On 30th of September, we saw the first Presidential debates happen – it was an hour and thirty-nine minutes long, but little was exchanged that proves one opponent worthy over the other. As is already being propagated in a meme-heavy manner, it was a show between sleaze and slumber. Given the spectacle of the night, little is now left to believe that either candidate qualifies as the ‘right’ choice – and let us not get into how the next President, regardless of which party he belongs to, would be the oldest to have served in the position. Is this the best competition we have seen? I have reason to disagree.
To pick a winner of this debate is very difficult – not because both performed remarkably well, but because there was an apathetic engagement from both sides put on display Tuesday night. While Joe Biden was stumbling on numbers, not quite getting his points across, Donald Trump made it a point to interrupt at least 70 times as per CBS News’ count. To the latter’s rude interventions, Biden had no overarching reactions, except for the one time he asked Trump to “just shut up”. But, let’s set aside the semantic and linguistic analyses of what unfolded at Cleveland during the debate – the larger picture here is that of a major lack; the absence of good leadership.
On the incumbent’s side there seemed to be a nonchalant overconfidence in a second term – he clearly didn’t think it necessary to prove that he would do a good job if he is re-elected. Trump looked like he knew he had done everything in his book and that he would find a way back into the White House anyhow. He had written a verdict of his own. On the other hand, Biden seemed reluctant to wage a war against conservative intrusions – he was walking along a faint line between politeness and ignorance. It’s hard to evaluate which side he leaned to more. Perhaps, Biden too had a hint of confidence on being the sole alternative out there.
While it may not be a huge problem for those fighting it out at the polls, it is a matter of concern for voters. We’re not just talking about the Conservative or Liberal voters in America – there are at least 11% voters who haven’t yet decided where their votes should be headed. This is the largest number recorded till date. On what basis are they left to make their decisions – the last thing that the country needs is a drop in political participation. A lower voter turnout would be disastrous considering all that has to be decided, particularly in the case of social security and healthcare, in the coming months and years. Unemployment, economic resurgence, and numerous other issues remain to be addressed properly. There’s just as big a concern surrounding climate action as well. But, even mail-in ballots aren’t going to get these people to cast their votes if this apathy shown by leaders persists right up to the elections. An asymptotic decline in citizen participation would be a sign of democratic ailment in the country.
When America runs into polls on November 3rd it really is going to be a battle between the bad and the worse – the margin between these would be miniscule. But this status quo must be broken – the democratic choice that each citizen has in electing a leader should not go in waste like this. Good reforms are needed, no matter how much politicians believe elections run on reforms are bound to be a lost-game. And these changes must begin at the level of the primaries or even earlier.