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Hey Britain, Here's Why America Is Freaking Out About Tonight's Presidential Debate

Everything you need to know about the big Trump vs Clinton vs All Your Hopes And Dreams showdown!

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People of Britain: Take a break from watching Labour eat itself, because Monday is a very special night.

Yes, it's time for the first of three official TV debates between Possible Future Presidents Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, ha ha ha remember how this is real life in 2016.
Joe Raedle / Getty Images

Yes, it's time for the first of three official TV debates between Possible Future Presidents Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, ha ha ha remember how this is real life in 2016.

Now, Britishers, you might associate election debates with Ed Miliband looking sad.

Stefan Rousseau / AFP / Getty Images

Or people amusingly claiming that they "agree with Nick".

Handout / Getty Images

But no, in America, the debates are a Thing.

Let's have a bit of a learn.
Spencer Platt / Getty Images

Let's have a bit of a learn.

Tonight's debate will last 90 minutes, is expected to draw tens of millions of viewers, and is kind of a big deal.

The official themes of the first debate are "America's Direction", "Achieving Prosperity", and "Securing America", which all sound a bit like the underwhelming essay titles of a 15-year-old B student.
Jamie Squire / Getty Images

The official themes of the first debate are "America's Direction", "Achieving Prosperity", and "Securing America", which all sound a bit like the underwhelming essay titles of a 15-year-old B student.

The whole thing will be moderated by this man, Lester Holt of NBC News, who looks a bit like a disappointed head teacher telling off a group of students for pulling the fire alarm during exams.

"I thought your future mattered to you, boys."
Bryan Bedder

"I thought your future mattered to you, boys."

Holt, seen here looking like a disappointed head teacher who likes to unwind after a hard day by playing with his mates in a classic rock cover band, has come under the spotlight in the days leading up to the debate.

The two campaigns have argued about whether or not the moderator should fact-check candidates' claims in real time.
Terry Wyatt / Getty Images

The two campaigns have argued about whether or not the moderator should fact-check candidates' claims in real time.

A top Republican (who once said he wanted to colonise the moon lol) called Clinton "weak" for wanting there to be real-time fact checking.

Gingrich: Clinton is "weak" for wanting debate moderators to fact-check https://t.co/yLIbH11Zu1

Meanwhile the Trump campaign has come out against fact-checking by the moderator.

How much fact-checking should a debate moderator do? The campaigns' opposing expectations of Lester Holt… https://t.co/dblYfuVmk1

What is truth, anyway?

It's not clear how Lester will play it, but maybe he can just play a sick riff on the bass every time someone says something dodgy.

[presidential debate] TRUMP: i propose we kill everyone HILLARY: do u want a president who says he'll kill everyone TRUMP: i never said that

Other than the nature and meaning of truth, immigration is expected to be a central topic tonight.

Oh, and there's another thing to watch out for tonight: A bit of SCANDAL. See, Trump tweeted an invitation to Gennifer Flowers, who had an extramarital affair with Bill Clinton in the 1980s, to attend the debate.

Hi Donald. You know I'm in your corner and will definitely be at the debate!...💋

He says his campaign didn't actually invite her, but in any case, she'll be there like an OTT plotline in a soap opera. Sigh.

"But wait," you ask yourself, "this campaign has been going on for a year and a half – how much of a difference can a few TV debates make anyway?"

Well, just ask the sweaty ghost of Richard Nixon!

As every good American knows, Nixon "lost" the first ever televised presidential debate in 1960 because he looked gross.
Mpi / Getty Images

As every good American knows, Nixon "lost" the first ever televised presidential debate in 1960 because he looked gross.

The 74 million-ish people who watched that debate looked at JFK and thought, "definitely would..."

"...elect this confident, self-assured man to be our commander in chief. Also, I would have sex with him. Fly me to the moon, babe."
youtube.com

"...elect this confident, self-assured man to be our commander in chief. Also, I would have sex with him. Fly me to the moon, babe."

And then they looked at Nixon, who looked rough as hell, and were like "nah".

~The legend goes~ that people who listened to the debate on the radio thought Nixon had "won" the debate, while those who watched on television retched into their TV dinners at the sight of Nixon's glistening, pasty brow.
youtube.com

~The legend goes~ that people who listened to the debate on the radio thought Nixon had "won" the debate, while those who watched on television retched into their TV dinners at the sight of Nixon's glistening, pasty brow.

And thus, JFK swept to the presidency on a wave of handsomeness, and American politics was changed forever.

Shout-out to handsomeness.
Hulton Archive / Getty Images

Shout-out to handsomeness.

But of course, it's not quite as simple as that. One of the sickest burns in TV debate history, for example, didn't change the outcome of the 1988 election.

youtube.com

It was the vice presidential debate, when Republican Senator Dan Quayle compared himself to JFK, and Democratic Senator Lloyd Bentsen told him: "Senator, I served with Jack Kennedy. I knew Jack Kennedy. Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you're no Jack Kennedy."

Quayle still got to be vice president, but had to spend the entirety of his term applying ice directly to the burn.

More recently, in the final debate of the 2008 election, Republican Senator John McCain was possessed by a demon.

Jim Bourg / Reuters

And he lost, so that's kind of a key lesson.

Jim Bourg / Reuters

Don't become possessed by a demon.

Jim Bourg / Reuters

Just don't.

Jim Bourg / Reuters

ANYWAY, as the hours count down to the big moment, rest assured that these two are holed up in dark rooms with their aides cooking up zingers.

Because everybody knows that the most important qualification for being President of the United States is whether or not you bring the bantz.
DESK/AFP / Getty Images

Because everybody knows that the most important qualification for being President of the United States is whether or not you bring the bantz.

How are the two candidates doing anyway? Well, see, while last month the polls had Hillary all like this:

Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

...more recently they've started to get...

Mark Makela / Getty Images

...a bit...

Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

...more...

Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

...worrying.

Alex Wong / Getty Images

Which, you'd imagine, would mean that the Wotsit-hued fever dream she's running against must have had a pretty good few months since the conventions...right?

Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

Well, er, not really. But this is Donald Trump, who apparently gets to do stuff that would destroy any other candidate's campaign and, uh, become more popular.

Timothy A. Clary / AFP / Getty Images

There's not really space to catch you up with every crazypants thing Donald Trump's campaign has done in the past few months so here are some edited highlights:

BuzzFeed

Oh, and another thing Trump decided to do was to play up rumours questioning Clinton's health.

BBC

According to Trump supporters, Hillary is basically a walking corpse, barely held together with string and injections of sheep glands, all of which is being hidden from the public.

Brendan Smialowski / AFP / Getty Images

Which all made it rather awkward when she got pneumonia and was filmed stumbling as she left a event early, to the delight of conspiracy theorists everywhere.

it's amazing that hillary fought off the pneumonia for so long when you consider the 800 other secret diseases she's also battling

Another of Hillary's highlights of the last few months was saying that half of Trump supporters belonged in a "basket of deplorables". Whatever that means.

Needless to say, the phrase didn't go down very well.
Brendan Smialowski / AFP / Getty Images

Needless to say, the phrase didn't go down very well.

But anyway, here we are. After what feels like 1,000 long and wintry years of campaigning, tonight Clinton and Trump finally get to talk shit to each other's faces.

If past performances are anything to go by, Clinton risks coming off as awkward and stilted, and Trump risks coming across as a man who might literally explode into a million tangerine pieces.
Alex Wong / Getty Images

If past performances are anything to go by, Clinton risks coming off as awkward and stilted, and Trump risks coming across as a man who might literally explode into a million tangerine pieces.

If you want to watch what will surely be a calm, measured, respectful debate live, tune in at 2am UK time.

Fox

Otherwise, if you'd like to treat yourself to a full night of the blissful oblivion of sleep, just catch up on all the coverage from BuzzFeed News in the morning.