Well, So Much for the Debates

I was thinking this morning that at least we’re past the debates, but I know a lot of people may still be confronted with gubernatorial and senatorial debates. But, really, who needs them now? Do you not know who you are voting for? If not, you learn more about the candidates’ positions on issues by going to their websites, anyway. The debates are just theater.

I’m seeing a lot of commentaries that say last night’s debate was more “substantive” than the first one. But I wouldn’t call last night’s debate “substantive” at all. It was still just sound bytes and too many claims left unchallenged. And while people are tripping all over themselves praising moderator Kristen Welker, I’d give her a C+, B at most. She was better than Chris Wallace or Susan Page, at least.

I’ve said before, and I’ll say again, I hope that before we have another presidential election, the parties, the debate commission (if it isn’t disbanded), and the networks need to work out an entirely different kind of debate structure that slows down the pace, allows for more time to answer questions in depth, allows more time for challenges of factual claims, and includes robust use of mic cuts.

The fact-check thing remains a problem. Today nearly every newspaper and media outlet has a big honking fact check of the debate that takes everything Trump said last night apart. But most voters are not going to read those fact checks. If it’s not on the teevee, they don’t see it.

However, it’s also the case that lies don’t necessarily work. Some of the claims Trump made about Biden taking millions of dollars from foreign governments were new to me — I take it this stuff is from the right-wing media echo chamber — and I question whether independent viewers who don’t soak their heads in Breitbart and RedState found it credible. See also Trump’s sideshow fizzles out by Ryan Lizza at Politico.

I also doubt anyone but die-hard Trump groupies believe Trump’s promises that the pandemic is almost gone and he’ll have a great new health care plan any minute now.

Oh, and is New York City really a ghost town? Check out the live cams of Times Square and judge for yourself. Times Square has been more crowded, certainly, but that’s not a ghost town.

Regarding the pandemic, it’s possible Trump really doesn’t know that it’s hitting some rural, red-state areas especially hard right now. But the virus is everywhere now, in red states and blue. It’s not confined to one or two hot spots. I looked up states with the highest positivity rates — the top ten right now are South Dakota, Idaho, Wyoming, Iowa (22.3), Kansas, Nebraska, Nevada, Alabama, Mississippi, and Utah. And South Dakota’s rate is a whopping 35.2, which I understand may be the highest on the planet. States with the lowest rates, from lowest to highest, are Maine (0.6), Massachusetts, New York (1.3), Washington DC, New Hampshire, Vermont, Connecticut, Hawaii, Maryland, and Rhode Island (2.4). However, cases are increasing in some of those states. Cases are increasing pretty much everywhere, I understand.

My point is that the American people are not always as stupid as we seem. U.S. politicians can easily get away with lying about stuff going on elsewhere, but when they lie about things going on in people’s real-world lives, at least some of us catch on. Anywhere you live, the local news is telling you how many new cases are in your county, and if the hospitals are full, and how many people have died.

There’s also a story at Politico that says the early voting in battleground states is overwhelmingly Democratic.

Democrats have opened up a yawning gap in early voting over Republicans in six of the most crucial battleground states — but that only begins to tell the story of their advantage heading into Election Day.

In a more worrisome sign for Republicans, Democrats are also turning out more low-frequency and newly registered voters than the GOP, according to internal data shared with POLITICO by Hawkfish, a new Democratic research firm, which was reviewed by Republicans and independent experts.

Apparently Trump supporters are waiting until election day to vote. How many of them are going to test positive between now and then? Wisconsin, Florida, and Pennsylvania aren’t the worst states, but they all have positivity rates above 10. The pandemic could end up suppressing Trump votes.

That said, I doubt that last debate will make any difference or change any minds, which in effect makes it a Biden win. We’ll see if the polls budge in the next two or three days.

There is one more big televised campaign event, which will be the October 18 edition of 60 Minutes on CBS. “The Republican and Democratic candidates for president take questions from Lesley Stahl and Norah O’Donnell, next Sunday,” the promo says. That’s the interview Trump ended abruptly because Lesley Stahl reminded him that he is the president. How dare she! But everything I’ve heard about the interview says it makes Trump look very, very bad. I’ve neard nothing about the Biden interview.

I saw a meme this morning that said, “Let’s simplify this … vote for the guy you’d trust to watch your dog for a week.” So, bottom line: When you pick the dog up from the Biden’s, he’d be fine and probably have a couple of new chew toys. When you pick the dog up from the Trump’s, they will have gone off to one of their other properties, the dog will be missing, and no one on the staff will know who you are and that you’d left a dog.

Stuff to Read

Nancy LeTourneau, Washington Monthly, Fox News May Be Heading Towards an Epic Election-Night Showdown

Greg Sargent, Washington Post, Trump is drowning in his own lies. Here are the latest signs of it.

Paul Krugman, New York Times, How Many Americans Will Ayn Rand Kill?

Thomas Wright, The Atlantic, Real Problems Do Not Exist for Trump

David Frum, The Atlantic, Trump Doesn’t Care

Frank Bruni, New York Times, That’s the Last We Need to Hear From Trump

Update: A couple more – –

Nicholas Lemann, The New Yorker, The Republican Identity Crisis

Jennifer Rubin, Washington Post, Trump’s Three Fatal Flaws

8 thoughts on “Well, So Much for the Debates

  1. Does anybody know how I go about prepaying my income taxes?  I think I'm going to do that next year providing the filing fee isn't too high. If it's $750.00 dollars like Trump's filing fee for his prepaid tax bill that would be way too much  and I'd just have to wait and pay them when they are due. I've never paid a filing fee just to file my taxes and I'm not about to start now. This damned government has got you coming and going! It's so unfair

  2. Sometimes, like after watching the debate, or hearing about the RepubliKKKLAN'S latest (daily? hourly?) atrocity, I feel like you, me, we, our country, and our world, are all, individually and/or in groups, are characters morphing from one universe stage to another in Absurdist plays and/or movies.

    Like a combination of different ones.  "Waiting for Godot at The Crucible Bar to Go Meet The Blunderful Wizard of Ooze (sic)."

    Two random thoughts just occurred to me:

    We need to find ways to encourage the learning and practice of compassion in our country.

    And also, at every level from K to 12 to PhD, we need to make classes in Civics, and Critical Thinking, mandatory!

    To many dense, ignorant, and rude political and religious acolytes in this country.

    • I especially think it's a disgrace that people can graduate high school with no knowledge of the basics of the Constitution — what are the three branches of government, how separation of powers works, what the president can and cannot do, the basics of what the Bill of Rights protects, etc. Teaching critical thinking will be harder, but I agree the attempt should be made.

  3. I think GULAG said a mouthful when he proposed requiring critical thinking and Civics. The comment precisely matched a discussion I had with my daughter graduating HS this year – two non-consecutive classes in Government/Civics. Democrats and Republicans thrive on tribal ignorance. When this election is over, the DNC will tell us to go home and butt out. IMO, Obama's biggest failure after his first election is that he didn't use the army of activists he'd raised to do battle with the establishment of the Democratic party.

    A generation of voters who are engaged in the setting of priorities and active in demanding the execution of those priorities won't happen in an election – it will take a full generation. I don't think I'll live long enough to see it done, but I'll be satisfied if I see it started.

    There will always be fools. The majority will always be more engaged in their family life and bowling than they will be in politics. If they are smart enough to elect candidates who put science and objective analysis ahead of tribalism and superstition, we'll have leaders who can rise to the challenges of the next generation(s). 

    The key to recruiting good leadership has to be to make them incorruptible by making it illegal and nearly impossible to be bribed (legally or illegally.) Public service should be the last path you would choose if getting rich is your ambition. A ban on big money in politics will produce an exodus of the greedy bastards (of both parties) who had as their primary objective, enriching themselves. 

  4. Trumpism demands the acceptance of incompatible ideas, at times tweeted or said on the same day.  Yes COVID can be a hoax and a serious and deadly disease in the "mind" of one person at the same period of time.   Bob Woodward showed us that.  Bob heard, recorded, and reported  one reality, and we heard, remembered, and have records of a different incompatible reality from the same person during the same time period.  Absurd you say.  Not in the world according to Trump.  

    Trump's "mind" can reject with ease logic, reason, critical thinking, or what one might term sanity.  Facts can be "created' to support conclusions, but no facts or group of facts is weighty enough for him to discount or discredit any conclusion he already has and wants to hold onto.  Nor does he demand critical evaluation of facts to come to a conclusion, as his preoccupation with and promulgation of a multitude of spurious conspiracy theories  attests to.  Yes absurd, but more absurd is that his followers do not reject but defend and  rejoice in the insanity of it.

    So I agree that GULAG said a mouthful.  I would contend many more mouthfuls need to be said.  First, however, action is needed.  He and his enablers need voted out of office and put out of power.  Oh what a glorious day that will be.  It is step one.  

  5. I'm not sure that teaching critical thinking is the complete answer to what ails us. Most of these Trumpsters are processing their information through an emotional filter that can only arrive at conclusions that satisfy their emotional needs. It's an entirely different realm from critical thinking.. Why, just yesterday I was driving back from picking up my granddaughter and I passed a pickup truck on the road that had two huge Trump flag flapping in the breeze from the bed of the truck. I thought that whatever the need of the driver of that truck had to engage in that kind of display of zeal for Donald Trump, it couldn't possibly be understood through any kind of rational or critical thinking..

     The closest I could come in trying to comprehend the behavior of what I was witnessing was my reliance of past information learned from the scriptures relating to my knowledge of demon possession. I mean, like how can critical thinking account for someone who is on fire in support of Trump when it is beyond dispute that Trump is a liar, a cheat, a racist, a xenophobe, a sexist pig, a bully, a homophobe, and a vessel  containing a hundred other undesirable and deviant characteristics? In sum, he's a big bag of shit and no amount of critical thinking can explain why people continue to support him.


    • Swami you were dead on pre 2016 and you are dead on now.  Trump is a giant bag of shit.  That flag waving Trumpanista does not if not cannot read or understand an intrinsically evil person who has wealth and wears a suit and tie.  If he had a tenth of the moral sense you have he would be overwhelmed with guilt and remorse, not just embarrassment at his ostentatious behavior.  But they exist and are included as homo sapiens.  Animal behavior is complex and much is not well understood.  Some human behavior, which gets pretty aberrant, is barely understood.  If I find anyone who has a good clue I will try to resolve this mystery.  I just wish they had listened to you five years ago or been raised right.  Not so it seems.

    • Swami – I agree that theTrumpies drinking the kool-aid can't be reached (mostly.) They were raised on tribalism by demagogues like Rush. And he says he's terminal. SO are a bunch of the people who think Rush and Trump are brilliant. There's no 'fix' for these people or the country in the next four years or the next eight. 

      Teaching the kids of these neanderthals can be done. They can be taught to detect a logical fallacy. The puppet masters on both sides want tribal thinking. 

      There's the anecdote attributed to Napoleon, who demanded trees on both sides of a wide boulevard in Paris so his Grand Army would be shaded when they marched in parade. His general objected, pointing out that it would take 20 years for the trees to grow to a height to provide that shade. And Napoleon replied, "Then we must begin immediately!" 

      That's exactly the challenge we face in teaching the actual meaning of the founders, where it was noble and ground-breaking, where it was biased and designed to preserve slavery and institutional wealth. Training generations to come will take time – we must begin immediately!

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