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A Depressed Viewer’s Guide to the Presidential Debate

As President Biden and former President Trump prepare for their first presidential debate (Thursday, 9 pm ET), millions of Americans are feeling a sense of dread. More than 70 percent of the country – America’s dissident majority – feel unsettled by the binary choice they are supposed to accept. 

The bigger story ahead of the debate are the “double haters” who resent the Biden-Trump rematch and could decide the election. 

As The Washington Post recently reported:  

Ask voters here in far western Wisconsin what they think of their two main presidential choices in November — the same two choices they had four years ago — and the answers, even tinged with Midwest nice, come out hard and blunt.

“Absolute trash.”

“Three-hundred-and-some-odd million people, and that’s all we can get?”


“Both options suck. And it’s going to, I think, boil down to what sucks less.”

Standing behind the counter at an antiques shop in downtown Hudson, Kimberly Nelson, 55, of River Falls, Wis., described herself as a Democrat who voted for Biden in 2020 but now feels “very sad — angry — that our two choices are like, ‘Do you want Stalin or Hitler? Which one? Which one?’”

Many voters, it seems, have given up on looking to debates to learn policy insights that will help them make a more informed decision. Instead, most post-debate analysis is devoted to performative “moments.” That will be true again this year with special attention being paid to the possibility of “senior moments” between two candidates whose combined ages are 159 (Biden 81, Trump 78). 

>>>READ: Climate Change is Forever on the GOP Debate Stage

So, what should depressed viewers and voters do? A good starting point is to think about the election like the debate about climate change and risk. There is a low probability chance of a catastrophic outcome with a Trump or Biden victory or loss but, in all likelihood, the world will not end. 

The economy or the climate? Why not both?

Subscribe for ideas that support the environment and the people. 

The better approach is to realize politics is downstream from culture and focus on creating changes in institutions, ideas, and attitudes that, in time, will manifest changes in politics and parties. To quote our advisor, Yuval Levin, it’s time to build. In his book by that title, he writes

“When we don’t think of our institutions as formative but as performative – when the presidency and Congress are just stages for political performance art, when a university becomes a venue for vain virtue signaling, when journalism is indistinguishable from activism – they become harder to trust. They aren’t really asking for our confidence, just for our attention.”

We started C3 Solutions because we sensed a need in the marketplace of ideas for an organization to make the case that regardless of how you define climate risk, more economic freedom and innovation is the answer. As Jonah Goldberg says in our new ad on his Dispatch podcast, instead of wringing our hands and hoping the conservative movement sorts itself out, we decided to help build a better future today. 

As Levin writes, “we must all accept the responsibilities that come with the positions we hold, and we must ensure that obligations and restraints actually protect and empower us. We need to inhabit these institutions, love them, and reform them to help make them more lovely to others as well.”

>>>READ: America Has a Political Climate Change Problem

Tomorrow’s debate will almost certainly show that our institutions need reform and renovation. A two-party system that tells the country they must accept a Biden and Trump rematch is begging for a correction. The good news is we all can participate in that correction. In spite of our dysfunction, politics has never been more open and malleable. 

Not long ago candidates quoted George Bernard Shaw who said, “There are those that look at things the way they are, and ask why? I dream of things that never were, and ask why not?”

It’s time to build. 

The views and opinions expressed are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of C3.

Copyright © 2020 Conservative Coalition for Climate Solutions

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