Looking forward to next presidential debate in September


By David Lindeman

Contributing columnist

The Democratic Party has gone into full panic mode after Joe Biden’s performance in the first presidential debate of the campaign. Party bosses seem to think that Joe looked like an old guy more fit for a retirement home than the White House.

So what else is new?

Before I go any further, I have to let you know that I am not a Donald Trump fan. I also am not a Joe Biden fan. The fact that our two presidential candidates are two old guys, one who has trouble telling the truth and the other who has trouble making sense, show that the political parties have completely failed in their duty to the American public.

On the other hand, I also don’t want to say that we deserve better. We’re pretty much getting what we ask for, so we’re all complicit in this.

But back to the debate. The most famous American political debates weren’t even presidential debates. When Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas held their famous debates in 1858, they were running for the U.S. Senate in Illinois. Two years later, when they were both presidential candidates, there were no debates.

Wendell Willkie challenged Franklin Roosevelt to a debate in 1940, but FDR turned him down. Note to Joe Biden and future presidents: when you’re already the boss, you really don’t have to talk to the other guy. Just act like he’s not worth your time and you are way too busy running the country and saving the world to waste time trading insults.

There were presidential primary debates for both Republicans and Democrats in the following years, but it wasn’t until 1960 when a debate between presidential candidates from opposing parties took place.

That year, John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon participated in their famous televised debates. It was a harbinger of things to come: a majority of radio listeners thought that Nixon won or that the debate was a draw. But a majority of TV watchers thought JFK won. It was all about the image portrayed on the television, and nobody was better at that than JFK.

That’s what makes debates so puzzling. It’s all about the image. When you stop to think about it, debating skills really are not very high on the list of necessary skills for presidents. In this day and age, presidents need to be efficient CEOs. They are presented with all kinds of information and they need to be able to distill it into the best course of action. Add into that some charisma to get people to want to follow you, and you have a successful president.

Presidential debates have turned pretty much into a show. Did we learn anything new from the first debate of 2024? Did we know Joe Biden was old and not so good on his feet anymore? Yep. Did we know Donald Trump plays loose with the facts and maybe even makes stuff up half the time? Yep. Did we know that we would feel safer if they were both playing pickleball instead of trying to run the country? Yep.

Now there are a bunch of stories that say some Democrats want to replace Biden as the party’s candidate. There’s one major problem with that: the Democrats don’t have any leaders to appeal to a wide enough spectrum of people. Vice President Kamala Harris would be a sure loser. Who else is there?

Meanwhile, Trump has been convicted of a felony and could end up in jail, although that probably would incite a revolution and make him more popular than ever. I kind of feel like an actor in one of those movies where a giant asteroid is headed for Earth and there’s no way to stop it.

I would like to say this with an eye toward future elections. I am a certified senior citizen, which means I generally will stand up for old people. But 80-year-old presidents don’t sound like a good idea. The Constitution says that you have to be at least 35 years old to be president. Apparently, our founding fathers never considered what might happen at the other end of the spectrum. Eighty sounds like a good number to draw the line (and we could do it with federal judges, too). I know, this is not really Democratic – in a true democracy you could vote for anyone ages 1 to whatever — but sometimes we just have to protect ourselves from ourselves.

That won’t change anything for this year. All I can say is it is only July and by the time November comes around, things will change. In the meantime, we can all look forward to the next debate on Sept. 10. I can hardly wait.

David Lindeman is a Troy resident and former editor at the Troy Daily News. He can be reached at [email protected].

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