This time, social distancing has been respected: Thursday evening, Donald Trump was in Florida, in the south; Joe Biden in Pennsylvania, in the Northeast. From a distance, the second televised duel posed no health risks to anyone. Nor to the candidates, shielded from the outbursts of their opponent’s voice; nor to the spectators, preserved from the incessant interruptions of the president during the first debate, damaging to the hearing.
But seeing the two candidates each answer voters’ questions, and not together, on the same set – the usual format for the second of three televised debates between contenders for the White House -, what is more on two competing channels , had everything the symbol of the United States of 2020: that of a country so divided that it is no longer able to bring together Republicans and Democrats to debate.
Because Thursday night’s non-debate is only the culmination of the increased polarization that has hit the country since the end of the 1990s. Polarization which reached records under Donald Trump and which causes serious divisions within American families . The only way out for American peace is silence. “I probably have Republican friends… but I don’t know they are! “recently joked Joseph Pearson, a painter I met in North Carolina.
→ DOSSIER. The 2020 US presidential election
That America’s divisions have grown steadily over the past four years is hardly surprising. Because the emergence of Donald Trump on the political scene is itself the result of tensions that he maintained under Barack Obama, by taking the lead of the “birther” movement. According to this racist theory, the first of its kind that the Queens businessman had taken over, the Democrat could not be president because he would not have been born in the United States …
The essential role of television
These rants had received wide media coverage. And for good reason: it was on television that the polarization of the United States began to appear, with the creation of Fox News in 1996, then its emergence under the presidency of Bush Jr (2001-2009). With the deliberately conservative channel being a success, another followed: MSNBC, its leftist counterpart. Caught between two fires, the pioneer of continuous news, CNN, has lost its luster, now being relegated to third position.
American television has therefore played an essential role in the polarization of America. Finally, Thursday night’s televised non-debate therefore made sense. The circle was closed.