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Primary Concerns Episode 30: Grading a Loser on a Curve

A special presidential debate episode with Matthew Yglesias.

Getty Images/Pool

Monday night, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump squared off in the first presidential debate of 2016. It was perhaps the first time Clinton and Trump were in the same room together since she and Bill Clinton attended Trump’s wedding 11 years ago.

Kind of a lot’s happened since then.

As political theater, the debate did not disappoint. In many ways, it was a beatdown. Clinton baited Trump into demonstrating all of his shortcomings: racism, sexism, volatility, and general ignorance. But debates are supposed to be about persuasion, and if not persuasion, then at least about teaching attentive people new things. If you’re one of the few just tuning in, and managed to watch the debate without any of the spin that came before or after, you learned a great deal about how important this election is. But if you pay close attention to politics, or cover this election for a living, it offered nothing more than a capsule summary of everything you already know about the 2016 campaign.

Vox cofounder and senior correspondent Matthew Yglesias joins us to discuss the debate and how it has been covered so far.

Further reading:

  • In Vox, Matt Yglesias beseeches journalists covering the election to purge their existing knowledge and imagine Trump’s debate performance Monday was their first introduction to him. His complete lack of knowledge is critically important.
  • In the New Republic Brian Beutler argues Trump’s threat to democratic norms reduces the election to questions so basic debates can shed little light on them.