I didn’t watch Tuesday night’s presidential debate. It was a conscious decision. There’s so little we can control in the world these days, but I already know who I’m going to vote for, and watching the debate would only make me irrationally angry. I want to avoid that, if I can.
I’m not saying it was the right decision. People can watch or not watch. But if you’re one of those unicorns in the wild — an undecided voter — and you’re relying on televised debates to solidify your decision, good luck and God help you.
There’s a reason I avoid listening to President Donald Trump speak whenever I can. Well, there are several reasons, actually, but there is one factor that transcends anything political. I ran the Gazette-Mail newsroom as city editor for two years, and, during that period, President Trump visited West Virginia something like eight times. A presidential visit is something that any news organization has to cover. It got to the point that I dreaded each visit, because the president would inevitably say or do something that made global headlines — and involved a lot of people apologizing in his wake.
His bizarre speech at the Boy Scout Jamboree in Fayette County was probably the best example. Speaking to Boy Scouts is hard to screw up. Tell them they’re the future. Tell them to keep doing what they’re doing. Instill in them the value of service to others. Instead, the president rambled about high-rise cocktail parties in Manhattan and did some light Hillary Clinton bashing, which included musing whether his opponent in the 2016 election, whom he had already defeated, ought to be jailed.
The Boy Scouts of America was apologizing for days. There was nothing from Trump, who is quite comfortable lobbing hand grenades into crowded rooms and then ducking out like he’d never been there.
I eventually started thinking, “Can’t this guy just leave us alone? He’s polling higher in Wyoming, why doesn’t he go there?”
It’s worth noting that Trump’s visits slowed after West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey failed to defeat incumbent Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., for the U.S. Senate two years ago. The president doesn’t like hanging around those he’s gone to bat for if they don’t deliver for him.
Nonetheless, I came to accept that at least six out of 10 West Virginia voters really like the president. And they have every right to feel that way, I just happen to strongly disagree. But consistently examining and opining on national politics was the equivalent of me holding out my arm, making a fist and then throwing my head at it. I can’t control what other people think about the president, and vice versa. We’re not much of a, “Well, let me hear your polite points and I’ll calmly consider them against my established values” kind of society these days.
So, no, I didn’t watch the debate. Then I woke up in the morning to a text asking me what I was going to do about Trump’s claim that thousands of West Virginia ballots were tossed in a river. It was the only state he mentioned by name while peddling his absurd voter fraud conspiracy theories.
I heaved a heavy sigh, and put my head back under the covers for a minute. I made a wish that the secretary of state, who probably doesn’t appreciate getting pulled into this type of thing, would issue a statement debunking the president’s false claim (which he did), for all the good it would do. Then, I got up, got dressed, booted up my laptop, held my arm a good three feet from my head, and made a fist.