Politics

The last debate – New Telegraph

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There is just one major debate raging in America at the moment, and that is whether Joseph Robinette Biden Jr. should continue to run for President. The 46th President of the United States who has been in office in the past three and half years, is the presumptive nominee of the Democratic Party in the election coming up in November. His face-off with Donald Trump, his opposite number in the Republican Party in a national debate on 27th June has raised so much dust. Most Americans believe that Biden's performance was awful and has raised questions about his physical and mental fitness for the contest, with some suggesting he should yield the ticket to some more energetic Democrats. In this regard, Vice President Kamara Harris and California Governor, Gavin Newsom, have emerged the favourites even when they have both pledged loyalty to Biden. Biden, 81 years and the oldest president in U.S. history, has been debating all his life, literally, and he knows how debates impact elections. Debates, especially in the US, have been a constant feature of American democracy since 1960 when Senator John F. Kennedy, the Democratic nominee, and Vice President Richard Nixon, the Republican nominee engaged in a series of debates leading to the year's polls.

Not only did JFK mesmerize the electorate with his charm, he captured their imagination with his elucidation. And he won the election, ultimately. Today, campaigns involve public scrutiny that debates offer opportunity for, and Biden must have engaged in dozens and dozens with political opponents from 1973 to 2009 when he represented Delaware in the United States Senate. Even as a serving Senator, Biden ran unsuccessfully for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1988 and 2008 before Obama chose him as his running mate, serving as the 47th Vice President for two terms of eight years from 2009 to 2017 before landing the top job as the 46th and current President of the United States since 2021. But on June 27 when he engaged former President Trump in a debate sponsored by CNN, Biden looked so ordinary and incoherent. Against Donald Trump who is six years younger, he came as a non-starter with a disastrous performance that many say may cost him a re-election.

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Trump was not fantastic either, with his half-lies and baseless claims but he came across as confident and clear headed against a sitting President that somehow appeared frightened and vacuous. Trump clobbered him and ran away with a publicly acclaimed victory. He was unsparing and bullish, even uncouth in his language, but for the American citizens, especially the 51 million viewers who watched it, those are more pardonable than watching the President's near empty-headed display marked by verbal blanks, a weak voice and sometimes getting lost midway into speeches. And if the Democrats feel let down, the fear is palpable that a second debate, which will be sponsored by ABC on September 10, 2024, will be worse. Many Americans who watched Biden, have gone to the extent of asking who really takes the decisions at the White House.

Not even the damage control efforts by former President Obama and VP Harris have helped stem the tide. Like Obama said, “bad debates do happen”, except that he didn't add that election defeats do also happen as a result. As pressure continues to mount on the President to drop out of the race, more polls now suggest Trump has continued to widen his lead and even Obama knows what it implies. But Biden has also tried to respond with a weakened assurance that he was running and would win. In the past week alone, he has sent close to a dozen letters to reassure his supporters and to appeal for funds to ramp up his campaign.

Luckily for him, the two Democrats whose names have kept popping up have all rejected the idea of mounting a challenge against Biden and picking the Democratic ticket. VP Kamara Harris, for the umpteenth time, has told Americans he was going to win with Biden, while Gavin Newsom, the California Governor who met with President Biden at the White House on Thursday, said he would continue to have Biden's back. The US President may decide to hold out till the end with the argument that the election will eventually boil down to his above average performance in the past three and half years. If eventually he takes a dive as a result of the mounting pressure, it must be attributed to what has become his last debate. That will be a tragic end for a man who built a reputation over the years as a good debater both on the floor of the US Senate and in the series of election contests he has engaged in during his political career that has spanned over half a century.


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