2020 Presidential and VP Debates

Thread to discuss the 2020 Presidential Debates. Here’s one thing I’d say first.The one big problem I have is that the moderators will make assumptions of both candidates that are not warranted. For example, moderators will likely assume that both candidates will operate in good faith, have a reasonable respect for truth and facts and also have a healthy sense of shame that would prevent them from brazen lies and fabrications. They would assume that both candidates respect, value, and understand the U.S. Constitution and key democratic processes, institutions, and norms. If these assumptions do not apply to one of the candidates, then none of the other normal policy questions matter in my view–or they matter much, much less. This is a “do not pass go” matter. If there is overwhelming, compelling evidence that these assumptions don’t apply to one of the candidates, moderators must spend a lot of time exploring this–in order to inform voters.

11 thoughts on “2020 Presidential and VP Debates

  1. After watching an hour (?) of this, I’m thinking of deleting this thread.

    This tweet touches on my reason for saying this:

    and this

    That last line especially.

  2. Highlights or low-lights, take your pick:

    Condemning white supremacy is the absolute easiest thing for a POTUS to say, and he can’t do it! What’s with the “stand by” line, too? This is at least the second opportunity for him to do it, and he can’t do it right. If he really opposed white supremacy, he’d condemn them loudly and clearly tomorrow–right now.

    I hope there is missing contextual information that will make this remark seem less worse than it is:

    Asking a POTUS to condemn white supremacists is putting the POTUS in a “box?” Think about that–like that’s not fair or inappropriate. I think it’s plausible that Trump wouldn’t want to condemn an individual or group that supports him–but it’s unbelievably telling that that applies to white supremacists. I want to swear.

    1. On “stand back and stand by”

      A thread from Kathleen Belew, historian from the University of Chicago, whose research in white power movements.

      Re “stand back and standby,” people who work in monitoring and de-radicalization and otherwise studying white power groups are sounding red alerts and sending emergency signals about increasing violence from now through the election, and after, regardless of winner.
      (2) this is a movement that has sought not only poll intimidation–although it has done that–but also major mass casualties. There is no reason to think that strategy will change.
      (3) we are talking about the movement responsible for the Oklahoma City bombing,
      the largest deliberate mass casualty on American soil between Pearl Harbor and 9/11 (yet we don’t remember it was the work of a movement)
      (4) And even though we don’t remember, this is a movement that has been using online social network activism since 1983/84, that has repeatedly targeted people and infrastructure, that has continued largely un-confronted
      (5) we are decades, if not generations, into this problem. A green light like “stand back and standby” is catastrophic.
      (6) Please listen to the whistleblowers like @NeuSummits who are leaving DHS after sounding the alarm about white power violence. Please. And please be safe out there, because the next step is mass casualty targets.
      (7) as always, if you would like to read about the history of all this, check out Bring the War Home…other books coming out soon about what happens after 1996
      (8) Spoiler: it’s bad!

      (emphasis added)

      Implications and consequences from Trump’s rhetoric

      1. Note: The researchers have revised their data/conclusions in the article below. One of the authors tweeted corrections, but it was too confusing to read through. So I’m not sure what to believe. I’m annoyed.

        Americans Increasingly Believe Violence is Justified if the Other Side Wins Politico opinion piece from five researchers.

        Our research, which we’re reporting here for the first time, shows an upswing in the past few months in the number of Americans—both Democrats and Republicans—who said they think violence would be justified if their side loses the upcoming presidential election.

        What can be done?

        No lesson in the study of democratic breakdowns rings more clearly than that political leaders play the central role in fanning—or containing—political polarization and extremism. From Germany and Italy in interwar Europe to Latin America in the 1960s and 1970s, the rhetoric and tactics of leading politicians shaped the fate of democracies in crisis.

        But what if leaders, including from Congress, political parties, and prominent pundits fail to do this?

        The best hope now to tamp down support for this potential political violence is to establish an independent, bipartisan third force—a broad commission of distinguished leaders and democratic elders of both parties and of civil society. Its mission would be to reaffirm and defend our democratic norms, especially the critical principles that every valid vote should be counted and that political violence is never justified in the United States. Congress should immediately appoint such a commission.

        This should be done now before it’s too late. I can’t think of any compelling reason not to do this. The Democrats should push this, even if the Republicans refuse.

        Shoot, I think President Obama and President Bush should do this on their own.

    2. It shouldn’t be take this long or be this hard, man.

      Earlier today with the John Roberts of Fox News with Kayleigh McAnny:

      I think I’m with Kayyem:

  3. Important analysis: What’s the thinking behind Trump’s approach?

    Towards the end of the clip below, Nicole Wallace (who worked on Republican presidential campaigns), mentions that Trump prepared and planned this approach, but what was the thinking behind it? She believes the approach will not convince voters. I’ll give my thoughts after the clip.

    I can’t say I know with confidence what’s the thinking, but I do know a plausible one: Trump is going to undermine the integrity of the election, and if Biden wins, challenge the results, and then resort to almost any procedural or legal mechanism to win this. Part of this includes inciting violence on and after election day, giving him a reason to invoke the Insurrection Act and send out U.S. military or other federal forces from other agencies–basically looking for a way to maintain power–other than winning in a legitimate way. He, with AG Barr’s help is going to use the DOJ to politically damage Biden. They’re going to utilize Russian talking points and maybe even assistance in other ways to win the election. They’re going to undermine the USPS.

    In the debate itself there is evidence of this as well. He keeps attacking the integrity of the elections; he won’t promise to accept; the results; he says to the Proud Boys to “stand back and stand by.”

    Also, if he wanted to win in a legitimate way, he could have pushed for people to wear masks in June, July, or even August. If congressional Rs, governors and Fox News got on board, a lot of his followers might have complied, which could have crushed the virus–which then could have allowed opening the economy, schools, and sports by October, putting him in a great position to win the election. It would have been the right thing to do as well. But no. Because of his narcissism or maybe his authoritarian mindset, he didn’t want to go that route–a route that would help him win in a legitimate way.

    In summary, he’s trying to rile up his base, prepare them to not accept the results and then act violently. The effort may confuse or turn off the casual voter as well, perhaps.

    The thing is, this plan would have no chance of working if enough congressional Republicans and Fox News strongly opposed these efforts. We could make it out of this, but with their help or lack of opposition, his plan has a chance.

  4. Proof that our political leaders can be decent. They can genuinely care about democracy.

  5. General thoughts about the first VP debate

    Not crazy–more like a typical debate–although Pence did seem to talk longer than his allotted time and did interrupt Harris’s time.

    But as a typical debate, for me, personally, I found it almost pointless and useless, but maybe I’m not the target audience. Part of what makes this useless is that both candidates would ignore the question and give whatever answer they wanted. The moderator didn’t even challenge this.

    Here’s something remarkable: the moderator asked both candidates what their plan was if Trump didn’t accept the election results. Think about that. If Trump not accepting the results is a serious question, that disqualifies him in my view. I feel like the press kind of glossing over this and normalizing it, which is bad.

    Here is something else that is remarkable: The Trump administration is trying to end Obamacare–which will eliminate coverage for those with preexisting health conditions–and the Trump administration has no plan to cover preexisting conditions. That is, they’re OK ending coverage for people with preexisting conditions, people under 26 going under their parents’ health insurance, and ending coverage 20 million people. They have no plan.

    Biden and Harris are refusing to answer if they expand the number of SC justices. The idea of this makes me very uneasy. At the same time, the Republicans trying to quickly appoint Barrett makes me really uneasy, too–particularly since Trump has publicly suggested that he wants her so that the SCOTUS can decide the election (If it goes to the SCOTUS). That public statement damages the legitimacy of the court. Also, they’re violating the principle they used to deny Garland a seat. All of this stinks to high heaven.


    Another unusual thing I want to mention. A rather large black fly landed on Pence’s white hair, staying there for a long time. David Frum has a pretty cool observation about this:

    We saw a weird moment where a fly landed on Pence’s snow-white hair—and the vice president did not react at all. No doubt, it’s a conundrum, what to do in such a situation. If Pence shooed the fly and the fly refused to shoo, that would be bad. So he did nothing. And that doing nothing somehow in one powerful visual moment concentrated everything. It symbolized the whole Pence vice presidency, the determined, willful refusal to acknowledge the most blaring and glaring negative realities. Through all of the scandals and the crimes and the disasters of the past four years, Mike Pence was the man who pretended not to notice. And now there was a fly on his head, and he pretended not to notice that too.

  6. Random thoughts on last night’s debate

    • A response to WaPo’s front page headline: “Trump, Biden share widely different visions, in Final, less rancorous debate.” If Trump poses a serious threat to the republic, which I think he does, this is a bad headline. Democracy dies with bad headline like this.
    • I think so much of our perceptions of the candidates are relative to our expectations. I do think Trump was way more in control of himself, and relative to his first debate performance, did a lot better. For some (many?) this may be more noteworthy than his lie and terrible answers (e.g., immigrants who actually appear in court have a “low I.Q.”).
    • This relative effect applies to Biden as well in my view. I don’t think Biden is a great candidate, and I think his performance was OK at best. However, relative to Trump, particularly how he’s been as a president, the performance could be seen as more than OK. Additionally, some may judge Biden’s performances primarily on whether he avoided disastrous mistakes. I think he did that, so I can understand if some conclude he did really well.
    • I think these debates are primarily for people who haven’t really been paying attention to politics. For these viewers, the debate can be valuable, but in reality, they’re not very helpful in my view, and can be misleading. Candidates can make claims, but unless viewers are highly knowledgeable about the relevant subjects, they will often not know who or what to believe. I felt this way myself about some of the claims, from both candidates. How useful is that? I wish they would either let candidates actually debate each other, with a moderator serving as a kind of judge or manager of the discussion. Or, better, just have each candidate interviewed by a 2-3 panel of journalists or academics.

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