Twitter Declares A Surprising Loser Of The Presidential Debate

The second (or rather, what would have been the third) presidential debate is in the books now, and one thing's for certain ... those books won't be bestsellers. While we were all secretly hoping for a repeat of the first debate's train wreck (since an actual, informative, civil discourse was so not going to happen), that really wasn't how things unfolded. We didn't even see a cameo appearance by a limelight-loving insect, a la the VP debate. (Just as well, since Biden didn't seem to have his swatter at hand.) Instead, all we got was really what, at times, amounted almost to live reenactments of each candidate's campaign commercials. They were seriously repeating, word for word, anecdote for anecdote, the exact same phrases they've practically worn out by now.

No October surprises, or anything surprising at all, really. And no chance whatsoever that anyone, anywhere, would have had their opinion swayed by what they heard tonight. Undoubtedly, each side will declare their guy the winner, but the night's biggest loser, according to Twitter, was ... wait for it ... whoever was supposed to be operating the mute button!

The mute button may have been a bit oversold at the presidential debate

Oh yes, the mute button. Such a nice idea, wasn't it? It seems we all heard the magic word "mute" and got excited, imagining that every time a candidate went off on a rant, somebody would immediately shut him up. Not quite as satisfying, perhaps, as using a hook to literally drag them off stage as in the vaudeville days, or even giving them the gong as in the old (and not-so-old) Gong Show. Still, as it turns out, the muting was never intended to keep things quiet throughout the entire debate.

According to The New York Times, the idea was that each candidate would have two minutes to speak, interruption-free, on each topic while their opponent's mike was switched off. The Times, however, did disclose that after the two minutes were up, both mikes would be on, and there were no plans to cut them off at any point after the two minutes per topic per candidate were up. Oops, guess not too many of us read the fine print.

The muting still seemed rather ... muted

But did that initial muting even happen? George Stephanopoulos, commenting on ABC after the event, said the mute function (whether it was an actual button or some other device) appeared to have been used "at least four times," but one Twitter user said they didn't notice Trump being muted until about 45 minutes in. At that point they asked, "Was that the first time Trump has ever been shut up?! " (One reply: "No, there was a time once in 2016 campaigns. He was shut up by a Black woman pastor. It was glorious.") Even famous folks weighed in, with Rosie Perez posting, "What the hell happened to the mute button?" and Henry "The Fonz" Winkler tweeting"MUTE BUTTON :: ALL talk NO action."

While CNET has already declared "Who muted the mute button?" to be the latest 2020 presidential debate meme, yet another tweet came from someone who actually did seem to have read the fine print regarding the debate rules: "It was cute to sell us on the mute button, but it was always going to be like this."

Trump even talked over himself at the debate

Yet another Twitter user, however, noted that Trump has gotten to the point where he started interrupting his own speeches: "I hate the way trump speaks without finishing a sentence. It is absolutely maddening." Another replied, "How did we elect a person to the Presidency who can't even complete a sentence? It's infuriating." Still another said, "I don't think #DollHandsDonny is capable of completing a full sentence with a 37 word vocabulary?" There were, however, some who found a possible explanation for the POTUS' speaking style in his state of origin, saying "It is a NYC thing" and "We talk like we have to get out a sentence before the subway doors close and that means we don't get to finish all the time."

One Twitter user nailed Trump-speak with a spot-on impression: "Look. He's been trying to answer, but listen it takes a lot, it takes a lot, and when you have to answer, what do you expect, he knows this, we all know it, even more than that, you know, he, he, and you know it's the best and we've been there, a million times! It's as easy, easier!"

The final verdict on the mute button and the presidential debate

Well, we've survived another round of presidential debates, and now it's all over but the shouting, or the crying, or the endless rounds of vote recounting (shades of Bush/Gore 2000 and those infamous "hanging chads"). Although we probably can't count on a letup in those relentless campaign ads (and calls, and texts, and mysterious Iranian emails) until the very last ballot has been found clinging to the bottom of someone's shoe. Still, as Stephen Colbert said in his post-debate Late Show monologue (via Vanity Fair), the best part of the whole affair is that we'll never have to watch Trump debate again. He compared the post-debate relief to getting that last wisdom tooth reomved, saying, "Yes, it hurt. Yes, we can still taste the blood in our mouths," but at least it's finally over.

But you know what? We, as a people, do have the right to take back the mute button. How do we do that? Simple. Just reach out, take your remote in hand, and ... turn off the TV! Or at least change the channel.