The Slatest

There Will Be a Mute Button at the Next Presidential Debate

Trump and Biden gesture from opposing lecterns at the first presidential debate.
Are you not entertained? Olivier Douliery/Getty Images

There’s still one more presidential debate! For all of those earnest undecideds out there that—gosh darn it—just can’t manage to put some dang daylight between these two candidates. Yes, everything’s awful, but hmm … let me see here, I just don’t know. Since one of the few norms that President Donald Trump hasn’t bulldozed is the notion that presidential “debates” should be held, here we go. Again. But before you brace yourself for another 90-minute train wreck—à la the first and only debate last month—the Commission on Presidential Debates is trying to assert its authority to make this iteration of Trump vs. Biden a little less like an episode of the Jerry Springer Show. Enter the mute button!


The commission announced Monday that the nonspeaking candidate will be muted for the opening statement portion of all six of the debate’s 15-minute segments. Each candidate will (theoretically) speak for two unimpeded minutes before the gloves come off and, you know, we get back to: Jerry! Jerry! Jerry! Two minutes may not sound like a lot, because it’s not really, but if you add up all of the muted statements it amounts to 26 percent of the 90-minute debate will be (theoretically) interruption free. That means one out of every four minutes will only have one person talking. That’s a lot of minutes! Or at least more minutes.

The commission apologized in its own muted fashion for having to do something as controversial as devising a way so the candidates can actually speak. But who’s the change good for? Who knows! Maybe Joe Biden because he will get to talk more? Maybe not Joe Biden because he will get to talk more? Or perhaps “the issues” and the proverbial American people will be the real winners here. But, of all the potential outcomes, you probably shouldn’t bet on that one.