“There will be no adult on stage during [this afternoon]'s presidential debate,” observes Reason magazine. And let’s be honest, there’ll be no actual debating either – since by debate is meant an event in which participants address the issues and each other moderated only a fellow with a bell.
That’s not at all what’s on offer this afternoon.
There have been great presidential debates before that have been actual debates with genuine moderation, i..e, events in which the moderator is timekeeper not interviewer. There have been great political debates before moderated along those lines, most notably the justly-celebrated Lincoln-Douglas debates in which third-party candidate Abraham Lincoln famously denounced slavery, demolished his opponent, and set the stage for his later selection and inauguration.
But in this afternoon’s “debate” neither real debate nor third-party candidate is wanted – and in the selection of Trump and Clinton by their respective parties no sane, serious adult is welcome either.
So what we’re talking about instead is really an unscripted two-way interview with morons on both sides and little of substance separating them. An un-debate. A kind of managed “reality television” in which important issues can be safely ignored in favour of hype, fluff, bluster and insults, every one of which will be breathlessly reported while every important issue is wiped clean from every single headline.
The following is an incomplete list of at least seven issue areas in which sensible and frequently popular viewpoints will not be offered by either of the "major"-party presidential candidates tonight, because a contrary Libertarian who will be on the ballot in all 50 states will nonetheless sit excluded, 28 miles away.
1) The country's grim long-term fiscal outlook… This reticence to grapple with the America's perilous balance sheet is new, and actively dangerous…
2) Federalism [& the Constitution] …. the only presidential candidate talking about it is Gary Johnson. [The others would prefer to shred it.]
3) Trade. Forget for a moment the controversies (libertarian or otherwise) over the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and instead drill down into one salient and gruesome fact: Both candidates on the debate stage tonight are campaigning on promises to punish U.S. companies for relocating…
4) Military interventionism… Hillary Clinton … has spent the 21st century as a largely unrepentant warmonger. Donald Trump [merely continues the theme].
5) Domestic surveillance. Hillary Clinton still defends the PATRIOT Act, wants to ban encryption and give the feds access to your iPhone, and denies that Edward Snowden is even a whistleblower. Donald Trump supports re-authorizing the PATRIOT Act, supports the National Security Agency's bulk metadata collection, and has repeatedly called for Snowden's execution.
Gary Johnson would repeal the PATRIOT Act, dismantle the NSA, and pardon Edward Snowden…
6) Free speech… "Both candidates have abysmal records on First Amendment issues."
7) Prohibition… [You couldn’t slip a cigarette paper between the two on this one either, and even as the jails continue to fill up with Prohibition’s victims and police increasingly use it as an excuse for shooting and tasering the innocent, it will be a question noteable only by its absence from the un-debate stage.]
“It's worth noting too,” notes Reason, “that some of the most critical questions were edited out long before the debate began.” So subtract these seven issues from those that should be talked about and you have a recipe for a slinging match based on contentless fluff, as all the while “the[ir] nation careens toward fiscal calamity.”
In an era in which reality TV stars are king (and nearly president) ’m sure it will be “great television.”
But count me out.
PS: So what will the “contrary Libertarian candidate who will be on the ballot in all 50 states” be doing this afternoon instead? He’ll be live-Facebook-interviewing, and he and his running mate will be live-tweeting – which may both prove far more entertaining, and undoubtedly more informing.
- Follow the former Governor on Twitter here.
- Follow running mate Governor William Weld here.
- Follow their Facebook live interview here.