One absurd notion that Tuesday night ought to put to rest forever is that Biden is any less likely than his opponent to lie. Not only did the former vice president made false claims about crime, the economy, and Amy Coney Barrett’s views; he also flatly denied that his son Hunter had been paid a six-figure salary by a Ukrainian mining company. Meanwhile Trump himself insisted that he had paid many millions more in incomes taxes in 2016 and 2017 than he appears to have done in many years. Was anyone at home keeping score? Did anyone notice? Did anyone care? I doubt it.

I am not an undecided voter or indeed any sort of voter. But I can say without hesitation that I did change my mind on Tuesday night. Like millions of other Americans, journalists in particular, for the past several months I had looked forward to this year’s presidential debates. What unfolded on my screen emptied me of what I had assumed were many years of reserved pundit cynicism. It was a grim reminder that there is nothing amusing about the slow but almost certainly inexorable decline of the United States into a senile gerontocracy whose basic organizing principles are numbers going up on a computer screen somewhere and mindless entertainment. The whole thing is as painfully sad as it is well deserved.