Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D–Calif.) today advised Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden to skip any debates with the incumbent. "I do not think that the president of the United States has comported himself in a way that has any association with truth, evidence, data, and facts," says Pelosi.
Speaker Pelosi: "Don't tell Joe Biden. I don't think there should be any debates … I wouldn't legitimize a conversation with him, nor a debate in terms of the presidency of the United States." pic.twitter.com/Pvrz2uAUVZ
— The Recount (@therecount) August 27, 2020
Biden has rightly rejected the suggestion. He's right to do so: Pelosi's position is risible, especially for the whopping 41 percent of us who identify as something other than Republican (26 percent) or Democrat (31 percent). Last week's Democratic National Convention was more inward-looking than 16th-century China and this week's Republican counterpart is similarly aimed almost completely at people who are already going to vote for their party's guy.
Presidential debates offer nonpartisan voters an opportunity to get a better sense of the candidates and what they think. Even from a tactical perspective, Pelosi's advice is dumb. Anyone who has is following the election has legitimate doubts about Joe Biden's mental state—and Donald Trump's too. They are 77 years and 74 years old, respectively, and neither of them inspires much confidence that they have all their marbles. It was only a few weeks ago that Biden was asking a reporter if he was a "junkie," while Trump, who himself mused about skipping the debates earlier this year, has faced inquiries about his physical condition.
Ideally, the debates would also be open to any other candidates who are on the ballot in enough states that it is mathematically possible win the election, a standard met by the Libertarian Party's Jo Jorgensen and the Green Party's Howie Hawkins. According to Gallup, 57 percent of Americans agree that a "third major party is needed." Adding such candidates to the debates would both make the events far more popular and hugely improve politics.
As it stands, Biden and Trump have tentatively agreed to three debates before the November 3 election. While there's no reason to expect Biden to change his mind and follow Nancy Pelosi's advice, there's zero hope that the Commission on Presidential Debates, which is run jointly by the Democratic and Republican parties, will allow electorally viable third parties to participate. Because if there's one thing that Democrats and Republicans hate more than each other, it's every other party that's on the ballot.
Bonus video: In 2016, I offered four reasons why Libertarian nominee Gary Johnson should have been included in the presidential debates: