SHANE CASHMAN: The Trump Biden debate is peak must see TV for today's dystopia

The upcoming presidential debate between Joe Biden and Donald Trump is the culmination of modern America—the ultimate atrocity exhibition. It’s Must See TV, the same way game shows, freak shows, sweepstakes, celebrity funerals, murder trials, and pharmaceutical commercials have become Must See TV. 

The debate will be two old men on a big stage in an empty room with no audience doing their own rendition of Waiting for Godot, but Godot is the so-called American dream. 

You can even hear the TV announcer's voice along with the canned audience responses. This is peak Must See TV. This is Jersey Shore meets Sopranos meets X-Files meets Twilight Zone meets the Kardashian tape, meets opulence, meets the living dead—all the ingredients that make up the alternate dimension that is Washington, D.C.

I wonder if these grand televised spectacles hold any weight over the American soul. Is there any value in a debate between men who exist in their own alternate dimensions? 
As CNN prepares the stage, I’ve been zigzagging back and forth across America. I ask the same questions to every stranger: how has this place changed since lockdowns? How have you changed since lockdowns? How much appetite do they have for national politics? Did you used to care more, or do you care more now? How do you consume news?
The consensus on the ground about lockdowns is that they’re the reason we’re all getting absolutely crushed by this economy today, the world grinded to a halt, and we’re striving for resilience despite long phases of hopelessness. Our tolerance for suffering is at an all-time high. Stretching the dollars from week to week has become an Olympic sport. 

These sentiments come from taxi drivers, truck drivers, gas station cashiers, hotel clerks, waiters, some teachers, small business owners, one dreaded dentist, and fellow parents ranging in age from twenties to sixties, who live and or work in the cities, or in the surrounding suburbs or rural areas, and everyone is treading water. The middle and lower class are under attack on every possible front—that is, whatever’s left of the middle class—while the power class keeps picking our pockets to sustain their power and bloodlust.
Admittedly, most of these people aren’t paid to be political junkies such as myself, but more and more people are realizing that politics is a disease that’s infected everything.

It could be because this country’s been trapped inside an endless election cycle since around 2015. People tell me they read the average big brand papers and tune into the morning TV news, they read X, they read alternative media, they read totally rabbit-hole-the-royal-family-is-lizards blogs, or they tune it all out because their veins can only take so much poison. But even if you try to tune it out, politics finds its way to seep into your hobbies and entertainment. There is a constant and loud distortion of information; the news is a 24/7 sledgehammer against our skulls.

There is a sense of doom that no one can shake. I’ve observed widespread homelessness: physical, but also political and spiritual. Meanwhile, there are rappers and ultra-rich Silicon Valley tech kids building doomsday bunkers. Tragedies happen at such a rapid pace that it's hard to remember that not too long ago there was a toxic mushroom cloud over East Palestine or Maui getting reduced to ash. These atrocities fade into the distortion of atrocities.  

I wonder if the nation can survive another one of the most important elections of our lifetime? How many of these most important elections of our lifetime can one lifetime withstand?

I’m under the impression that America has lost its mind because we’ve been trapped inside an endless election cycle for nearly ten years. It seemed like the country used to take breaks between elections. The media frenzy used to die down for a bit. But ever since the lead up to the 2016 election, we’ve been treading water in a nonstop super-mutant election cycle. 

As I've reported from many cities and towns in America this year. There’s been a recurring theme about how our country, as beautiful as it is, it looks like a war zone—from places like Yuma to East Palestine to L.A. to parts of Austin where the homeless control the alleys behind 6th St and screw each other in the dumpsters behind The Vulcan.
Seeing America up close, you see a legitimately failing infrastructure, spikes in overdoses, suicide, and senseless violence. I’ve visited emergency rooms and talked to nurses about what they’re seeing as a zombie apocalypse thanks to fentanyl, “tranq,” nitrous oxide, and OTCs.
America is a revolving door of atrocities, and I don’t believe the country has the bandwidth to repair or prevent the widespread mix of evil and incompetence and destruction. It seems like it won’t take much to collapse America. If I were writing the textbooks, I’d write that America’s already collapsed and we have yet to define it as such in 2024. Maybe when our grandkids are our age, they will look back at today and find the appropriate bookends to define our era as the era of total absurdity, somehow we were in infinite wars, totally broke, printing money, and the American borders became an abstract idea that extend to foreign nations while our own borders disappeared.
There are professors and historians saying that CNN’s empty room with muted mics is a good thing for President Biden because it will mostly resemble what he’s most used to: Disney World’s Hall of Presidents. A cold sterile robotic atmosphere. They think muting Trump will make for a more sacred and focused event. But they seem to have forgotten that all Trump has to do is make ridiculous faces in response to Biden’s answers and he’ll create another round of gifs.

People are saying Trump will falter without a live audience—but I recently saw him give a speech to the Libertarian Convention and half the place booed him. It seemed to make him stronger. It was like reverse Kryptonite. I think the people who don’t understand Trump underestimate his ability to coexist with a camera. I think someone who’s a fixture of reality TV knows how to deliver soundbites to an unseen audience. 

I wonder if Biden will make Trump look weak by proclaiming Assange’s new freedom, something Trump should have done as his first term ended with a list of mostly pathetic pardons.

That said, I wonder if Biden will even make it through the entire debate. However, CNN has announced that there will be two commercial breaks giving Biden's handlers enough time to pump him full of all the drugs he needs to make his face smile like a hissing possum. 

How much power do debates have over voters’ decisions anymore? Are there any undecided voters who might be swayed by this? A Ken Bone character seems like a dinosaur in the world of politics. That was 2016. 2016 sounds Paleozoic compared to 2024. 

I believe people will tune into the debate the way they tune into Real Houswives or American Idol. 

I wonder if there will be any authentic pitch for hope at the debate. The American people are low on hope and trust especially when it comes to the government. It's been weaponized against us for far too long. For example, I was recently in L.A. on assignment, in one of the gutter-hotels outside LAX where the concierge hands you a cyanide pill with the hotel keys, just in case. I spoke to more people who had too much to worry about at home, trying to survive. Their stories were a convincing case that we should avoid making idols of either Trump or Biden. Whatever freak show is in the White House, the change America needs isn’t going to come from politicians—there’s a deeper moral rot taking place. It’s widespread nihilism, a pandemic of incompetence, fighting back against hopelessness as the government keeps robbing our paychecks every week to build bombs for politicians to sign before launching into foreign lands.    

And then I was back in the air and then in another car on my way home to the state John Denver called "Almost Heaven" aka West Virginia.

The man driving me home from the airport was a refugee from Afghanistan. He said he fled religious persecution because he’s of the Baháʼí faith. He was thrilled to finally be in America. He said he came here legally, and that he believes the borders should be secured. He calls the candidates Mr. Biden and Mr. Trump. He is voting for Mr. Trump. We agreed that, as fathers, we had to show strength and joy in the face of a doomed nation. We talked about God. We agreed America was spiritually bankrupt. And that’s where the root problem is. The moral collapse has created a nation-wide sinkhole that we're all scrambling not to fall into. 

 “Judgement day is coming,” he said with a smile, looking back at me in the rearview. “The end times are here,” he said, “and we should all be so lucky.”

Shane Cashman is the host of Inverted World Live.


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