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A Terrible Debate? Good News for Joe Biden

If you were spared from witnessing the sad spectacle of two old white men arguing about their golf handicaps while trying to position themselves as the only choice for leader of the world’s largest nuclear arsenal, then you’ve probably heard that it was a shitshow. Moderators Jake Tapper and Dana Bash could have been replaced by ChatGPT for all the nothing they did as both candidates veered off course and off topic multiple times. Donald Trump lied so frequently and dramatically about so many undeniable things that it would be easier to list the handful of truths he mentioned (none were substantive). Joe Biden was listless and mumbly and very obviously trying to remember lines he had drilled on too many times, resulting in panic in Democratic circles and Republicans reluctantly admitting that he wasn’t on performance-enhancing drugs. And I am here to tell you despite all of that: This is good news for Joe Biden

It’s a counterintuitive take to be sure, and I don’t want to sugarcoat his performance — it was dismal. Biden was not sharp: He looked and sounded like an octogenarian with a cold; he scrambled reply lines and delivery at several key points, and the most meme-worthy moments were his silent split-screen reactions to whatever unadulterated gibberish Donald Trump was spouting. But for all of the alarm and despair that Democrats default to after any kind of setback, it’s worth remembering a few important things about who Joe Biden is, what Donald Trump has done, and why this election matters. 

joe biden debate

First, it must be said that Joe Biden is currently President of the United States. While he didn’t play the role on stage at the debate, he still has four months to demonstrate his skill and capabilities, make impactful and life-changing decisions, and show why talk is cheap when it comes to the highest office in the land. Ninety minutes in a studio isn’t the sum of his talents or his record, and he will have ample opportunities to remind us of that. Sure, it would have been better for 2024 State of the Union Joe Biden to have shown up and shown out on that debate stage, but the good news is that that guy is around pretty much all the time! He just needs to be put in situations that show off his strengths rather than putting a harsh spotlight on his weaknesses.

And since we’re speaking about weaknesses, let’s not forget that Biden’s opponent is disgraced former president and convicted felon Donald Trump. Due to the fact that no one expects more from him and he delivered a vigorous con man’s performance, Trump’s rambling and incoherent fountain of lies has gotten very little attention from the political press — but it should. Because Trump took the lies to new heights the moment he felt the tiniest bit of pressure. From the first question he claimed to have the best stock market performance before and after COVID, insisted that “everyone” wanted abortion handed back to the states, had to be asked every question at least twice, declared that his comments about veterans, his comments about Charlottesville, and what happened on January 6 were all made up, and called Joe Biden a Manchurian candidate installed by China to weaken the United States from within. And that’s just what I remember off the top of my head! On that debate stage, Donald Trump was the political equivalent of a howler monkey flinging its own poo. Even with Biden’s lackluster mumbling and bumbling, Trump gave the least presidential performance since the last time we had to suffer through his presence.

President Joe Biden sits with his fist to his chin. He looks stressed.

Which makes this a good time to remind y’all that besides political junkies and cult members, regular people aren’t exposed to Donald Trump much anymore and have kind of forgotten how miserable he made them. Sure, he looked peppy and energetic next to a slower, stumbling Biden, but with that energy he repeated obvious and insulting lies about events we all lived through, refused to answer the question at hand no matter how easy it was, and failed to clearly and unambiguously state that he would accept the election results and reject political violence. In short, he reminded every voter why they rejected him last time he ran for President, and what the costs are if he returns to office. For the first time this election cycle, voters tuned in to get real responses to the tangible problems of their lives, and only one person — as dull and disconnected as he seemed — had any answers.

So as bad as the debate was for Biden — and it was — the whole spectacle was worse for Trump. While the verve and energy and amphetamines (???) were there, the illusion of coherence, competence and authenticity were long gone. And though it might not feel like it, a worse day for Donald Trump is a win for the rest of us. Even Joe Biden.

Kaitlin Byrd
Kaitlin Byrd
Knows too much, thinks even more. Has infinite space in her heart for tea and breakfast for dinner. Really from New York, so always ready to cut a bitch.