Before the debate, pour yourself a stiff drink. If you have a back porch, take it out there and regard the crisp autumn air as the liquid slowly warms your belly, noting how a country just before revolution is infused with a strange calm.
What to Drink
This is a beer blog, sure. I know there are a few wine drinkers who read it as well. This is, however, no time to fool around with dainty potables that have only been lightly fermented. An event like this requires distilled beverages, strong and brutal. America eventually found its love of beer and wine, but it was founded on the hard stuff. (Beer Bible: “By 1763, New England alone housed 159 commercial distilleries; there were only 132 breweries in the entire country in 1810. By 1830, the US had 14,000 distilleries, towns tolled a bell at 11 am and 4 pm marking ‘grog time,’ and the per capita rate of consumption was nearly two bottles of liquor a week for every drinking-age adult.”) Democracy, apparently, cannot be trusted to the delicate caress of IPA or pinot noir. The revolution is coming and, like our founders, you should be sloshed to the gills when it arrives.
In this game, the first ten minutes is a no-drinking zone. You’ll require your senses to take in the sweep of Trump’s hair, the drape of Hillary’s pant suit. There are things you need to see with clear eyes to reassure yourself that they’re actually happening. There’s the billionaire Mark Cuban in the front row, selected by Clinton to provoke Trump. There’s Gennifer Flowers, Bill’s one-time mistress, sitting nearby–Trump’s earthy riposte. Note the optics of the moment: the first woman in 240 years to be nominated by a major party debating a proud sexist who cheerfully and regularly retweets white supremacists while the debate is moderated by a black journalist. Only in America!
Once you’ve situated yourself in the moment, it’s time to start drinking heavily. Most drinking games revolve around the mention of certain key words or phrases, such as “believe me,” “Benghazi,” or “small hands,” but they are unsuitably frivolous for this year’s debates. Instead, pour out another drink when the pangs of doubt peek over the edge of your subconscious and startle you, that moment when you first think, “Sure, this is amazing television, but I wonder if it’s good democracy?” As the fire of alcohol burns down your throat, comfort yourself with the fact that there are no plans for a wall north of the country and, anyway, the border is too vast to keep out fleeing Americans, anyway. Oh Canada, our (future) home and native land…
Drink again when you notice the superficial nature of the moderator’s questions. If you happen to wonder why actual policy issues are not being discussed, ponder the degenerate state of journalism in the United States. How is it that presidential elections went from being moments when journalists carefully vetted the candidates who would control a nuclear arsenal to one in which they so came to resemble a reality show that they actually starred a reality show personality? Pour another drink while you consider whether there’s a satiric screenplay in all of this.
Drink every time the distaste of nepotism and dynastic politics crosses your palate. Consider the ramifications of sexual politics in a country that had two and a half centuries to nominate a woman who wasn’t the wife of a president … and failed. Drink when you think of Bill Clinton serving as the first gentleman, and take note of the glimmer of joy that brings. Joy will be in short supply throughout this ordeal, so take it when you can.
Drink every time the camera cuts to a Republican or Democratic official and you find yourself pondering our two-party system. Surely we can do better than two parties. Surely we can do better than these two parties. And yet, it’s also true that Great Britain has multiple parties and still inadvertently voted to leave the European Union. Drink when you consider democracy. Are we really sure it’s the best system?
Drink when you notice the anxiety that this election seems to be a metaphor for … something. Drink when your mind lapses back to earlier elections (2008 for Dems, 1980 for Republicans) and you remember thinking, “Is America the best damn country in the world, or what?” Drink when you grow irritated they’re not talking about the issues you care about. Drink when you realize they’re not talking about those issues because Americans don’t care about them. Drink to douse your gnawing apprehension, drink to encourage your hope. Drink for liquid courage. Drink for comfort. Drink for good old Teddy Roosevelt–man, we could really use the old Rough Rider right now. Drink to drink.
And remember, enjoy the debate!
Picture credit: Drew Angerer / Getty Images