Column: Debate Haters Keep Declaring Them Pointless

September 29th, 2023 6:04 AM

We’ve been subjected to years of lectures about how Republicans are a “threat to democracy,” but watching the post-debate reactions to the second GOP presidential debate at the Reagan Library made you wonder who exactly hates democracy. Like the first debate aftermath, journalists assert debates are pointless.

It wasn’t October yet – and about 14 weeks from the Iowa caucuses – and the horse race-obsessed prognosticators suggested that if debates don’t move any polling needles, why bother with debates? The liberal media are lining up neatly with Trump, asserting that he’s paying no price for skipping debates, so who cares?

“Does anybody see a VP in that group? I don't think so,” Trump quipped in his counter-programming speech in Michigan. Trump believes everyone daring to challenge him for the nomination is engaged in some kind of pro-Biden conspiracy, so they’re all disqualified. Only MAGA devotees are “qualified.”

Trump and the media are not completely aligned, since George Stephanopoulos on ABC was wondering why we need debates if they’re not obsessing over Trump’s allegedly damaging array of indictments and civil lawsuits. This tells you how ABC would run a GOP debate, which is why the GOP has started with Fox channels so far.

MSNBC host Mehdi Hasan tweeted the same line, that it’s not a debate if we’re not obsessing about Trump allegedly over-valuing his real estate. “Not a single candidate has said a word about it. Not a single question on it from the moderators. This is not actually a debate.”

Now imagine if we turned the logic around on the pundits and proclaimed that all these indictments and civil lawsuits aren’t damaging Trump’s standing at all, so why don’t we just call all the legal maneuvering off? Turn off the courtroom theatrics. If that sounds incredibly irresponsible if not premature, then why all this grumbling about debates being unnecessary?

With the pro-Biden press, we might imagine why they don’t like these events. It allows a national television audience to absorb an hour or two of fairly animated assaults on the competence and wisdom of the Biden team. We certainly know that these “guardians of democracy” have absolutely no interest in primary debates on the Democrat side, since they realize Biden is always 30 seconds away from a verbal face-plant. Instead, Joe Scarborough and others just denounce the debate as a “disaster” for everyone involved.

Sunny Hostin on The View took the un-factual position of “I didn't hear a lot of policy, you know? You want to talk about the border and immigration, well, you want to get rid of the Affordable Care Act, so what is your plan for health care?” The candidates talked a lot about policy – much more than if Donald Trump had been on stage, calling Chris Christie fat or making other personal remarks to shock and amuse the booboisie.

Then Whoopi Goldberg complained, “I don't want to hear anybody else talking about culture wars....The whole panel talked about culture wars.” Joy Behar claimed, “It’s all they’ve got. They don’t have policies.” Transgender issues don’t spur policies?

All this muttering underlines that Republican debates have a much higher level of intellect than The View does.

If people really claim to love and honor democracy, they would let the primary campaigns and debates play out, and perhaps even suggest Joe Biden should have to submit himself to a primary debate. Democrats always equate themselves with capital-D Democracy, but it’s obvious they don’t have enough faith in voters to actually let this process unfold.