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Opinion: Cancel the debates, says Mika Brzezinski

The "Morning Joe" co-host and Know Your Value co-founder weighs in on how last night’s broadcast damaged our democracy.
Mika Brzezinski on the set of "Morning Joe."
Mika Brzezinski on the set of "Morning Joe."Miller Hawkins

This article first appeared on Cosmopolitan.

“Stand back and stand by.”

That was the end right there. That and when the President of the United States tried to undermine the election.Some are still trying to call what happened last night—the first of three scheduled appearances by President Trump and Joe Biden—a debate. It was not. It was an assault on our democracy. The president’s rallying cry to white supremacists was a watershed moment that should stop everyone cold.

In fact, I wish moderator Chris Wallace had stopped right there, rather than continuing his hysterical jump from topic to topic as though nothing dangerous had just happened. He should have followed up; he should have asked the president to explain. He should have seen his responsibility for what it was: meeting the American people’s critical need for clarity on whether the president of the United States just supported, and encouraged, racist violence.

People watch the first presidential debate at a Walter's Sports Bar in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 29, 2020.Sarah Silbiger / Getty Images

He didn’t. Wallace failed us—but what we saw last night was that the “debates” are failing us too.

This first broadcast was an alarming display of the president’s ability to rage through the rules—of decency and of decorum—with nobody and nothing to keep him in check. As I type this, Bob Woodward is on Morning Joe saying that Donald Trump is “assassinating this presidency.” I would add that he firebombed the debate. And it could have been prevented.

Wallace and the Debate commission should not have allowed this man to kill the fairness that is fundamental to this system. We should not allow him to steal our process and trample on our civility.We are better than this. This should not happen again. It was an attack on our values, and that attack was allowed to go on for 90 minutes. Shame.My take? There should be no more debates this election cycle.

If there cannot be a debate based on dignity, there should be no debate.If there cannot be a debate based on equal time and mutual respect, there should be no debate.

If there cannot be a debate based on objective reality, there should be no debate.If the moderator cannot cope with live fact-checking and fairness, there should be no debate.If the moderator can’t keep the program in line, there should not be no debate.

What is clear this morning is that Wallace should have cut the mic 1,000 times, as we did when Trump called into our show to defend his Muslim ban in 2015 and steamrolled us both.

He should have sent the candidates off the stage and told them to come back when they were ready to respect the rules. He should have moderated. He did not.Whether he was in shock or didn’t have the technical support to make this an informative event, it was an epic fail for our democracy. And we’re scheduled for two more.

If I were Team Biden, I would not lower Biden’s standing by having him step into another ring full of mud and quicksand. I would refuse to participate in another debate, and I would announce it today.

The real question now is: Who are we? Let’s vote for it. Debates be damned