The final meaning of the chaotic debate between Donald Trump and Joe Biden

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These political encounters only affect a few undecided. But they restore the value of the word in an age of divisions and “fake news.”

Someone said it this Tuesday night on US TV: we would see a 90-minute debate that may well be worth an election. At first it didn’t seem like an exaggerated comment. But when the lights went out, many realized how difficult it will be to maintain such tension and interest in the two remaining dates in the future.

The facts are on the table: Donald Trump is the president that Americans have seen more than anyone else in all of history. The same with Joe Biden, with a half century of career. However, apart from an inertia that may leave little room for novelty, the truth is that this Tuesday the US saw it live like never before the face-to-face dynamics of such different characters that summarize two current concepts of politics. On the one hand, a militant from the “crack”, a cultist of political lies and “alternative facts”. On the other, a restorer of the old American “moral” and associated with the country’s classic establishment.

But that expected contrast and the absence of surprise should not avoid the question that many asked themselves this Tuesday: in this scenario, What is the use of these debates? The studies leave no room for doubt: they only affect the undecided and, until now, only 3% of those consulted said they could change their opinion, according to the average of polls carried out by RealClearsPolitics. So, it seems, the value of these quotes should be sought elsewhere.

Although it appears as an inconsequential fact, the truth is that for the first time under Trump’s mandate, which inaugurated the era of a country divided into two irreconcilable shores, the debate was an event that the US observed in unison and holding its breath. . The lines and strategies that divide it were erased last night in those unforgettable 90 minutes.

Those who tuned in to the debate could see it without the ideological filters usually applied. Unlike other political events of this campaign, this Tuesday night was a moment of reality shared – without mediation – among all who watched it. “In today’s fractured world of media, no other moment in a campaign drew such a massive audience,” said David Lauter and Janet Hook of Los Angeles Times. It is no small thing in an age of made-up news. Although it is not the only thing.

The fact that democracy, from its origin, is associated with debate is far from random. The word must seek persuasion, common value, consensual vision. But it is difficult for that to happen when its value is bastardized, as Trump and many other cultists of the crack have done. This is perhaps the most ethereal – and therefore less visible – reason for the real importance of these public encounters. In an age like ours, its meaning transcends that of mere choice.

Even without surprises, dialogues like the one on Tuesday reintegrate into the word, so bastardized in today’s political universe, that enunciating power that illuminates the reality of things. They refer to shared values ​​without which there is no community. The debates and the word that circulates there generate that essential social cohesion of which only shared meanings are capable.

Argentina, like Donald Trump’s USA, is one of those communities that most seriously shows the devastation of the meanings of the word when politics conceives it as an expression of the private and exclusive preserve. Subjected to that misuse, they hardly translate traces of fanaticism and intolerance. Perhaps the final meaning of Tuesday night’s appointment is not then in the number of spectators or in the mistakes made. Rather it all comes down to restore the value of the word as an expression of commitment, of substance rather than diatribe

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