I would happily be so deprived and indeed am firmly settled into an exhausted agnosticism as to how this debate fiasco will end. But, as that end is not yet arrived, here are three scenarios for the future of presidential debates now and in elections to come.
1. Debates are over forever. Both latest campaign statements express the farcical notion that another debate is a needful exercise in accountability to the American people, as if these 90 minutes will expose some truth two literal lifetimes in the public eye haven’t revealed. But the disagreement over format offers Trump and Biden an option of refusing to debate while insisting their hearts have no greater desire. Tuesday’s veep debate could be the last we’ll see this year.
Could it be the last debate ever? That strikes me as unlikely but not inconceivable. Once the participation expectation is broken, it would be more easily flouted by future campaigns. Candidates may decide dealing with an opponent’s demands is more trouble than it’s worth. And anyway, it’s not as if debate (in this artificial and superficial televised format) is part of the president’s day-to-day work. A few tough interviews or unvetted town hall questions would give voters more insight into a candidate’s positions and governing skills than the debates do now.