Debates 2020

Social Distancing Dramatically Improved the Democratic Debate

Coronavirus fears prompted organizers to drop the live audience, which was just as well.


In an effort to help slow the spread of COVID-19, organizers of Sunday night's Democratic debate between former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I–Vt.) decided to forego a live audience.

As it turns out, this was a massive improvement. There should never be a live audience again.

Without the incessant interruptions of audience members cheering for a scripted laugh line or rewarding a moment of moral grandstanding, the candidates—it helps that there are only two of them now—actually had an opportunity to engage in a real dialogue about the issues. To take just one example, there was ample time for Sanders to scrutinize Biden's un-progressive senatorial voting record (on the Defense of Marriage Act, the Iraq War, and other issues) in great detail.

"We have time to talk about this," Sanders noted, with some surprise, while pressing Biden on a point about environmental sustainability.

Coronavirus fears have prompted plenty of emergency revisions to policies that ought never to have existed in the first place. The Travel Security Administration, for instance, recently suspended its arbitrary size limit regarding carry-on hand sanitizers: a policy that provides security theater, not actual safety, to airline passengers. Meanwhile, San Antonio has stopped detaining people for minor offenses, in an effort to keep coronavirus out of the jails. "Why were they doing it in the first place?" asks Slate's Dan Kois.

Similarly, social distancing has inadvertently shown us that indulging an audience's appetite for snark and soundbites was never necessary. Let's keep the debates audience-free, even after the coronavirus epidemic is stopped (the State of the Union, too).

NEXT: Trump Gets What He Wants as Federal Reserve Interest Rate Target Drops to Zero

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  1. At this point I wonder if there’s a need for any more Democratic debates. Although Biden was never my first choice, it’s now clear the progressive / neocon / libertarian #Resistance has chosen him as the best option to defeat Orange Hitler. It’s time for Bernie to drop out and endorse him.


  2. The Democrats, and their financial backers, should just realize 2020 is a lost cause, and save their money for the next Congressional election.
    Bernie’s a for-real communist, and Biden is senile.

    1. And the country is in the midst of a pestilence. Who knows what will happen?

      Of course, we wouldn’t know what would happen anyway.

    2. LOL

      Democrats were heading for a #BlueWave2020 even before the #TrumpVirus ravaged the planet and further destroyed our economy.

    3. Which is precisely why the DNC should’ve gotten behind Bernie from the get-go, this election is a lost cause but you might be able to salvage your party by having the commie wing get trounced in the general election.

  3. I am making a good MONEY (500$ to 700$ / hr )online on my Ipad .Do not go to office.I do not claim to be others,I yoy will call yourself after doing this JOB,It’s a REAL job.Will be very lucky to refer to this…… Read more  

    1. Wow, Mary! You better hope Bernie isn’t elected POTUS!

  4. Bernie Sanders, consummate jobber

  5. So…what did they argue about. “I was always crazy, now you’re just pretending to be crazy in order to get primary voters to support you”?

  6. Objects in your mirror are a lot lot closer than they appear.

  7. And no ‘live’ candidates either it seems.

  8. Is it just me, or has the close button for the AnyClip video disappeared on the mobile version? Considering it covers half the screen, if this doesn’t get fixed, I’m going to be coming around a lot less often.

    1. it is gone in Chrome on a laptop also

    2. If you tap on the exact right spot in the top right corner of the video, the close button will appear. Then you can close it as usual. This is definitely just an attempt to get more people to accidentally click on the videos while trying to close then, and it’s quite annoying.

  9. As for San Antonio not jailing people for ‘minor offenses,’ it depends on what those offenses might be. In Humboldt County, it is not uncommon to hear about someone being released after booking for their 20th shoplifting arrest, or their 13th arrest for breaking into a car. They will eventually get their day in court, but the date for the trial for the first arrest is about a year away.
    When small-time criminals realize that the only real consequence for ‘minor crimes’ is to have the swag taken away and incarceration for three hours they see the world as one of real opportunity.
    When the trial date finally gets here? They will have a bench warrant out for them, but will anyone in Oregon serve it?

  10. if only the social distancing wasn’t so one-sided

  11. Similarly, social distancing has inadvertently shown us that indulging an audience’s appetite for snark and soundbites was never necessary. Let’s keep the debates audience-free, even after the coronavirus epidemic is stopped

    How about we have audiences (like in past debates), but have an expectation that adults should know how to behave in such a forum (like in past debates)?

  12. I am boss of my own will. Come to join under link to earn $75 per hour by watching tv with family in spare time. Earn as much as you spent time. If so please copy the link and full fill your dream……… Read more

  13. Better yet: Don’t bother watching a socialist and a commie debate at all!

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