Watching the presidential debates is depressing, given just how ridiculous this election has turned out to be. Not only does it feel like it’s gone on forever, but we’re subjected to a seemingly unending supply of racism, sexism, and xenophobia from a man who is consistently winning in the polls.
But even in the best of circumstances, the presidential debate has outlived its usefulness. At this point a few weeks before the election, minds are pretty much set, and the debates do little to change folks’ minds about who they’re going to vote for; so all that’s left is one last gasp of ugly mud slinging that voters have to listen to and watch.
Donald Trump’s latest campaign collapse comes from audio tapes leaked that show Trump and infotainment “journalist” Billy Bush trade ugly, sexist quips, and Trump boasts of sexual assault. He dismisses the awful of his words by calling it “locker room talk.” Prepping for a media trouncing, he assembled a line of women who have accused Bill Clinton of sexual assault and sexual harassment and held a pop-up press conference. When “apologizing” for the remarks, Trump pivots to Clinton (Billy Bush’s apology explains the exchange as a youthful indiscretion. He was 33.)
And yet, Trump’s popularity maintains. His supporters reach back to the “Political Correctness” smokescreen which immediately renders all discussion of identity politics moot in their minds. The debates did nothing to either Trump or Clinton, except to provide Twitter and Facebook with a fresh batch of memes – this time of Trump, lurking like a sinister cartoon villain, behind Clinton when she’s speaking.
So why have the debates? They’re useless. We know the outcome: Clinton will do better because she has facts and figures. She’ll dip into political wonkiness, which will inevitably make viewers eyes glaze over a bit, but still, she’ll look presidential.
And Trump? The expectations are so low for him that barring him actually exploding into a steaming pile of pumpkin innards, people will declare him the winner of the debates. And to his supporters, he’ll look presidential.
The only positive thing to come out of the debates is Alec Baldwin’s recurring role on Saturday Night Live as Trump and Kate McKinnon’s continued excellence as Clinton. In an election that has become terrifying, political comedy (I won’t say satire- SNL remains too genial and toothless to be considered satire) is the only thing that’s keeping me from burying myself in a soft pile of comforters, hiding underneath until this disaster of an election is over.