Today electing a president is not about issues, nor is it about changing minds, nor is it about who looks better and sounds better of TV. The election is not about a personal popularity contest. Electing a president is now simply about opposition. In short, there is no middle ground just as the middle class has grown increasingly small.
If you identify Republican you are likely going to only vote for Republicans because you think all Democrats are crazy and will destroy the country. Likewise, if you identify Democrat you will only vote Democrat. If you really don’t like your candidate you will not vote, or write in Mickey Mouse rather than cast a vote for the opposing party.
The consequence is that the candidates only say what their “base” wants to hear, and it doesn’t even matter of what is said is true. Candidates don’t really try to change people’s minds. In this environment, do we really need debates? Worse, there is little for few remaing, truly “independent” voters to hear, and frankly doing a bunch of research is too much work for the average voter. Increasing numbers of these disenfranchised voters will simply sit out.
Unfortunately, I think Democrats think the lesson learned from 2016 is to focus on their base and ignore the middle because they think there are more liberal/progressives voters than conservative, Republicans, or independents. An extreme shift left is viewed by their opposition as further evidence of crazy Democrats.
The authors of the U.S. Constitution foresaw this type of fanaticism that democracy enables and thus created a structure to prevent it. Unfortunately, over time political idealogies have trumped preservation of the Republic concentrating more power within the Presidency. A party aligned, rubber stamping Congress and Supreme Court is a defacto dictatorship and this is effectly today’s U.S. government.