The first presidential debate proved to be a failure on multiple levels. Photo: Morry Gash-Pool/Getty Images
The first presidential debate proved to be a failure on multiple levels. Photo: Morry Gash-Pool/Getty Images

What will happen after the collapse of the first presidential debate?

The Commission on Presidential Debates says it is adding new “tools to maintain order” after a chaotic first debate, largely due to Donald Trump.


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There was nothing of substance to gain from watching the first presidential debate on Sept. 29.

We all expected the President to more-or-less steamroll the way he did — pivoting and gaslighting at any turn.

But it did prove that at least the moderator Chris Wallace, was aware of the key issues Americans wanted to hear about. 

That doesn’t mean he did an adequate job. In fact, it’s difficult to suggest a television journalist who could have wrangled the president’s constant interjections, and nothing short of cutting Trump’s mic would have prevented the chaos that ensued.

Hours before the presidential debate, Wallace’s topics for were released, including "The Trump and Biden Records," "The Supreme Court," "Covid-19," "The Economy," "Race and Violence in our Cities" and "The Integrity of the Election," according to the Commission on Presidential Debates.

Climate advocacy groups and the public were quick to note the climate crisis had been scrapped again. Before last night, the Climate Crisis hadn’t been discussed in a presidential debate since 2008.

At the debate's hour-mark, no one expected the climate crisis to be discussed, but within the last 10 minutes, Wallace surprisingly said, “I’d like to talk about climate change,” in a twist that should have been relieving for concerned parties, but wasn’t. 

In the allotted time for the climate crisis, the candidates did not manage to say anything extensive, or concrete on plans. We heard the buzzwords like “more jobs,” and strange references to cows.

While Donald Trump, for the first time, acknowledged human activity has, at least in part, attributed climate change, the incoherence of all the elements at once — from Trump’s constant taunting, disruptions, Biden’s retorts, and Wallace’s inability to  maintain order —  was difficult to follow.

Biden separated himself from the Green New Deal, instead citing his $2 trillion green stimulus plan, which he released this summer. 

But it wasn’t a debate. It was a spectacle that failed to seek any definitive truth or action on any party’s part. For instance, Wallace asked about the cost of climate change, and the cost of adaptation to the ongoing crises. But the price of inaction should have been the focal point.

This is just one of the ways last night’s first presidential debate proved nothing, and why substantial rethinking of the process must be considered before we reach Oct. 15.

Integral issues that have taken shape this year were done a disservice.  COVID-19 and Black Lives Matter activism were touched on, but Trump’s strategy of heckling and constant pivots made it difficult to discern the stance of either candidate.

COVID-19, for instance, has on the whole has disproportionately affected the Latinx demographic in the United States. There was no mention of that, or an adequate acknowledgement of the tremendous loss from the virus, and Trump’s inaction has exacerbated.

Black Lives Matter was glossed over in a pitiful way, and the nation was forced to witness three white men discuss Black issues… badly.

All the while Wallace unproductively conflated BLM with efforts to defund the police. 

The causes are tied, but the way in which the moderator himself presented his questions in the segment made it impossible for a well-informed response.

The Commission on Presidential Debates on Sept. 30 announced it is adding new “tools to maintain order” after the first debate.

In a statement, the commission said the first debate “made clear that additional structure should be added to the format of the remaining debates to ensure a more orderly discussion of the issues.”

This news is promising, but unless they include plans to cut mics when a candidate has overstepped, or provide the public with a timestamp so we know when a candidate has surpassed his time, the same thing will happen again.

Tuesday night’s debate may very well be historic for all the wrong reasons. Let’s not have a repeat, but we’re not holding our breath.


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