There are a lot of words that I could use to describe my reactions even after a little less than 14 hours of being able to process what I saw unfold last night from Case Western Reserve University in Ohio. Informed — or even entertained — was far from one of them.
I was frustrated, angered, and downright disappointed in what was 90 minutes of pure, unfiltered, garbage. If you or someone you know was on the fence about who to vote for, I'm sorry, because I don't think anyone could have anticipated what just happened.
You can blame a few things on why it unfolded that way. To me, one glaring factor was President Trump himself, who, true to his style, interrupted, insulted, and dominated the speaking time to the point that even Chris Wallace (someone who I felt was well qualified to serve as a patient and stern moderator for both candidates) lost his cool and pleaded with the both of them (more frequently Trump) to respect the debate rules and allow one another speaking time.
On top of that, Trump, on national television, declined to explicitly condemn white supremacy. Instead, Trump said "stand back and stand by." And if that wasn't alarming enough, not only did the creators of Merriam Webster go out of its way to DEFINE both phrases on Twitter, but Proud Boys, the far-right "neo-fascist" group Trump chose to invoke in his statement, celebrated his shout-out as an invitation to act in his favor. That was just as disturbing as it was emblematic of the absolute chaos that came out of this event.
With all that said, I want to take a moment to recognize something. This was the first debate. There are two more of these, with no commercials and no real structure in place to ensure an actual dialogue takes place. (Commercials aren't important for ensuring a debate takes place, but because of how brutal the debate was, I think everyone watching was begging for a commercial to give everyone a moment to process and calm down before another segment occurs).
I believe the Commission on Presidential Debates needs to do something to change the format for the next two debates.
Otherwise, voters will only get a redux of what we saw for 90 minutes. Some options they should seriously think about are...
- There should be an option for the mic of the candidate who doesn't have a turn to speak to be turned off so they aren't encouraged to interrupt during initial statements in response to a question.
- If the moderator chooses to go into open discussion, both mics can be turned on and turned off if the moderator is trying to get things back into control.
- Instead of a commercial break, they should bring together a group of independent fact-checkers during a brief intermission to verify or correct any claims made by either candidate during a segment on any specific issue
I can't say if these would improve the debates, but I think it would at least make it easier for people to get an answer to what they needed to hear, not a shouting match that has only proven even further to me just how low this country has gotten in terms of what we could expect from a candidate for president of the United States.