Were Thursday night’s dueling town halls with President Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden a chance for decided American voters to hear more from their candidate of choice? Were they a craven, Goofus and Gallant-style ratings-grab designed to further the divide in American politics? Who’s to say? However you choose to interpret it, Trump and Biden did face off on separate networks on Thursday night, and—unsurprisingly—Twitter had plenty of thoughts about it.
Biden’s address to the American people on ABC, moderated by George Stephanopoulos, was notable mainly for the degree of calm and normalcy it delivered, something that felt deeply unfamiliar to many after nearly four years of a Trump presidency:
I'll let other people fill me in on that shitshow but honestly watching Biden is pretty calming, considering what we've been through the last five years.
— Timothy Simons (@timothycsimons) October 16, 2020
Biden is so boring. I like it!
— quinta brunson (@quintabrunson) October 16, 2020
Biden is actually giving lengthy and nuanced answers to questions.
Trump is…..not sure, a mix of whining and blaming others and giving a lot of evasive non-answers.
— Alp Ozcelik (@alplicable) October 16, 2020
Meanwhile, Trump’s address on NBC, moderated by Savannah Guthrie, was characterized primarily by the sense of chaos and disorder that has characterized the president’s time in office:
I'm not watching the Trump town hall but I'm pretty sure he's lying.
— Myriam Chingona Gurba de Serrano (@lesbrains) October 16, 2020
the reason this town hall is a disaster for Trump is he treats every questioner as if they are attacking him, and spends his time shouting at them
— b-boy boooo-eebaisse (@jbouie) October 16, 2020
This is exhausting. Trump is just so loud.
— Susan Glasser (@sbg1) October 16, 2020
Guthrie set herself apart as a moderator by holding Trump accountable on several points, including the recent New York Times report about his taxes, and her tenacity was noted by many of those who chose to tune in to Trump’s town hall:
Savannah Guthrie is doing very well so far in this format. She’s being direct, persistent, correcting misinformation and not letting the president avoid answering questions. Future debate moderators should take notes.
— Liam Stack (@liamstack) October 16, 2020
.@SavannahGuthrie just got Trump to admit a) he does owe $400M. b) that there's nothing to prevent him from releasing his tax returns
— Person Woman Man Camera TV (@ClaraJeffery) October 16, 2020
Most of all, viewers were struck by the dissonance and confusion of being forced to choose only one candidate to listen to, just weeks before Election Day:
i feel like this double town hall has gotta be some monkey paw shit. who wished there wouldn't be a second presidential debate and spawned this hellish nightmare???
— 𝙇𝙪𝙘𝙮 𝘿𝙞𝙖𝙫𝙤𝙡𝙤 (@SatansJacuzzi) October 16, 2020
These town hall meetings are the white verzuz
— Marcella Arguello (@marcellacomedy) October 16, 2020
I’m watching neither town hall and from what Twitter is telling me, I made the right decision.
— Kimberly (@SouthernKeeks) October 16, 2020
As of now, both Trump and Biden are scheduled to participate in the next debate on October 22. Will seeing them spar in person be easier on the nerves than choosing one candidate or the other to listen to? Unlikely, but we persevere.