Election 2024: Debates!?

Some shocking political news on Wednesday, as the Biden and Trump campaigns announced that they have agreed to forsake the Commission on Presidential Debates (which has sponsored all presidential debates from the 1988 election forward) and instead will have two privately arranged presidential debates, one on CNN on June 27th and another on ABC on September 10th. Unlike recent presidential debates, the CNN debate will reportedly take place in a studio with no audience present.

It’s crazy to think of a presidential debate taking place weeks in advance of either major party’s nominating convention, but such is the nature of our times I suppose.

Mine appears to be a minority view, but I’m of the belief that Biden should have refused to debate Trump on principle, arguing that the President of the United States should not engage with an individual that a state court concluded was an oath-breaking insurrectionist. I am holding out some hope that the reason Biden agreed to the debates now, before New York v. Trump reaches a jury, was so that if the jury convicts Trump, Biden could then say something like this: “Prior to his conviction Trump was innocent until proven guilty, and it was under that presumption of innocence that I had announced my willingness to debate him; but now that he is a convicted felon, it would be unbecoming of the President of the United States to share a stage with Trump. I’ll happily debate any other non-felon Republican who comes forward in Trump’s stead.”

One potential advantage of the two campaigns’ having reached their own deal on debates is that it takes potential third-party debate participants out of the picture. I haven’t previously talked about it in this series of blog posts, but there is a third-party candidate that is frequently polling at or above the 10% mark in polls that are not restricted to the two major-party candidates: Robert F. Kennedy Jr. RFK Jr is a very unorthodox candidate: historically a Democrat (and originally a potential primary opponent to Biden before he announced he would instead go the independent route), but with a diverse set of political views, and perhaps best known for his strong anti-vaccine positions. Both major party candidates are accusing him of being a stalking horse designed to draw support from their opponent. As such, both candidates had an incentive to deny his candidacy the oxygen that participating in official CPD debates, were his polling numbers to remain strong, could provide.