We know we shouldn’t look at road kill. But tonight, uncountable millions of Americanos will feel that good citizenship obligates them to. Or, as we shall see, will tune in to tonight’s forensic train wreck for less admirable reasons.
It’s not that anyone needs to watch tonight’s “debate” to grasp the essential differences between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. These are already clear as spring water. That pollsters are still able to locate voters who describe themselves as undecided is testimony to the shrunken contemporary attention span.
Yes, many will want to see how the two candidates do. Will there be any theatrics? Will one trip up the other? Who will come out ahead? Will there be a “You’re no Jack Kennedy” moment? (I always thought, to that one, Dan Quayle’s perfect counter-punch would have been, “No, Lloyd. I’m no Jack Kennedy. And this is a great relief to my wife.”)
In his essential primer on this melancholy event which appears in this a.m.’s TAS, the insightful Jeb Babbin points to another reason for tuning in. One that few would own up to if questioned under oath, to wit: the NASCAR effect. Many of our otherwise gentle and peace-loving friends and neighbors will turn temporary ghoul and tune in hoping to see a wreck. A big collision. Sparks. Parts flying in all directions. If I may switch sports — a knockout. A dramatic moment that changes the dynamics of the race.
Will the Donald pop a rivet and finally say something so outrageous as to put him beyond the pale? Will Mz Hillary be so boring that teams of physicians, ex-Navy hospital corpsmen, and clergymen will have to sort the dead from the merely bored rigid in the Hofstra University audience after services are concluded?
Some or all of the above might happen. But I wouldn’t bet the mortgage money on it. The Donald has said enough outrageous things since becoming a candidate last summer to sink a dozen candidates. His outrageousness is not a detriment but a résumé enhancer. And Mz Hillary has been boring us since the early nineties. She has been a one-woman sleeping pill and he has been an unguided missile for the entire 600 months (only seems like 900) of the campaign to this point. And we have a dead heat. Best guess is that the status will still be quo in the morning. But will we respect ourselves for watching?