The sparring match that was the first presidential debate

The sparring match that was the first presidential debate

Bread and circus: the debates are definitely circus

From the introduction of the debate by moderator Lester Holt to the last jabs, Monday’s debate was promoted and executed more like a WWF wrestling match than a serious debate of important public policies. CNN even called it a “smackdown” today. It was estimated that more than 100 million people would watch the debate. Did they get what they wanted?

This being 2016, social media was abuzz throughout the debate.

The format was 90 minutes divided into segments which quickly got out of control. The debaters—or should we say “contestants”—interrupted each other; the moderator cut them off as well. One count said Holt interrupted Trump 30 times, Hillary 19.

Ben Domenech of The Federalist, tweeted early on:

No word on which was which. All the verbal fireworks prompted some pretty funny tweets:

More entertainment than substance. Trump was spirited and full (maybe overly full?) of energy. Hillary was scripted and wonkish. Plugging her poorly-selling book, and suggesting fact-checkers visit her website to verify Trump’s statements brought howls of disapproval from the Twitterverse.

In the spirit of games,

Better than beer pong for political junkies.

But there was a lot of seriousness as well. People didn’t wait until the end of the debate to tweet their opinions about the performance of their candidate (or the opposition), who was winning (my team!) and sometimes even something about actual policy.

Who did win? Unlike WWF or just about any other sport, there is no objective standard and so to use the venerable political phrase, where you stand on that depends on where you sit.

Very ironically, it seems that Holt is a registered Republican in New York. Since 2003.

The Roman writer Juvenal originated the phrase panem et circenses to describe the generation of public approval, not through exemplary or excellent public service or public policy, but through diversion; distraction; or the mere satisfaction of the immediate, shallow requirements of a populace.

That fits what the debates have become perfectly. Serious commenters bewailed the lack of substance in the debates. What substance there may have been we’ve pretty much heard before. Nothing new.

All of which may have led A. P. Dillon to conclude:

Indeed. With the candidates’ negatives at all-time highs it looks as though whoever wins will have a plurality of votes, not an absolute majority. The Electoral College comes to the rescue here, giving someone an absolute majority of its votes and giving more legitimacy to the result…unless you’re the loser and a Democrat.

Pot-smoking Libertarian Gary Johnson may break 1% this time, so disgusted are voters with the two major party candidates. He reportedly said he stopped smoking so he could make the presidential run but he needn’t have given the current occupant of the White House.

All of which leaves us with Jim Gaffigan’s perspicacious comment:

Hey, why not? Maybe the Articles of Confederation weren’t so bad after all.