What even is this election? I know that's a tired question asked daily, but I am constantly baffled by this circus we use to pick our president. Sometime late Wednesday night into early Thursday morning, Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders agreed to debate each other, apparently. Granted, it was an informal agreement: Trump said on Jimmy Kimmel Live! Wednesday night that he would debate Sanders if event proceeds went to charity, and then the Vermont senator echoed him on Twitter writing, "Game on. I look forward to debating Donald Trump in California before the June 7 primary."
It goes without saying that such a debate would be bizarre — the presumptive Republican nominee (who just snagged enough delegates to win the nomination) going up against the un-presumptive Democratic nominee before primaries are even over. Who would win? To me, that doesn't matter. No matter who won, the real loser would be Hillary Clinton. In a way, a debate between Trump and Sanders would mean them teaming up against Clinton, their common opponent. The enemy of my enemy is my friend and all that.
The reason is that a Trump vs. Sanders debate would only help those two and only harm Clinton. On Trump's side, the debate could be a huge platform to help Trump seduce Bernie Bros, a coveted demographic for him, in front of a primetime TV audience.
By debating Sanders, Trump would also create the illusion of a stronger Sanders when, in reality, the Vermont senator has pretty much no chance of clinching the Democratic nomination, as he lags far behind Clinton in popular votes and delegates. By proxy, Clinton would look weaker, as well as the Democratic party as a whole. Trump's message would be clear: Look, the party is so divided that both candidates are debating me! Sad!
As for Sanders, he likely covets such a golden opportunity to reinvigorate his zombie campaign. Debating the presumptive Republican nominee would make him look powerful and legitimize him as a candidate. If he survives battling Trump relatively unscathed, it would garner him even more points and recast Sanders as a formidable opponent against Clinton, who is already trying to focus less on him and more on Trump. And disregarding the race, it would be an unbeatable chance to promote Sanders' grassroots message, movement, and legacy to an enormous TV audience.
Would they talk about the elephant in the room called Hillary? I could see them talk about her a lot and use her as a foil to make their own platforms look better. At the same time, I could also see them completely avoid talking about her and deny her any airtime, which would hurt her just as well. Either way, if such a debate happened, it would be the ultimate embarrassing backfire of Clinton's decision to decline to debate with Sanders.
But let's be real: It's probably not going to happen because the premise — a Republican debating a Democrat before the general election — is way too unrealistic and unprecedented. There have been no reports of formal discussion between Trump and Sanders about the debate. Regardless of whether it'll actually happen, however, there's no doubt that merely floating the idea has, so far, created great PR for both Trump and Sanders at the expense of Clinton.
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