I joined BBC Radio 5 Live’s Colin Murray on Monday, the 62nd anniversary of the 1st Presidential debate between John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon, to recall the historic event and to analyze its legacy.
Listen to Discussion from 1:36.02
I recount the importance of “spectacle”, with Kennedy triumphing on TV even as those listening on radio gave the edge to Nixon. I explain why the debate, the first between Presidential candidates in US history, did make a difference in the election’s outcome.
And I look at the very different debates in the US and the UK in the 21st century, to examine how politics and media have evolved — or devolved.
In 2016, when you had the image of Donald Trump stalking Hillary Clinton across the stage, you knew that something — beyond Democrat v. Republican — had gone badly wrong.
The debates always had spectacle, but there was also gravitas and issues. Now they had descended into a brawl, the political equivalent of professional wrestling where Trump had also been a star.