The Perfect Format for a Biden/Trump Debate

While there’s been a lot of analysis over who won the negotiations for the Biden – Trump debate, who lost should be obvious. As expected, the American people’s stipulation that nominees of major parties be able to convey a minimum appearance of coherence has been spectacularly ignored.

But although democracy remains a thing best aspired to in the abstract, we should always attempt to salvage what we can from the ruins of our current system.

In that spirit, I believe I have come up with the perfect format for a Biden – Trump debate. One which will give a uniquely honest sense of the candidates as human beings. What’s more, one which serves as a perfect metaphor for the political situation in which, thanks to the machinations of Democratic and Republican leadership, so many potential voters feel inescapably trapped.

My suggestion is simple: hold the debate in a hospital room with Donald and Joseph in adjoining beds and a Registered Nurse as moderator.

Now before the forces of propriety dismiss this suggestion out of hand, let me make a few salient points. Neither of these Emperors has had any clothes for quite some time, so to attire them identically in hospital gowns and no-slip socks would not yield advantage. In addition, a more conventional format would not yield a more serious policy discussion because neither guy has any serious policies to discuss.

Meanwhile, the advantages of placing these two particular candidates in a hospital room setting should be obvious to all but the most partisan. And I’m not just referring to the utility of their blood being drawn or their strength being measured by how firmly they grip the nurse’s hands. I’m referring to something more basic.

Anyone whose been admitted to a hospital or visited a loved one there knows the feelings of fear, uncertainty, and dependence which a stay engenders. They also know how essential for gaining release are three qualities neither debate participant can be said to possess in abundance – listening, comprehension, and tolerance.

Moreover, placing the candidates in hospital beds will cut through the useless illusions which money and messaging pass off as Trump/Biden campaign realities.

When a person is confined to a hospital bed there is no perception of weakness or strength. There is only weakness or strength. There is no expectations game to be unmet or surpassed. There is only a chart with tangible facts.

The only manipulation available to Biden and Trump will be if they can figure out how to work the up/down buttons on their controllers to adjust the head of their bed. For anything else they will be reduced to that which every hospital patient is reduced to – a birthdate. They will be Joe 11/20/42 and Don 6/14/46. And they will be answerable.

Which brings me to the most irreplaceable benefit of a hospital room format – the Registered Nurse as moderator.

If there is in fact something which the Republic may not survive, it is being subjected to one more Presidential debate with a respected news anchor as gatekeeper of its parameters. The pompous self-absorption fobbed off as common-man humility. The deferential interrogation style which only succeeds in highlighting their vice-like grasp of the inessential. The follow up questions which merely require the questionee to repeat the same platitude with slightly different emphasis so the questioner can deem the question addressed.

A nurse, on the other hand, will never accept crap for an answer. They do not have the time. In fact the very first question she or he would routinely ask will shed more light on this campaign than the preceding two years combined – Can you tell me why you’re here?

How I long for Biden to explain himself. To articulate the qualities he sees reflected in his mirror every morning which render him unique in his job. To explain a presidency whose central premise, that Republicans were in the throes of a fever which would break upon his inauguration, has proven disastrously misdiagnosed. And how this very same miscalculated presidency, a presidency marketed four years ago as a stopgap to the next generation of corporatists, can now demand, without embarrassment, to be viewed as the irreplaceable bulwark against a projected reign of terror.

Trump, of course, will respond by calling the nurse mentally ill and corrupt and the most unbelievably bad nurse in the history of hospitals. Yet even his horrifically mangled psyche may eventually realize that bullshitting is a fruitless approach to take with the person who will be guiding your penis into the urine bottle at 3 AM. Then perhaps we may finally glimpse the terrified child who voices the hate which passes for thought among his followers.

Regardless, November 5th is fast approaching. And with it one unavoidable truth.

Whichever self-infatuated geriatric we elect the American people will be formally taking on the role of caregiver. Subjecting ourselves to all the time demands and undue stress which that role entails. And doing so, ironically, for the least caring government in the industrialized world.

For the next four years our 0 to 10 Pain Rating Scale will be set at a consistent 8 (Hurts Whole Lot). Under those inhumane conditions it is well past time for not just Trump and Biden but the leaders of the Democratic and Republican parties to tell us why THEY are here. And when they will have the decency to go.

Jerry Long is a writer, actor, podcaster and political satirist who, with his brother Joe, has worked with Adam McKay on numerous projects. He can also be reached at