Debates and Elections

I wasn’t going to blog about the presidential debate, because there wasn’t more to say beyond “Shit Show!!!” It wasn’t a debate of ideas. Rather, it was a testosterone-fueled, fact-free, rule-free temper tantrum. Ideally, a viewer should come out of a debate with a better understanding of where the two candidates feel about key policy issues. That performance just gave everyone a headache.

Did anyone feel that Trump behaved appropriately? That he should do that again in the next debate. I have no idea. I actually have Fox News on in the background today, because I want to know what his supporters think.

If I was a Democratic strategist, I wouldn’t let Trump gain the “law and order” mountain. Biden needs a one-liner on this topic – he supports the police and public safety, as well as better training of police and the greater involvement of mental health professionals to support their efforts. I think most people would be cool about that.

I would lay off the talk about white supremacists, because most people aren’t convinced that there is a huge nationwide problem with KKK-type folks in hoods and burning crosses, just as there isn’t a huge problem with radical anarchists on the left.

I would be more specific about how Donald Trump mismanaged the virus. He shouldn’t overstate his responsibility for the death count. 206,000 are dead. If Trump was a better person, that number still wouldn’t be zero, because this virus sucks. However, greater leadership from him on mask-wearing would have helped in states like Texas, Florida, and Georgia. I also think that testing in our country is still horrible and that a whole lot more could be done on that. Our death rate would be lower, if managed better.

Side story: So, Jonah had a friend crash on his sofa two weeks ago, after a late night poker game. Three days later, the friend finds out that he was exposed to the virus. The friend tests positive. Jonah goes to health services to get tested. They give him the run-around for a few days, he finally gets an appointment for a test. Three days later, the test come in. It’s inconclusive, so he has to go through another five days of getting an appointment and finding out the results. We still don’t know. It’s been TWO weeks. Meanwhile, if Jonah’s positive, he probably infected his roommate, who is a waiter at Applebee’s. That kid could be a super spreader to half the state of New Jersey.

On the other hand, maybe Biden shouldn’t even bother with a debate of ideas, because nobody cares about them anyway. If he just sits back and lets Trump continue his antics, it will hopefully turn off a few Trump voters, who will simply not vote in November. In the best of times, ideas and policy proposals don’t have a huge impact on elections, even though geeks like us love them. If Biden can project maturity, rationality, and professionalism with a few prepared zingers – they have to be ten words or less — that might be enough.

I loved this morning’s The Daily about Election Day problems that could occur around the mail-in ballots. Please vote in person, if you can. Please share voting information websites with people on Facebook. Put a sign in your front lawn. Please see if there are volunteer opportunities in your community. Turnout is going to be super important. Let’s make this election a referendum on ideas and truth v. slime.

UPDATE: After watching Fox News for 30 minutes, I now know about the Trump side is framing his debate performance. His side is saying that Biden was weak, and that he couldn’t answer Trump’s tough questions. They are fighting any changes to the rules in the next debate, including giving the moderator the opportunity to cut the mic.

If the rules aren’t changed, I’ll boycott the next debate. The first debate offered no benefits to the American public, so should not be allowed free television time.

18 thoughts on “Debates and Elections

  1. I saw a tweet where someone made a plane analogy: if you aren’t a natural Biden supporter (say, someone who disagrees with him on substantive issues, which is not me), that the choice is between getting on a plane flown a pilot who is going to take you somewhere you don’t want to go and getting on a plane flown by a guy who literally doesn’t know how to fly a plane.

    It’s not an easy question, because, of course, you could believe that you’ll be able to teach the guy to fly the plane, you could think you can help the guy in charge fly the plane; you could think that planes pretty much fly on auto pilot.

    I had hoped that the country wouldn’t have faced a legitimate crisis of the decade (or more) in the pandemic. And, there were no perfect solutions. But the mismanagement, from testing, to ventilators, to protective equipment, to communication, to the politicization and undermining of science at the CDC and FDA is epic and will prolong this crisis.


    1. I could live with that, if unhappily. It’s the active hate and threats of violence directed at me, others like me, and others not so like me.


    2. We have a double-digit spike at my university. A colleague of mine says 5 students in her classes (all online, non-first-year students) have told her they have COVID. One of my in-class students had a COVID test Tuesday and got her results back yesterday (negative). I am skeptical, but she was in class today.

      Both kids’ colleges are doing exceptionally well. Look at Cornell’s COVID dashboard: They’re testing 5000 a day on weekdays and getting these low low numbers. My daughter is back at her job in one of the campus libraries. Everyone wears masks there.


  2. ‘I would lay off the talk about white supremacists, because most people aren’t convinced that there is a huge nationwide problem with KKK-type folks in hoods and burning crosses, just as there isn’t a huge problem with radical anarchists on the left.’

    This is not a both sides issue. The FBI says white supremacist hate groups are a huge problem and have killed many peaceful people. And they’ve infiltrated the police and the military. Hugely dispiriting response from Trump. On a personal level, the acrimony and hatred I see by whites has gotten far worse. It’s like Trump has encouraged folks to come ‘out of the closet’ with their worst selves.

    As far as the debate, it was exhausting and upsetting to watch. I thought Biden did a good job of addressing the American people. And I think that Trump comment Of ‘you are so dumb’ was odd. And – was this just me – I found Trump’s tone, mannerisms and hand flourishes way too similar to Dr Evil from Austin Powers.


  3. I felt abused watching that debate. As almost always, I expected the adults in charge to pull things back to the realm of normal, and as I’ve felt for most of the past 4 years, nope, there’s no one there. So Trump just barrels on with the kind of disregard, impunity, bullying — as it was in Minnesota last night. As though Ilhan Omar doesn’t belong in Congress, discounting the voters who elected her.

    I’m exhausted and I think that’s his plan. Well, we already voted in person, so at least there’s that. We have a lawn sign for someone challenging the incumbent Republican State Senator. All the way down the ticket is what I’m hoping for. But so much of the rest of the neighborhood has Trump signs.

    I’m running into people who have COVID every day. Faculty, students, staff, yup, it’s everywhere in my world. Waupaca, where my dad and his wife live — made Rachel Maddow last night as that’s where the overflow from the Green Bay hospitals will go after Trump drops in there this weekend. They’re at 94% capacity as it is now.

    Back to grading while the internet is working. It seems to go off when it rains lately.


  4. Cornell’s president and provost had an opinion piece in the Wash Post about how they are making their reopening work:

    10 cases over the last two weeks and a plan for dealing with any spikes.

    My kiddo’s college is testing students 2/week since they permitted them to return to campus. There are still a lot of restrictions. They could do the poker game, but only outside, and wearing masks, and with a group of no more than 5. My kiddo seems to be complying (along with friends), but, they are also really busy with school.

    And here in my county, we can schedule test pretty easily.

    J’s experience getting tested is depressing on so many different levels. I hope he is feeling OK.


      1. The last time I was in Applebee’s it was awful food. Not worth getting sick for.

        Glad his test was negative.


  5. “Then she tells us how to run our country,” Trump scoffed. “Can you believe it?”

    Yup, a president who is aggressively not the president of all Americans. It is ugly and scary and personal.


  6. Hey Laura, I’ve been waiting for a political post just to say I’m sorry that the comments on your post about Trump supporters came across as a pile-on. I actually thought you were genuinely asking how to cut them off. I definitely did not intend to distress you.

    From my perspective, the debate was a horrific window on the demise of educated and thoughtful debate. However, a friend of mine said “the last gasps of the era of old white men having all the power” so…there’s that.


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