The Poverty of Debating. Especially This One.

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September 29, 2020 5:37 p.m.

Our whole team will be bringing you full coverage of tonight’s debate. And I will too. I confess though I find it a funny thing to cover. Biden is a policy-knowledgable, well-meaning guy who’s been in elected office most of his adult life. Trump is a compulsive liar with little interest in or knowledge about any policy question currently working to delegitimize the election itself.

Both will play to form because neither are capable of doing otherwise.

This means that what we are watching, what we are all collectively evaluating are the possibilities of unpredictable events and the general optics and how those impact the very small number of voters who are not strongly committed to either candidate. It’s almost impossible that any of these ‘events’ will have any substantive bearing on how either man would serve as President.

And yet, as we know they can have a big impact.

So what this really means is that we will be watching to analyze second order reactions by a tiny group of voters and perhaps even more how partisans will exploit or use (pick your word) them to nudge those voters into either camp or lock down those who need locking down.

I believe in politics and that’s what politics is. Only good government chin scratchers think this or a campaign is supposed to be a deep ranging debating about the economics of health care provision. This is what politics is. That’s what civic and democratic life are. So I’m not tsk-tsking anyone or anything. It’s simply that in this particular moment – when the stakes are so high, when the candidates are so known, when the facts are really just out there – we’re just so deep into second and third order speculation, narrative creation and spin that it’s hard to know what there there really is there at all.

This is all the more because Trump, singularly, believes in disruption and stunts.

Trump will do nonsensical and gross stunts. We’ll try to make sense of whether they help him. Will Biden’s expressions of compassion help him? It’s just hard to know. But Trump’s a degenerate liar and Biden’s a compassionate person. Those are the fundamentals. Sometimes they’re hard to get beyond.

See you in a few hours.

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