And so, we’ve had a first presidential debate. Presidential debates truly are a curious American tradition, one that didn’t start until the 1960s when Kennedy and Nixon held the first televised debates.
I understand the reasoning behind having a debate. Debates give the American people an opportunity to see the candidates in action. We’re able to assess the policy preferences and even intellectual sparing capabilities of each candidate.
But before moving forward with this post, I need to make something very clear. In this case, there is no “debate” to analyze, there is merely fluff to dispel of.
Here are my thoughts.
One: Both Candidates Embraced the Role of King
Multiple times during the debate, both candidates made wild claims that they had fixed the economy. At one point, Biden said that the economy was failing and that “he ended the recession”.
Both men talked about the issue of COVID as if they could, singlehandedly, either cause people to die or stop people from dying. Biden kept alleging that it was Trump’s fault that 200,000 Americans have died from COVID, while Trump kept arguing that if Biden had been president, it would have been 2,000,000.
They talked of climate change and “saving” the world as if saving the world was their duty as president. They talked of healthcare and the Affordable Care Act, as if providing healthcare for the poor, the elderly and the like, was their job as president.
Let me remind you. The U.S. president is not a U.S. King. A King would perhaps hold the responsibility for all of the aforementioned issues but not a president, who is given strict, limited and well-defined Constitutional powers.
Two: The Constitution Was Never Part of the Conversation
This was probably the most infuriating aspect of the debate. Not once did the moderator mention the president’s duties according to the Constitution and not once did the candidates use the Constitution as the basis for their actions or beliefs. No, instead, everything discussed was merely matters of opinion or feeling.
Who cares about opinions or feelings when it comes to the job of running the executive branch of our country. If such a branch is run simply by opinions and feelings…well, I guess, we get what we’ve been getting for decades now. Presidents who act like they are the lawmaking and law executing branch combined.
Three: The President’s Job Description Was Never Part of the Conversation
Why did we hear nothing of foreign affairs? What about treaties, ambassadors, major vetoes or signed legislation? We did hear some about a judicial appointment, which, fortunately does fall within the president’s job description, but that conversation devolved quickly into debates about abortion and healthcare.
If the American citizenry is really going to be able to assess a candidate’s capabilities to fill the role as president, it’s truly best to assess the candidate according to the role he is supposed to fill, not the role Congress or another branch is supposed to fill.
Four: Congress and the States Get Off Easy
Boy does Congress get off easy. The American people blame the president for everything: healthcare, sickness, the economy, climate change, riots, protests, racism and the like.
My gut response is: “My word, people! Do you really want a King that bad?!”
I do wonder if there is some research in the psychology field that may explain people’s tendencies to demand, desire and look towards a Kinglike figure.
Congress gets the better end of the deal here. Congress is the one responsible for writing all the laws (albeit, unconstitutional) on healthcare, for COVID, for the economy or climate change. The states and cities also have their role in COVID legislation and handling the riots and protests.
But guess who gets the blame, bears the weight of responsibility from the people, and ultimately gets punished in elections for these subjects?
The American people really better snap out of it and start paying attention to all branches and levels of government, or before long, the president is going to be the head of a monster that can never be tamed.
Five: What If They Had Responded According to the Constitution
Here’s my dream scenario. What if, when Chris Wallace asked about climate change, the candidates had said this:
“Well, I think the scientific community is doing a good job of figuring out what’s really going on, but frankly, Mr. Wallace, that has little to nothing to do with me and my role as president. Congress can’t write laws about climate change because that would violate the Constitution, and so I’m never going to need to execute laws on this issue”.
Or when Wallace discussed healthcare:
“Constitutionally, it’s not my job to handle healthcare for the nation. That is actually a state job. It’s not even Congress’s job.”
Or when the economy is mentioned:
“I’m thankful the economy is doing well and to whatever small degree I was able to influence that, I hope to continue to influence it in this positive direction. But really, Mr. Wallace, the economy has little to do with my Constitutional duties. Why don’t you give us a topic that actually pertains to our job?”
What if, literally, for every topic Wallace lobbed at them, they merely brought it back to the Constitution. What if just ONE of them did this? How different would the debate have been?
There’s little that can be said to argue against the Constitution. Referencing it as the superior source of authority forces others to face whether or not they really see it as the superior source of authority.
I learned little in this debate. What I did learn is just how uninformed and unengaged the news and the candidates must think we, the American people, actually are. They try to win us with razzle dazzle, fluff and pizzazz, assuming that we are clueless mindless beings who only care about feelings and emotions rather than real substance.
The scary part: they may be right.
The Liberty Belle