The first presidential debate between Donald Trump and Joe Biden has made it clear that we have devolved as a society. There is no more talk of policy or debating on one’s ideology. Instead, the presidential debate was reduced to a childish argument between two grown men. It is irrelevant what political stance you take. The fact is that both candidates, well, let’s keep it real, Trump, acted like an obnoxious child who refused to engage in any substantive conversation on policy.
The disappointing quality of the debate can’t be blamed entirely on Trump’s immature behavior though. Just like in high school, elections have become nothing more than a popularity contest. The exchange of intellectual ideas has been dying in American discourse for years now. Instead, we focus more on catchy one-liners, and glorify sensationalism. Little is paid attention towards a candidate’s platform and ideology. Instead, we submerge ourselves with mindless bickering that serves to benefit only the ratings of twenty-four-hour news networks.
There is nothing inherently wrong with sensationalism. In fact, it is not even a new concept in American politics. When people support a presidential candidate, they are also supporting a brand. Each candidate, at least the successful ones, separate themselves by creating an image that people can identify themselves with. In the past, this type of branding was often surrounded by a candidate’s policy. During a debate, more focus was placed on a candidate’s idea of how the country should be run, which tied into their personal brand. The most obvious example is Obama’s campaign of “hope and change”. His brand was one of rejuvenation within the political system, and his policies of lower taxes for the middle class and a stronger healthcare system reflected that brand.
Watching the first 2020 presidential debate, it was hard to see any policy since both candidates kept shouting at one another. In short, the debate was turned into a wrestling match that focused only on winners and losers. Average Americans who don’t necessary have time to look up a candidate’s policy would leave the debate feeling confused. Or, perhaps we are at a point were policy doesn’t matter and all that people care about is mindless showmanship.
I would like to believe that most Americans still care about an exchange of ideas in a mature manner, but it’s impossible to go back to how debates once were. We crave more action and more political drama. There is nothing inherently wrong with wanting these things, but it would be nice if the political drama was focused on a serious exchange of opposing ideologies instead of the tragic display that was the first 2020 presidential debate.