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What Was That Debate (or Debacle)?

After a tumultuous debate, undecided voters are leaning towards Trump, raising alarms. Biden's performance, marked by gaffes and policy criticisms, has even Democrats questioning their choice. Examine the debate's implications for the upcoming election.

Photo by Ferdinand Stöhr / Unsplash

When undecided voters declare that they are “absolutely voting for Donald Trump”, the siren should blare quite conspicuously to alert your political radar. But the most that we can elicit out of ourselves in terms of a reaction is Oh, we certainly expected that. After last night’s debacle of a debate, even the Democrats are questioning the option they’ve placed in front of voters, or so some sources claim. It’s not that the debate had a clear winner in either Trump or Joe Biden. But the latter, after all the videos that had been circulating of his questionable actions in forums and summits, has just brought back the focus on his age heavily.

At one point, Biden starts discussing raising the tax burden on the wealthy, particularly billionaires, in order to allow the government to funnel the additional funds into social welfare schemes like Medicare. After calling the billionaires trillionaires, he corrects himself – this is not a major mistake. However, as he goes on, he clearly forgets what he was going to say. So, he starts fumbling with that lost look returning to his face. It appeared as though the videos were premonitions of what might unfold at the debate when it happened. And it has now happened. This has to have posed a serious menace to the Democrat camps. A snippet of this might be Obama’s post on X that opens with “Bad debate nights happen. Trust me, I know.” He does try bringing the attention back to the larger picture, urging people to think of the election as a “choice between someone who has fought for ordinary folks his entire life and someone who only cares about himself”.

The Wall Street Journal’s Damian Paletta defines the debate as a ‘memorable’ one for Biden because of how ‘disastrous’ it was. Trump, on the other hand, was his usual self – not exactly likeable but positioned swiftly as an alternative for the middle-path-ers that make up much of the voter base. It is perhaps one of the most unfounded yet banked upon theory that the politician who makes claims with confidence gets more backing than the meek one. If the former peddles lies, it is still passed off as solid oratorial skill. The latter, even if he or she is making a valid point, can be dismissed as an unreliable option if they take their sweet time trying to justify their plans. In politics, and especially in debates of this nature, ‘sweet time’ is the dead-end of a person’s career tunnel.

When it comes to Biden, issues have been raised about much more than just his age. The way his government has been handling the Israel-Hamas conflict, for example, is not well received. Imagine eating ice cream and responding to a question regarding a ceasefire. The photo op may have been intended to enhance his popularity as a personable president, but it also demonstrated how little attention was paid to the dwindling number of lives in the conflict-torn area. He talks about giving Benjamin Netanyahu a hard time, yet he also approves fleet after fleet of weapons transfers to Israel. Except for the occasional diplomatic declarations about restoring peace to Gaza, Biden’s administration has not actually made many proactive attempts to even address the atrocities that have been denounced by international tribunals and organisations. The majority of people do not think favourably of how student protests have been handled either.

Biden, most recently, wrote on X that if elected to another term in office, his administration would reinstate Roe v. Wade. He also frequently tweets about legalising basic pay for school teachers. If someone reads these tweets and knows nothing about Joe Biden or the President of the United States, they may conclude that Biden is a member of the opposition. Despite all the memes and ‘laser beaming out of his eyes’ on his social media profiles, his attempts to be the cool President likewise fail miserably. Whatever point these posts are trying to convey is clearly lost.

In no country should an election ever come down to picking between the worst possible alternative and a “bad but better” option. Decisions have to have some value and meaning in a democracy. It is not reasonable to ask someone to enter a polling booth, sigh, and vote for a politician they disagree with just because there is a worse option out there. Why even introduce the ‘bad’ into the system in the first place? Why can’t the ‘oldest democracy’ in the world provide options other than the Red and Blue? Even within these parties, why not support those who show more promise? When these questions cease to be rhetorical, we might see genuine progress.

Remember that Trump and Joe Biden are only three years apart. Naturally, the bigger blot of doubt should be: “Why are old men ‘leading’ countries around the world?” Almost all other prominent politicians seem to be in their seventies. What gives these people the benefit of doubt that keeps them in their seats longer than required in a society where we otherwise have limits and retire at sixty? If anything, these men and women too deserve a break, considering how long they have been in public office – with maybe a hint of private entrepreneurial spirit, as in the case of those like Trump.

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