 percent said Biden won the debate. 41 percent said Trump won the debate. 10 percent were undecided or said neither won. 1 percent is I presume lost data. That is almost exactly the same as the national poll average coming into the debate. In other words, most people have made up their mind.
I was perusing my Facebook wall I noticed one former classmate that asked how Biden could get away with lying like he did and how it was remarkable about how rude he was. I thought to myself that if this was your chief takeaway from the evening then I just don’t know whether there is any objective truth anymore. Then, it hit me like a ton of bricks. Of course there isn’t.
This is the realization I came to and the whole purpose of this piece. What was Donald Trump doing? We can talk about who won or lost. We can talk about the breakdown in the format. We can talk about how politics has devolved into a WWE cage match. I suspect we will talk about all of these things in the days and weeks to come, but what just happened is more indicative of where our politics has gone and responses like the one above prove it’s working.
Early on in the Simpson’s, Homer Simpson has a bet with his neighbor Ned Flanders. Whichever of their sons does not win at miniature golf will subject his father to mowing the lawn in his wife’s dress. Both boys decide to quit before the last hole. Flanders sees this as a way out of the bet for both of them. Homer holds to the language. So, they both mow the lawn in their wife’s Sunday best. See, it was more important for Homer to see Flanders lose than it was to preserve his own dignity.
That’s what we witnessed last night. We saw a man debase himself and the nation all so he could throw his opponent off of his game. It worked. Biden was combative, began talking back and interrupting, and we saw evidence of the stuttering problem we’ve heard so much about. In the intervening 90 minutes, we heard Biden tell him to shut up and call him a clown on multiple occasions. So, anyone that called Biden rude and belligerent were more than fair in their assertions. He was.
However, one cannot deny that was happened last night was a transparent strategy on the part of Trump. He interrupted Biden. He interrupted Chris Wallace. He might have even interrupted himself. The important question is not whether he was the ruder of the two. Any dispassionate observer would come to that conclusion. The question is why.
Suburban women are usually swing voters in every election. Suburban women don’t like mean and rude people. If you are seen as the more combative of the two candidates you usually end up losing a debate. So, why would Trump practice this strategy? It’s simple. He knows he doesn’t have those voters to begin with. He’s not losing anything. As he famously said, he could shoot someone on 5th Avenue and not lose any voters.
He’s never thought of voters in the same way as a typical politician. He doesn’t think in terms of winning voters. He thinks in terms of other people losing them. He doesn’t care if the undecided voters hate him. He doesn’t care if Biden voters hate him. He wants those voters to stop liking Biden. They could stay home. They could vote third party. They could write in Deez Nutz. So, like Homer Simpson, he doesn’t care if he looks ridiculous and downright evil. If it makes Biden look less the dignified then it’s well worth the bargain.
The question is how you move forward in a situation like this. Clearly, it’s time to treat Trump like a child. He essentially is anyway. You don’t politely argue with a child about rules they agreed to. He’s inherently dishonest and doesn’t care about rules and norms. Your three year old doesn’t either. You take away what he most wants. In this case it’s attention. You very simply shut off his mic. Every time it isn’t his turn to speak you shut off the mic. You can do it for Biden too if you want to be fair.
If he strays off the subject and starts talking about a debunked Hunter Biden story you shut off his mic. If he starts stoking white supremacy again you shut off his mic. Throw the kill switch. He’ll cry about how unfair the press is and that it’s all fake. Let him cry. Let him cry like the three year old he is. Otherwise, I’d refuse to show up to any more debates. It’s a useless endeavor for Biden. If he tries to rise above it then he will continue to get interrupted and no one will hear anything he has to say. If he fights back then he’s undignified and loses the luster off of his platform of decency.