We Don’t Need Any More Debates

The 2020 vice presidential debate is scheduled for 9 p.m. ET tonight. It shouldn’t be happening at all.

Donald Trump, as well as several members of his administration, are infected with COVID-19. Mike Pence, who hasn’t tested positive, has spent plenty of time with people who have. A number of campaign aides and staffers have also been infected, and by all accounts, the White House coronavirus outbreak is nowhere near slowing down.

Biden and Harris shouldn’t go anywhere near it, no matter how much paltry plexiglass stands between them.

Trump and the GOP’s brazenness over the last several days has been striking. It’s no surprise that the president has proven incapable of humility or learning basic lessons about infection and incubation; still, his willingness to play roulette with other people’s health and lives is startling. Trump and his campaign have tried portraying his COVID-19 infection as a sign of strength and leadership, which is completely delusional on its own before you factor in the president’s defiance of masks and social distancing. Even Pence spokesperson Katie Miller got in on the action, making fun of Harris’ demands for more debate protections as wanting to hide behind a “fortress;” Miller’s husband, top White House aide Stephen Miller, tested positive for COVID-19 yesterday.

The Trump campaign’s stupidity here goes beyond just stupid. They went from ignoring the virus to actively using it as a political prop as their own people, including their leader, fall ill. It doesn’t matter how close to home the virus hits. That kind of recklessness shouldn’t be touched.

There isn’t any real reason to have these debates, anyway. It’s not just that the last one was historically bad—it’s that we’re dealing with two competing ideologies that don’t require their representatives to stand up and contrast them. One is a cult of personality built around Trump’s ignorance, defiance, and bombast; the other is Biden’s meager-but-probably-good-enough pitch of unity and returning things to pre-Trump normal. Since his positive diagnosis, hospital stay, and subsequent release, Trump has only widened the gulf between himself and reality. Nothing but political norms are compelling any of the debates to actually happen, and we’re acting as if those weren’t completely obliterated by the two-hour dissociation fest we sat through during the first presidential debate.

Both Trump and Biden’s performances last were reason enough to call off the rest of the debates. Now, Biden’s got the perfect out—but it’s not exactly a weak excuse when your literal life is on the line. Hopefully one septuagenarian presidential candidate realizes that.