US Election 2020: New rules set to be introduced after 'worst debate ever'

Nick Whigham
·Assistant News Editor
·5-min read

There will be changes made to the remaining two US presidential debates following a disastrous night dubbed a national humiliation for American democracy.

Criticism of the first debate on Tuesday night (local time) was almost universal with those in the media calling it a “disgrace” and a total “sh*tshow” as the event frequently devolved into an ugly shouting contest.

Following the intense public backlash to the event, which was watched by more than 73 million Americans, the commission responsible for the three presidential debates said it will soon adopt changes to avoid a repeat of the embarrassing night.

The nonpartisan group which has organised every US general election presidential debate since 1988 promised to add new “tools to maintain order”.

Pictured is Joe Biden delivering a speech.
Joe Biden was back on the campaign trail the day after a debate labelled a 'national humiliation' for the country. Source: Getty

Yesterday’s debate “made clear that additional structure should be added to the format of the remaining debates to ensure a more orderly discussion of the issues,” the commission said Wednesday (local time).

Speaking to Yahoo News Australia immediately following the debate, Dr David Smith from the United State’s Studies Centre at University of Sydney said it was “so bad it actually puts the future of presidential debates in question”.

“I don’t know why the Biden camp would even agree to do any more debates after that. Certainly any debate which happens in the future needs to have a kill switch on the microphones of candidates,” he said.

It appears that will be a likely change in the upcoming events. The ability to cut off the microphones of either candidate is currently being mulled by the commission, although the plans have not been finalised.

“[We are] carefully considering the changes that it will adopt and will announce those measures shortly,” the commission said.

Some Democrats called on Mr Biden to simply skip the next two debates but the Biden camp has ruled that out, saying he would participate in the subsequent meetings.

The next presidential debate is a town hall format scheduled for October 15 in Miami.

‘Horrifying’ and chaotic debate performance useful for voters

Cancelling the final two debates would likely be an error, says David Frum, senior editor at The Atlantic and the former speechwriter for President George W Bush.

The lifelong Republican has been vocal in his criticisms of Mr Trump and believes the debate performances like yesterday make it impossible for those watching to refute the nature of Donald Trump as a person and an incumbent president.

“We do these events in order to inform the public,” he told ABC Radio National Thursday.

“There are Americans who have a perception that Donald Trump, maybe he’s a little rough on Twitter but then he puts the phone down and behaves himself like a well-balanced, well-adjusted president.”

Suporters of US President Donald Trump pictured wearing MAGA hats.
Suporters of US President Donald Trump listen as he speaks during a campaign rally in Minnesota on September 30. Source: Getty

“Donald Trump at the debate gave Americans a very clear view of how he comports the presidency, how he regards the presidency, what he thinks his job is – that was useful information and Americans need to have it as they get ready to vote.”

Mr Frum said many US citizens agree with much of the global condemnation levelled at Mr Trump’s demonstrative debate performance, saying they viewed it as “repellent” and “repulsive”.

“Americans aren’t any different to anybody else, they were horrified. But it is important horrifying information to have.”

“There will be some new rules,” in the upcoming debate, he conceded. “But I am emphatically on the side that these rules [of the first debate] should continue.”

According to reports in the US media citing his aides, Mr Trump was very happy with how the first debate went and viewed it as a very successful outing for him.

However, Mr Frum believes the widespread backlash could see the US President dial back the aggression.

“I think you will see a much meeker Donald Trump because it will penetrate even his head how much harm he did himself.”

Moderator ‘saddened’ by how debate turned out

Following the debate, moderator Chris Wallace from Fox News was attacked by the president and some of his supporters, while he also receiving broader criticism for being unable to better control proceedings.

“I’m just sad with the way last night turned out,” he told The New York Times, calling the event “a terrible missed opportunity”.

“I never dreamt that it would go off the tracks the way it did,” he lamented.

When asked directly if the president had derailed the debate, Mr Wallace replied, “Well, he certainly didn’t help.”

While Mr Trump hasn’t slowed his attacks on the moderator via social media, he continued to seem very pleased with how the night went when addressing supporters at a rally on Wednesday (local time).

It’s no secret that Donald Trump is obsessed with TV ratings. So he was quick to seize on the viewership numbers as a sign of the night’s success.

“The highest ratings of any show in the history of cable television,” he said at a campaign rally in Minnesota.

That’s despite the fact the TV ratings represented about a 13 per cent decline from the first presidential debate of the campaign four years ago when 84 million people tuned in for the first debate between Mr Trump and Hilary Clinton, according to Nielsen.

Nonetheless, the debate was among the top three most-watched debates in US history.

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