On September 29th, the 2020 presidential candidates had their first presidential debate, moderated by Chris Wallace of Fox News. I do not intend to sugarcoat what occurred in the debate, simply to describe the events and my opinions on them.
Firstly, I’d like to review quickly what each candidate argued politically before discussing the way in which each side argued. As it pertains to policy, both candidates were largely the same in what they advocated for.
Trump defended his decision to nominate Amy Coney Barrett to take over RBG’s senate seat. He denied the hypocrisy of the fact that Obama was denied the ability to put in a Justice while the republican majority senate blocked his measures. Biden stated that he believed that the American people deserved a say in who the next justice is, similarly to how the republicans made that claim back in 2016.
As usual, Trump defended his handling of COVID-19, while Biden pointed out his failures and the fact that over 200,000 people have died as a result of the way Trump dealt with the pandemic. Trump insisted that Biden would have done worse, as he has been for months now. Trump also boasted about how he sought to reopen the economy and country, while Biden insisted that it was safer to maintain lockdown. This has been customary for the candidates.
Biden criticized Trump for the New York Times report of him only paying $750 in income taxes. Trump denied the claim, as expected. Biden proposed that he would eliminate the Trump tax cuts.
On the issue of race, both candidates pointed out the flaws in their opponent’s dealings with race. Biden pointed out Trump’s comments about Charlottesville and Trump brought up how Biden drafted the Crime Bill of 1994. They also addressed the issue of policing, Trump asking that people respect the police more, while not overtly condemning police brutality. Biden claimed that he wants to increase police funding and promote community policing.
As far as the issue of climate change, Trump claimed that he wanted “immaculate air and water”. He attributed the forest fires in California to poor forest management. Biden promoted the idea of renewable energy and stated that climate change is undeniably influenced by human factors. He stated that if elected, he would rejoin the Paris Accord. He also stated that he would not instate the green new deal, but did bring up how it would pay for itself.
Overall, their arguments and policies were customary to what they usually spoke about.
The issue with how this debate played out was with both candidates (though mostly Donald Trump) talking over each other and violating the rules that their campaigns had agreed upon. Trump would constantly talk out of turn, interrupting Biden and oftentimes, the moderator. He debated Wallace as often as he did Biden, often expressing anger toward the moderator’s decisions to move on to new questions. Wallace would often have to shut him down, telling him to stop talking, and in one instance when Trump asked if he could respond to a statement made by Biden, Wallace simply told him, “Mr. President the answer is no”.
The debate was less of a debate and more of a screaming match between two frustrated people. Biden told Trump to shut up, and at one point called him a clown. Trump insulted Biden’s intelligence, bringing up Biden’s college experience.
For me, the two most notable things that occurred in the debate were both comments made by Donald Trump. Firstly, as Biden brought up his diseased son Beau Biden, Trump deflected the comments and proceeded to mock Hunter Biden, claiming that he didn’t know Beau. Secondly, as people across the internet have been discussing, was Trump’s reaction to being told to condemn white supremacists.
Trump stated that he would condemn them, but asked Wallice to give the name of someone whom he should condemn. Once the Proud Boys, a far-right militant group, were brought up Trump simply stated, “Proud Boys, stand back and stand by”. He then directed his attack not to the white supremacists whom he was asked to condemn, but to Antifa, stating that all the violence was caused by them. He asked Biden to condemn Antifa, but Biden simply stated that Antifa, unlike the Proud Boys, is an idea, not an organization. Trump’s comments have shocked and unnerved me for this past week. He refused to denounce white supremacists, telling them to “stand by”. Stand by for what, exactly?
If this debate showed anything, the integrity of our democracy is slipping away. With the President telling white supremacists to stand by and instructing his supporters to “poll monitor” (a practice that is illegal), Trump pushed the boundaries of what is and is not acceptable. This debate was hectic, hard to follow, and overall deeply unsettling.
With the President’s recent COVID-19 diagnosis, I am unsure how the next few debates will play out. However, if they are anything like this one, I believe that America should be very worried indeed.
Who do I think won the debate? Honestly no one. We, the American public are losers of the debate. As our politics fall into chaos, we must choose who we vote for carefully. The fate of our democracy rests on our shoulders.