Thursday, October 1, 2020
Ultimately, both Joe Biden and Donald Trump renounced political violence, albeit in a perfunctory manner. But the president could not bring himself to commit to the idea that the results of this election will be legitimate. He labors mightily to frame this contest as fundamentally fraudulent, and he is deliberately ambiguous about whether he would facilitate a peaceful transition of power should he lose. He wants Americans to be anxious about these threats, and they are intimidating to many. But they should not be. By getting in front of an event that hasn’t happened yet, the president is, in fact, discrediting the charges he will invariably levy if the election results don’t go his way. And by laying the cognitive groundwork for his own defeat at the polls, Donald Trump has bathed himself in the stink of failure.
And that is what unenthusiastic conservative voters who watched this debate were left with: a lost cause. The American right has every reason to be repulsed by the prospect of a Biden administration. His convivial affect and civil demeanor mask what even his critics on the left admit is perhaps the most progressive agenda in the history of the American presidency. But conservatives do not have an effective messenger in Donald Trump.