Presidential debate creates new low point for democracy

Now, it’s a presidential debate that has created the latest low point in our dysfunctional democracy – and on multiple fronts.

Tuesday night’s chaotic 90 minutes of harassment, crosstalk, elation, name-calling, baseless claims and accusations will be remembered, at a minimum, for effectively extinguishing the already tainted concept of civilian political discourse. .

It will also be known that President Trump found another venerable democratic institution – a grim debate on key issues by the country’s two future leaders – that he was eager to attack. He employed so many inappropriate heckling and demeaning personal attacks that his exasperated challenger, former Vice President Joe Biden, twice called Trump a “clown.”

And that was all before the sitting US president decided to step up his unprecedented attack on the integrity of the upcoming presidential election itself and his refusal to promise a peaceful transition, an unprecedented shake-up of the foundations. of democracy before a global audience that included approximately 73 million American voters.

“The repetition of last night’s debate risks blurring the lines on what should be quintessential democratic values, and foreign opponents may try to amplify such rhetoric in an attempt to sow more confusion and chaos to come. “David Levine of the Alliance for Securing Democracy, a bipartisan group formed to prevent a repeat of Russian interference in the presidential election, warned Wednesday.

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“The US election crisis has shifted to Code Red” because of the debate, said Josh Silver, founder of prominent democracy reform group RepresentUs. “It’s unprecedented in American history. If you don’t worry about a coup by this president, you don’t care.”

The Presidential Debates Committee on Wednesday promised that it would tighten the rules for the next two debates in the near future “in order to ensure a more orderly discussion”.

Biden’s “Are you going to shut up, man?” The demand can be remembered as the bugle sound of the chaotic night of the night before, when Trump’s bullying and boasting amplified the idea that the presidency itself has become so debased that it further weakens the democracy.

This was reinforced in the final substantive exchange. Trump has unveiled a scattered set of grossly exaggerated or essentially fabricated examples of electoral cheating to cast further doubt on the validity of the vote. He wrongly claimed that several states had extended the voting deadline, while they postponed the deadline for the arrival of votes for those who were absent on election day. He refused, for the third time in a week, to promise to participate in an orderly transfer of power if he loses. And he refused, at the request of Fox News moderator Chris Wallace, to pledge not to “engage in any civil unrest” or “declare victory” until the tally is over.

As he has done for months, Trump asserted without real evidence that the record-breaking use of mail-in ballots, thousands of which have already been completed, would ensure “it will be a fraud like you’ve never seen before.” “.

“They are sold. They are being thrown into the rivers. It is a horrible thing for our country. It is not going to end well,” he said.

Trump also said he was likely to insist that the Supreme Court be the ultimate arbiter in mail-order ballot disputes, which could lead to a delay of weeks or even months in the outcome. final. Senate Democrats are also stepping up their campaign to persuade Trump candidate Judge Amy Coney Barrett to step down from any election matter if confirmed in time.

“I think I’m relying on them to watch the ballots, definitely.” Trump said judges. “I hope we don’t need that, as far as the election itself is concerned. But for the ballots, I think so, because what’s going on is incredible.”

Biden, for his part, made an unequivocal pledge to accept the final election results regardless of the outcome – also unequivocally stating that he viewed the postal vote as trustworthy and noting the president’s own vote. Florida mail-order ballots from the White House. He said Trump’s slanders of mail ballots – at a time when tens of millions of people will be using them for the first time to avoid exposure to the coronavirus – are part of his efforts to suppress participation.

“It’s about trying to dissuade people from voting because he’s trying to scare people into believing it won’t be legitimate,” Biden said in response to Trump. “If we get the votes, it will all be over. He cannot stay in power.”

Nonetheless, the president seemed to invite a constitutional crisis if the margins are too close to call in many battlefield states until a few days after election day – which is very possible as several of them don’t start. not even to process their stacks of mail-in ballots before that. daytime.

One of them is Pennsylvania, where Trump has also falsely claimed that pro-GOP poll watchers were wrongly prevented from observing the first day of early voting in person in Philadelphia. The Trump campaign does not have approved observers to work in the city, and the traditional polling stations that allow observers are not yet open.

Debate began an hour after the House voted 397-5, with dissidents all Republican, on a resolution affirming support for a peaceful transfer of power. The Senate passed a nearly identical measure by voice vote last week.

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