donald trump and joe biden
Surprisingly, perhaps, for an election in which so many voters are tuned out or distracted, a majority of Americans say they’re actually going to tune in. Photo: Jim Watson/Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images
Peter Hamby
June 17, 2024

The anticlimax of the BidenTrump election has been defined by emotions ranging from disinterest to fear to outright hostility. There are disillusioned young people, “double haters,” and large portions of the population who just want politics to go away, even as they vent about the cost of gas, the screaming matches in Congress, and the uninspiring choices on the ballot. The race is playing out across a fragmented media landscape the likes of which we have never seen, confounding strategists in both parties who are desperate to reach voters and get them to care. Meanwhile, our screens are full of frivolous and misleading video clips, partisan news, sophomoric protestors, and YouTubers and podcasters masquerading as expert analysts. But what’s actually reaching voters? A segment on the Today show, or a deceptively edited TikTok posted by an overseas mischief-maker? Anyone pretending to know what’s actually moving the needle with voters is lying to you.

All of this is why the stakes for the presidential debate on June 27—hosted by CNN in Atlanta—are so high. It is unquestionably the first and may be the only mass-media event where millions of Americans can engage with the candidates and the campaign. It’s also worth remembering that one or both of the candidates could easily skip out on the penciled-in second date in September if things don’t go their way.