It’s nearing the end of election season in the United States, and with that come the inevitable trainwrecks that are presidential debates. These are the nights American citizens set aside to seem flabbergasted at what each candidate said, knowing that nothing they have or will say is out of character. Unsurprisingly, this week’s debate ended up being no different: candidates talking over one another with little space to talk about politics and instead more to respond to allegations of misconduct. Perhaps this is representative of the two candidates chosen for this election, and maybe also representative of where politics is at this point in time. The reasons for the divide and animosity between the candidates are a topic for another day.
Still, I couldn’t help but notice how many Americans see this as a “disgrace” or “shameful.” It’s especially concerning to see this when you consider that these two candidates are atop the stage for a reason. These were the candidates that the powers-that-be decided would appeal to a majority (or a majority in key states, at least) of Americans. Of course, they did not decide this based on whatever the Democratic and Republican National Committees felt like that day. They know what will fill voters’ ballots and what won’t. If they know America is looking for a populist leader with little substance, you get a candidate that fits the bill. In short: You express disgust at the debates, but you helped the candidates that cause this to get to this point.
Many will argue that, like myself, they did not support either candidate and are thus entitled to complain about the debates. Here’s the thing: These debates are productive. Even ignoring the borderline accelerationist aspect to it, all these debates do is expose the character (and perhaps the cult of personality around them) of the people in charge. If the average voter realizes this, then it’s bound to create small ripples in people’s minds. While this idea is largely optimistic, it doesn’t take away from the fact that the average voter takes away something new from the debates. Not all electoral circumstances are built the same.
The only comparison I can work with is that of my home country, the Dominican Republic, and the United States. Back home, debates were started (or rather, attempted) a few years ago in 2016. Having a multiple-party system, we hoped we’d see most major parties represented on the stage. While this was the case, the current president (who was running for re-election) did not debate. Ignoring that, the debate quality was incredibly poor. Not because the candidates talked over one another, or constantly argued, but rather the opposite. They had nearly zero interaction between each other’s points, and the debate seemed like an hour of speeches. Each candidate focused on what the nation wanted to hear, development and corruption, while discussing shallow plans for healthcare and immigration. The privilege the United States has as a developed country allows candidates to develop comprehensive plans for more than just development and corruption. Considering most people in the United States have access to the internet, learning details about said plans is simply keystrokes away. As such, debates afford citizens the opportunity to know the basics of each candidate as well as a snapshot of the candidate’s personality.
If I am asked if I enjoyed this year’s presidential debates, I will indubitably respond with “Yes.” Although I do not favor either candidate, I understand that this is where the United States is right now, and these debates do more to change it than having ‘civilized’ ones would.