The Seven Stages of Watching the Presidential Debate


Remember when you’d watch a 90’s sitcom, and a celebrity from another popular show would make a guest appearance, and the canned audience track would go, “Woooooooo!”?

That was this debate.

That was watching Donald Trump, a character from the popular television show The Apprentice, debate Hillary Clinton.

I initially thought that I would have some analysis to share about each candidate. But the actual shock of watching Donald Trump, walking incarnation of every despicable thing Ted Nugent has ever said, participate in a presidential debate, is still fresh.

This is Donald Trump. On the cover of Playboy Magazine.


This is Donald Trump, on stage debating former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for the office of president. Of the United States. of America. North America.


Photo Credit: Damon Winter/The New York Times

It’s not a contest. Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are not the same. One could conceivably be president, and the other is Donald Trump. It doesn’t even make sense to have a discussion of their policy proposals, because Donald Trump has no policy. He is here to promote his new DC hotel and settle the score on what he may or may not have said to Howard Stern about the war in Iraq.

So in lieu of actually examining either candidate’s positions, I’ll just walk you through the seven common stages of grief experienced by the Americans who, instead of defeating Nazism or putting a man on the moon, bore witness to the most terrifying and incoherent event in all of political history:


Shock. You might talk to your coworkers about your debate plans, share funny debate drinking game memes on Facebook, or make light banter about who you think will win as you wait in line at the bank. It is okay that Donald Trump is running for president. This is normal, and what we Americans do in late September.

Denial. As the news cameras scan over Donald Trump’s smiling family, you continue to pretend this is normal but you pour yourself another double.

Anger. You are full-on yelling at your television because Donald Trump is serving Queens word salad and it’s mean and it’s nonsense and this is the first time you’ve actually watched Donald Trump say anything in a long while. You rage in despair at the desperate corner the country has painted itself into, and pour another double.

Bargaining. You vow to give up sugar and alcohol if it will keep Donald Trump from taking over for Barack Obama, right after eating a Tate’s chocolate chip cookie and polishing off another double.

Guilt. You remember all those Hillary fundraising emails you ignored and invitations to join local GOTV efforts, and feel deep shame.

Depression. Listening to David Brooks anytime, but especially after this debate.

Acceptance. As the brown liquor makes your eyelids heavy, you accept sleep as it comes…acknowledging that the process starts afresh the next day.