It’s a sad, universally acknowledged truth that politics are rarely fun. Sure, occasionally a defence minister dispatches the military to fight emus, or a barely-disguised reptilian eats a raw onion, but usually politics stays about as fun as eating said raw onion is for most people. Abbotts excluded.
But this year’s US presidential race is something new. The ugly, mind-boggling battle for power between Hillary Clinton and A Dried Orange has decidedly transcended ‘not fun’. US election coverage is now the world’s #1 source of existential despair. To be honest it’s remarkable every time anyone manages to produce a headline other than “Holy Fuck, What Have We Become”.
I’m fairly confident that sufficient exposure to soundbites from presidential campaigns can literally cause brain tissue to necrotize. Once I couldn’t find the TV remote while a Dried Orange rally was on the news, and even this short exposure caused ash to fall from my nose and ears and now I can’t remember how to tie my shoes.
Nevertheless, as a responsible adult with a vested interest in being able to bitch and moan about the state of the world, it’s necessary to follow the proceedings to some degree. The second debate can be watched on video here, or if you can’t stomach the visuals, you can read a transcript. To assist, I have devised a handy guide.
How To Watch The Second Presidential Debate Without Tearing Your Own Eyes Out In Anguish At The State Of Things
STEP 1: Be Drunk
I know this is not a healthy piece of advice, but it’s truly the only place to start. Bear in mind, this debate is a solid 90-minute affair. It’s a feature-length presentation of the most boring, exasperating tapestry of shit committed to film since whatever Adam Sandler’s last movie was.
As such, my number one recommendation is to drink throughout. You can pick your poison based on how personally affronting you find the disgraceful things being said – beer might do for the first three minutes or so while things are vaguely cordial, but once you’re one-and-a-half questions in and ISIS has been mentioned by name six irrelevant times, you’re really going to need whiskey to stave off the simmering rage. There’s so much more to endure. Take a drink every time you want to viciously choke someone on screen. Become hopelessly wasted. Trust me, the answers will not make any more sense sober.
Which leads me to step two…
STEP 2: Don’t Think About the Responses
It seems counter-intuitive to watch a presidential debate and actively try to avoid comprehending the answers given, but believe me, the nonsense inherent in almost every one will snap your mind if you try to confront it head-on.
A locker room is apparently not an actual room but more a hypothetical structure that encases any group of men that have something derisive to say about women while women are not present. Everybody is going to defeat ISIS somehow, presumably with their bare American freedom-fists. Russians are conspiring to rig the election and probably fight Sylvester Stallone. Everything is a terrible string of catchphrases in a litany of misery. Refer back to step 1 when this becomes overwhelming.
Absolutely the only way to derive any overall meaning from the words leaking out of the debaters’ mouths is just to let them wash over you like the stagnant waters of a tepid bog. If you do this, one overarching message will reveal itself with more clarity than any campaign slogan or policy description has managed to express: these two people fucking hate each other so much.
STEP 3: Pretend Everyone Is 5 Years Old
If you can overlook their sagging faces, marred by crevasses through which decades’ worth of bullshit have thundered, it is shockingly easy to watch this debate as though both participants are bickering kindergartners. These people share the kind of bitter hatred for each other normally witnessed only in the borderline-sociopathic world of little children. From minute one, it’s apparent that the debate would be resolved far more quickly – and to everyone’s greater satisfaction – if the two candidates were allowed to just slap the shit out of each other and smash each other’s toys.
“You hate women!”
“No, you hate women!”
“You should say sorry to Obama!”
“No, you should!”
“You don’t pay taxes!”
“Your mum doesn’t pay taxes!”
Re-imagining everyone as children helps take the edge off of the atmosphere of seething hate. It also has the bonus effect of helping to justify the rambling incoherence of every answer; the repetition; the off-the-cuff lies – just imagine they’re little kids making up a story.
The only downside to this strategy is that you then have to come to terms with the fact that all this childish pettiness has actual stakes. These people are vying for literally all the power, the most power anybody can have right now. They cannot conceal their blatant loathing for each other, they cannot engage in a civil discussion: they have become walking memes of themselves. If you find yourself dwelling on the seriousness of this, refer back to step 1.
If you make it to the end of the presidential debate and you can still see past the haze of boredom and fury, congratulations. Your reward is sadness and this GIF of a bald eagle attacking some sort of mummified ginger vole.