Buss: The debate that disappointed

Kaitlyn Buss
The Detroit News

There was certainly enough hype leading up to the first presidential debate Monday night. But what we got was more of the same: disappointment.

The performances simply reinforced what most Americans already knew — and didn’t like — about Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. They’re both stubborn, arrogant and seemingly ignorant of just how unlikable they can be.

Now it’s evident those qualities will never change.

They were both so predictable, so unimpressive in their own unique ways. Viewers, like myself, went in hoping for a “Wow!” moment that never came. Trump jotted down a few points to throw at Clinton and was otherwise himself. Clinton memorized a dozen 3-ring binders and appeared to tolerate the whole show like she knew she had to.

But neither candidate can expect to win over new voters. And it probably left many stuck exactly where they’ve been for months: At a loss or with Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson.

But don’t these candidates read the news? Why won’t they become better?

Because they’re just people, and people don’t change very easily, especially when they’re 70 years old and confident enough in themselves to be running for president of the United States.

Their personalities are jarring. But on policy, too, they lose many Americans in different ways.

They essentially agree on a protectionist philosophy that free trade is bad trade.

But left out of that discussion are large swaths of the American public who value what free trade has done for the economy, and who want to see the United States engage in as many global opportunities as possible.

On race relations their answers were equally unbelievable, but for different reasons.

Clinton certainly tried to be empathetic, but it smacked of lip service and a somewhat lazy, all-of-the-above approach. Trump, on the other hand, was content to repeat the name of what one can only assume is his favorite TV show — Law and Order — and discuss the myriad ways crime in this country has been rising for years. But it generally hasn’t been.

The candidates tried to tackle foreign policy, but aside from both agreeing nuclear war is bad, little else was made clear.

Scattered throughout were all the trappings of this election season, including digs about deleted emails, misogyny, and tax returns. All the things we already knew — and none of them we liked.

The silver lining may go to Johnson. His absence onstage was noticeable, as his political philosophy would have further highlighted the mainstream candidates’ lack thereof.

But the other two stood there owning their dismal polling numbers like it was their job.

The presidential election every four years typically offers an opportunity for the American public to rehash the proper role of the executive, hear at least one or two inspirational quotes, and reset whatever grudges have built up over the past four years.

But it’s time to accept that that won’t happen this year. And with that, it’s hard not to be completely disinvested in the election at this point.

The American public has seen the emperors with no clothes. There are no more surprises, no more reinventions of the candidates. Eternally optimistic voters might hold out hope that one of the two candidates will eventually wake up a new person, and that we’ll all benefit from that.

But a lesson learned a long time ago is that people don’t change — not easily, at least. If Monday night proved anything, it’s that Clinton and Trump are no exception to the rule.


Twitter: @KaitlynBuss