Debate disaster: two terrifying takeaways

Election debates give us the chance to check out our candidate, to compare and contrast their policies, with moderators mostly staying out of the way. They’re a chance for issues to be highlighted–sometimes with one-liners that make headlines–but always within the bounds of “presidential behavior.”

No more.

President Trump attacked, bullied and ignored the rules–even as he claimed to be the “law and order” president. Vice President Biden bit on more than a few of the attacks, calling Trump a “liar” and a “clown.”

If you are a viewer that likes tension and drama, it was your night. For the rest of us, it was an embarrassment or, worse, another pressure point for a country stretched nearly to its limits.

where we’re at

Biden is ahead in the polls and needed only to show up and not change the race too much.  Trump is trailing, notably in the election-defining swing states, and needed to convince undecided voters to join him. Election day is November 3. Two more debates are scheduled.

two terrifying debate moments

All election issues are important but there were two standout moments that sent Tim and me diving for cover.

1. Trump refuses to denounce violence from the far-right

Moderator Chris Wallace lobbed a shot at President Trump by asking him to condemn white nationalists like Proud Boys, a violent far-right group associated with riotous behavior at recent Black Lives Matter protests.

President Trump refused. People noticed.

Social media lit up. Twitter had a huge spike in references to Proud Boys, with more than a million since Trump’s statement and about 75,000 an hour on Wednesday morning. The group more commonly averages a couple thousand references on Twitter per day.

2. Accusations of voter fraud could lead to polling violence

President Trump argued, without evidence, that mail-in ballots are often fraudulent and the election could therefore be invalid. He also urged his supporters to go to polls to watch for cheating.

Note: There is NO EVIDENCE of widespread voter fraud through mail-in voting. Geek out on a study here.

President Trump: I’m urging my supporters to go into the polls and watch very carefully. Because that’s what has to happen. I am urging them to do it. As you know, today, there was a big problem. In Philadelphia they went in to watch. They were called poll watchers — a very safe, very nice thing. They were thrown out. They weren’t allowed to watch. You know why? Because bad things happen in Philadelphia, bad things. And I — I am urging — I am urging my people. I hope it’s going to be a fair election. If it’s a fair election…

Violent supporters receive tacit support from the President while at the same time he encourages his supporters to go to the polls to watch what over a “fraudulent election.”

Will Election 2020 be a dangerous intersection of two messages and result in violent social unrest?

Is mail-in voting a good idea? Check out the debate here.

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