Among those who followed the first US presidential debate, there is a clear and growing consensus that the first on-air confrontation between Donald Trump and Joe Biden was in disarray.
For 90 minutes, the candidates shouted, quarreled, and largely ignored the topics at hand, despite repeated pleas from moderator Chris Wallace.
And the Presidential Debating Committee – the non-partisan charity that sponsors the events – appears to agree. On Wednesday, the group said the first debate “made clear” that additional structure should be added for the remaining two matches. One potential change under consideration is to cut the candidates’ microphones if they try to interrupt each other, according to CBS News.
President Trump has since responded, in a tweet, stating that he will not be willing to accept changes in coordination.
With two weeks since Trump and Biden returned to the ring, what might these upcoming discussions look like?
Presidential debates usually give voters a chance to hear what the candidates have to say before they cast their vote. However, during the Tuesday event, there was a prevailing desire among those who had been observing the two men on stage to be quiet.
As the debate continued, social media was filled with requests – from voters, critics, and journalists – to give mediators the power to selectively silence candidates and prevent them from jumping out of the role. Although both candidates were guilty of boycotts, President Trump was by most accounts the most egregious culprit, dropping around 73 times, according to CBS News.
It is now said that this change is at the top of the list of those proposed by the debate committee, according to US media.
The calls to mute appear to be a product of the Zoom era brought about by the Coronavirus pandemic. When working from home and using video chatting apps like Zoom, we can now mute ourselves and turn down the volume on colleagues – a conceivable tool that can help a supervisor who is desperate to keep calm.
A better broker?
Many of those who were unhappy with Tuesday’s performance voiced their dissatisfaction with moderator Chris Wallace.
From the start, the Fox News broadcaster struggled to maintain his control over the candidates, resorting to desperate pleas to Mr. Trump to stop talking and let his opponent finish. On one occasion the president shouted, “Let him go.” [Mr Biden] Answer!”
But many defended him, saying that dealing with this group of candidates – and specifically Mr.Trump – was difficult for anyone.
Presidential historian Laura Ellen Smith told the BBC: “I don’t blame Chris Wallace at all. He’s an excellent journalist and standing up.” “He did so well in the Clinton / Trump debate in 2016, he was a good choice for moderation. He was given an almost impossible task, straightforward.”
Speaking to the New York Times the next morning, Wallace said he was sad the way it erupted for the night.
“I never dreamed that it would derail the way I did,” he said.
In the next two debates, Wallace will pass the torch. Firstly, to Steve Scully, political editor for C-SPAN, then Kristen Wilker, White House correspondent for NBC News.
Would they have a better chance to keep candidates under surveillance? This is a big unknown. As a conservative veteran of Mr. Trump’s favorite network, praised for his work as a manager in the recent presidential election, Wallace was thought to have as good a chance as any other. But even he has proven inconsistent with this year’s chaotic collision.
This change is already confirmed. The next debate, on October 15th in Miami, Florida, will be in the shape of City Hall, with the candidates taking questions from voters rather than journalists. Here, the environment is generally informal. In previous coronavirus elections, candidates were sitting within reach of voters, rather than shielded behind a stage on stage.
Smith said the city council’s approach may benefit these candidates in particular, adding that it may bring some civility. “In the first debate, they were only looking at Chris Wallace, the room was pretty dark other than that,” she says.
This time, neither Mr. Biden nor Trump will be able to run the session – they will have to respond directly to voters.
“It might inspire more confidence and bring more pride into the debate,” Smith said.
Some voters and analysts alike who joined the first debate believe the events are not worth the savings. With the start of the competition on Tuesday, Twitter was launching calls to cancel the remaining matches completely.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if this is the last presidential debate between the president of the United States and the former vice president of the United States,” CNN broadcaster Wolf Pletzer said minutes after the standoff ended.
“For democracy, cancel the Trump and Biden debates,” reads the headline of a New York Times column by Frank Bruni. The call was echoed in The Washington Post, Slate, and The Atlantic.
But the debates still had advocates, including Mrs. Smith.
“I think that would be a step in the wrong direction [to cancel]. “It would be an admission of defeat at this point. Debate was a useful way in the past to show the candidates’ skills. To see the politics, even, in more detail,” she said.
She added: “I do not think that you should never reduce the dialogue in democracy, even if it is high.”
The remaining discussions will resume as scheduled on October 15 and 22, with the announcement of the new rules from the discussion panel this week.
But the two candidates – Vice President Mike Pence and California Senator Kamala Harris – will trade matters first in their October 7 debate. It is expected to be less vocal than the one between the two men at the top of the ticket.
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