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Debate Anxieties, We Have a Few

Are there voters who still haven’t made up their minds?

Getty Images/Ringer illustration
Getty Images/Ringer illustration

Are you excited for the presidential debate tonight? Hillary Clinton! Donald Trump! Head-to-head at last. What will they say? Who will win? Will it be the well-behaved, boring Trump who shows up, or will it be the other one? Will Hillary’s over-rehearsed zingers sound sufficiently authentic? What will we be talking about this time tomorrow? Will your head hurt, and will it be from the blue Curacao in your debate cocktails or from something else, something bad, something damning that you can tell right away you’ll be hearing about for weeks?

Did you see the polls today? A dead heat! Could go either way. All that time you thought you knew which way it was going, all those reassurances that you gave yourself and your mother — all of that was for naught. Here we are, 42 days out from the election, and none of the old headaches have gotten us anywhere that matters.

Do you think NBC moderator Lester Holt should insist on fact-checking during the debate? If he does, how should he go about it? Should he interrupt mid-answer: “Well, actually, Secretary Clinton …”? Or should he let the candidates finish and then pounce at the end: “You did say this, you have done that, you did not oppose the war in Iraq …”? Should he try to pin Trump down until he runs out of wheedling at last, his hands going still as he squirms, until his eyebrows furrow and a single bead of sweat rolls down his temple, until he confesses, “Yes, yes, I lied, OK, are you happy now,” until Holt is carried out on the shoulders of the American people as they chant, “ME-DI-A! ME-DI-A!”, until you wake up from this dream on your couch?

Do you worry that when Trump gets away with it — he is going to get away with it, you already know this — his untruths will win over the voters who haven’t yet made up their minds? That, OK, you’ve given up on the idea of loving your fellow man — if millions of your countrymen support that candidate and his ideals then they are fundamentally unknowable — but you believe that somewhere there are still babes in the woods of this hellish campaign who need to be taught right from wrong? Are you surprised by how many people follow him, and how excited they are? Do you wonder, sometimes, if they know something you don’t, if only out of the sheer unlikelihood that each and every one of them is genuinely cruel?

Are there people who haven’t made up their minds?

Do you still tell yourself that no way, he couldn’t, it’s an electoral impossibility, the Democrats always panic, it will be fine, but then find yourself reading numbers that indicate oh yes, he could and picturing him standing next to Hillary Rodham Clinton and raising his hands like “This lady! Right?!” as the audience cheers?

Have you considered which foreign country to move to? Are you not totally joking anymore?

Have you found yourself enjoying parts of this campaign in spite of yourself? Did you make jokes about the taco bowl and the Skittles, his hair, his biggests and bests? Were the retweets wild? Did you enjoy watching the ritual humiliation of Rafael Edward “Ted” Cruz? Is it refreshing, in a way, to watch a politician tear it all down, to give absolutely no fucks? Do you keep saying it is not funny but find yourself transfixed all the same?

What time does the debate start? 9:00 p.m. Eastern, friends; thanks for Googling.