My take on the first presidential debate

I’m going to procrastinate tackling my mountain of work (current level: Mont Blanc) to share my thoughts on last night’s presidential debate:

1) Firstly, it is a stretch to call what happened yesterday a “debate”. There are far more judicious ways to describe it: an example of how politics can intersect with bare-knuckle cage fighting. A trashy reality TV show that simultaneously appalls and fixates you. A lesson in how to never answer the question asked. A rhetorical example of hurling garbage onto the lawn (this last one is courtesy of the NY Times).

2) Although Hillary “won” by appearing composed and self-assured next to a petulant and interruptive child, she failed to land a number punches that would have rendered her performance far more effective or gratifying. She may have prepared for the event (which she pointed out with a smirk), but she could have done a better job at demolishing Trump – and he certainly gave her ample opportunity to do so. To borrow a few words from Freddy Gray, a better debater would have seized upon the relish with which Trump greeted the 2008 housing crash as an opportunity to make a buck from the misery and shattered dreams of millions of Americans; a better debater would have leapt upon his suggestion avoiding paying federal income taxes was smart.

3) Perhaps it doesn’t even matter. Historically speaking, there isn’t much evidence to suggest that debates are game changers. At worst, there is no impact on the outcome, at best they provide a nudge in very close elections. Studies show that, in the average election year, you can pretty accurately predict where the race will stand after the debates by knowing the state of the race before the debates.

All this aside, what’s clear is that 100 million viewers were left last night thinking: what the f**k was that?

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