Well, at least it wasn’t boring, because we needed a little more rancor and yelling to round out 2020. Perhaps a cable news segment of boomers interrupting one another to the extent that no clear message can be heard, extended to 96 minutes, is the debate we deserve.

Tuesday night’s presidential debate had more than its fair share of fireworks, but as the smoke cleared in the auditorium, it was hard to discern a winner. Former vice president Joe Biden gave composed answers in the initial part of the debate, which focused on the Supreme Court and COVID response, while the president overdid his attack-dog posture, at times coming off as petulant and reluctant to answer the questions as presented.

However, when the topic turned to race relations and the breakdown of law and order that Americans are witnessing in their cities, Trump’s belligerence stopped working against him. Biden may have claimed to be the Democratic Party (“le Democrats c’est moi?”) but he knows perfectly well that he can barely say the words “law and order” without further depressing turnout among already-unenthusiastic progressive voters.

Biden’s denial of the existence of antifa and his rosy picture of radical “Critical Race Theory” trainings will fail to win over independents concerned about the rising power of the “woke” left, while his description of his economic plans as Wall Street approved, and his blatant reversal on endorsing the Green New Deal will further alienate Bernie voters.

The unfair media narrative arising out of an exchange about far-right violence – which Trump condemned but only with a follow-up accurately blaming the radical left for the spasms of urban violence in cities from Portland, Oregon, to Chicago – will likely end up on voters’ cutting room floor, alongside desperate attacks about the president’s taxes and anonymously sourced remarks.

None of this is really a surprise. Fairly or not, COVID response remains an Achilles’ heel for the president, with just a third of independents approving his performance. And Biden’s greatest challenge is simultaneously separating himself from the rioters, while avoiding pushing away his party’s left flank, already on the fence about him.

Ultimately, whoever wins this election, the Democratic Party will have to resolve its internal tensions. The energy on the left has split itself into dueling camps: the “woke” neoliberals who focus primarily on culture war issues, and the Rust Belt Bernie bros who see the cultural fights as a distraction from the underlying class divide. The latter camp may defect in still-larger numbers to a Trumpist Republican Party that focuses on an anti-globalist message about manufacturing and trade. But Biden himself pleases neither.

Trumpism is in a far more popular position on the right than Bidenism is on the left, which is at best, as the former VP has said himself, “transitional.”

But at the end of the day, this debate was a missed opportunity for Trump. If the polls are to be believed, he’s trailing the former vice president. A draw leaves the current status quo, and with the campaign-from-the-basement strategy Biden has been pursuing thus far, Trump may run out of opportunities to unload on his opponent directly. A missed one may hurt more this cycle than it would have in past elections.

More than for Trump, though, this debate was a missed opportunity for voters who likely would have liked to hear about competing visions on actual policy challenges like education, which has surged to the front of many families’ priority lists due to battles over reopening, as well as perennial issues like health care reform and immigration.

It’s become a cliche to curse the calendar year, but many Americans are really struggling with the virus’ effects, along with the economic fallout from lockdowns, and millions are watching the urban unrest from coast to coast with fear and dismay. If voters were looking for real answers to the challenges of 2020, they didn’t hear them Tuesday night.

A little WWE-style quip here or there makes the political world (and the viral clips) go round, but 90-plus minutes trying to listen to three men talking over one another does not make for a debate that helps resolve independent minds. In fact, in one post-debate focus group, the debate persuaded some undecided voters not to vote at all.

One thing is for certain, future debates need a stronger, ruder moderator to force these two belligerent septuagenarians into an actually informative exchange. According to a recent poll, a majority of Americans would tune in to watch popular podcaster Joe Rogan moderate the first podcast debate, an idea with considerable merit. It surely couldn’t get any worse.