In the span of just a few dizzy hours, the Donald Trump-Bernie Sanders debate prospect has taken on a life of its own. On the one hand, I worry that this would be a gimmicky ratings ploy in which nothing of substance would be said. (Sure, people would watch, but would it actually accomplish anything? Unlikely). Just as disconcerting is the potential for the debate to be exclusively a vehicle to bash Hillary Clinton in an arena where she wouldn’t even be present to defend herself. However, I must admit it is also oddly compelling at this moment to watch this “will they or won’t they?” tension manifest, as each camp puffs their respective feathers. With representatives using language like “game on” and “chicken out,” and general I’ll-fight-you-any-time-any-place posturing, Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders are edging closer and closer to classic “fragile masculinity” territory. And one side is unmistakably peacocking a little more than the other *cough* Bernie Sanders *cough.*
On Wednesday, Trump said on Jimmy Kimmel Live! he’d debate Sanders (you know, for charity). Sanders responded via Twitter with a hearty “game on." Since then Sanders' campaign manager, Jeff Weaver, has wondered aloud if Trump would have the “courage” to face Sanders, and stressed that he hoped he wouldn’t “chicken out.” Sure, there’s been a little back-and-forth — but more of it is coming from Sanders (and those working under him).
Despite Trump adviser Sarah Huckabee Sanders saying Thursday that the presumptive Republican nominee would be “happy” to debate the Vermont senator “at any point,” the Donald has not tweeted about the challenge as of this writing — and if he doesn't tweet it, does it even exist in his universe?
It makes sense, of course, for Sanders to want this face-off more than Trump does. Sanders needs this. Trump doesn’t really need anything. (If this is your first stop on the Internet today, hi — oh, and Trump recently passed the delegate threshold necessary to be crowned the GOP nominee).
So, while Trump doesn’t have anything riding on this, he can afford to stay relatively silent and let Sanders do all the wooing (or belittling, you be the judge). Reports have already surfaced that Trump wasn’t serious about what he said on Kimmel, but that doesn’t seem to be bothering Weaver. "Well I didn’t think it was a joke,” Weaver told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer. “I saw it. I thought it was serious. We are ready to debate Donald Trump, we hope that he will not chicken out.”
In the end, much as I hate to say it, Sanders could come off looking desperate if he keeps this up for much longer. It just underscores how badly he has to struggle to have his voice heard. Trump, of course, doesn’t have that problem.
Image: Dawn Foster/Bustle