An Unbelievable Debate and a Crisis for the Democratic Party

On June 27, the world watched as the two candidates from the Republican and Democratic parties held their first debate of this election cycle. Donald Trump, the Republican nominee, faced off against Joe Biden for the Democrats. The debate itself was already abnormal, as after many examples and experiences of Trump’s disregard and lack of respect, the debate was organized to minimize disruption. It was held without a studio audience, with strict time limits, and with microphones that would turn off if any candidate went over the time limit. This, however, was not the strangest aspect of the debate. The performance itself was unprecedented. Trump lied, made up facts and figures, made wild claims, and attacked Biden. With the skills of a competent media personality, Trump fit his sound bites into the allotted time, and delivered his racist, xenophobic, climate-denying rhetoric to fit the debate. Biden, however, seemed almost stunned, staring into space, fumbling his words and losing track of his thoughts. He seemed like someone’s elderly grandpa who might need to have his driver’s license revoked. Biden’s performance has sent the Democratic Party establishment into chaos, with many funders and pundits calling for Biden to step down in favor of another candidate. For now, the Biden campaign claims that Biden was just having an off night, and he will continue to run. But, in fact, Biden’s poor performance was very consistent with how he has seemed in public over the past few months — struggling to find his words and follow his own train of thought. It’s unlikely this was just an off night. The crisis in the Democratic Party, this close to the election, is truly unprecedented.

It is truly stunning that these are the candidates in the United States’ presidential election. Hardly a word out of Donald Trump’s mouth had any relationship to the facts. He even described the January 6th insurrection as an orderly assembly, and his role as one of urging calm and restraint — as if we all haven’t seen the videos, available with a click, on the internet. Meanwhile, Biden was almost incoherent at times, stumbling over lines that he had obviously rehearsed before, and failing to stand up to Trump’s most vicious claims. When Trump claimed that recent immigrants, who actually commit fewer crimes than citizens, were responsible for rampant violence and murder, Biden seemed to agree with him. When Trump claimed that the Democrats supported killing babies after they are born, Biden failed to shoot down such a ridiculous and gruesome lie.

Who could even believe that these people represent “leaders” who should decide the fate of our lives and how we live them? Aside from their debate performance, we know their records. Trump is a billionaire and Biden a millionaire and both speak for parties representing and funded by billionaires. Trump doesn’t believe that climate change is an issue, but the Biden administration, with the little it has done, acts as if it isn’t an urgent issue either. Trump calls for Israel to “finish the job” in its genocidal war against the Palestinian people, but the Biden administration has supported Israel’s war without a pause, doing exactly what Trump promises. While Trump calls for attacks on immigrants, the Biden administration borrows from the Trump playbook with its border policy. Certainly Trump represents a ramping up of the hateful, racist attitude that has fueled his rise, while Biden may promise a calmer demeanor, but how is this a choice?

This election more than ever presents the same issue as previous elections — we are asked to pick between bad and worse, between an intolerable status quo and an even worse alternative. But how did we get here?

The U.S. political system, at its roots, is set up to guarantee the rule of the rich, through the structure of elections, the inequalities in the voting system, and the electoral college, but also by the sheer fact that those with the funding decide the candidates. The parties and the media decided before this debate that no third party will be allowed to participate, even though, in fact, in this election Robert F. Kennedy is running and polling somewhere around 15 percent. He is, of course, only able to run due to his own political connections and fundraising capacity, and his views are also extreme and dangerous, opposing vaccinations and promoting conspiracy theories.

It’s time that working people in the U.S. stand up for ourselves. We need our own party. We need a party that opposes wars and genocide, which do not benefit us in any way and are crimes against humanity. We need a party that doesn’t put the billionaires first, that defends good wages, health care, education, and housing for all, that fights against racism, sexism, and xenophobia. At the very least, we need these things, and beyond that, we need a party of struggle in workplaces and working-class neighborhoods, and not just active in the electoral dimension. This system is undemocratic, designed to serve the wealthy, and the choices it gives us are becoming more and more intolerable. It’s time to fight for replacing this system with one run by and for the working class.