A Consequential Week: Looking Back At Trump v. Biden Debate

For many people across the country, it has been a complicated and turbulent week, to say the least. On Tuesday, Sept. 29, we were witness to the horror of the first of three presidential debates featuring President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden. Before the debate began, I predicted that both Trump and Biden were going to come to some heavy blows and heated exchanges. However, I didn’t know that this was going to be the situation for the entire debate. 

While there were some optimistic signs in the first ten minutes, (traditional greetings and opening remarks from both candidates), the civility was quickly forgotten as Trump and Biden engaged in a collective temper tantrum. I predicted that Biden would win this debate, but looking back,  I’m not entirely sure of that. I want to focus on two main aspects of the debate:

1) The impact that both candidates had during the debate and, more importantly, 

2) The aftermath of the debate

In three out of the six main segments, both Trump and Biden offered some valuable opinions to the American public, specifically regarding COVID-19, the economy, and race. Trump and Biden, for the most part, were able to convey their thoughts and plans about these issues. With respect to COVID-19, Trump discussed his decision to close off the United States from the outside world so that the country can get the proper funding for masks and ventilators. Not surprisingly, Trump also boasted about his relationship with Democrats and governors about the work that he’s done with Dr. Anthony Fauci. Trump claimed that some Democrats and governors said that he did “a phenomenal job.” 

Biden, on the other hand, referenced the importance of the Affordable Care Act and how he helped to insure as many as 20 million people. Additionally, Biden advocated for a public option for healthcare that would provide people with an alternative pathway for medical insurance. More importantly, Biden and Trump battled over the issue of personal freedom versus personal safety. Does the safety of our livelihoods outweigh our free will to live our own lives? 

For the economy, Biden believes that, as we continue to grapple with an economic decline due to COVID-19, there needs to be more attention paid to the disparity between rich and poor Americans. In the debate, Biden specifically talked about how, throughout the pandemic, millionaires and billionaires have continued to make money while poor Americans have continued to struggle. 

As I predicted, Trump seemed confident and reassuring when talking about the economy. Trump focused on how he plans on continuing to reopen businesses around the country. Specifically, he was determined to make sure that the economy would not remain stagnant for the rest of the year. According to the Pew Research Center, the unemployment rate of the United States may have been as high as 16% in May. Specifically, researchers have compared the economic decline of COVID-19 to that of the Great Depression of the 1930’s. 

The discussion about race was perhaps the most memorable part of the debate, but for all the wrong reasons. Both Trump and Biden, instead of actually talking about the impact that race relations and police brutality have had within our country, decided to focus all their energy on law and order. Trump, who has stood by his convictions on policing and law enforcement in the past, consistently challenged Biden on using the phrase “law and order.”

 Even though Biden did mention the names of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, it does not excuse the fact that he did not offer any solutions to deal with race relations and law enforcement in America. While Biden did advocate for police accountability and transparency, he is against defunding the police. 

On the other hand, Trump attacked Biden for calling black people “super predators,” which was false, and said that he has done more for African-American communities than any other Republican president in a long time. Specifically, Trump said that he has the support of over 250 military leaders and generals, including the police sheriff from Portland, all of which he claims support his stance on law enforcement. But more disturbingly, when asked by debate moderator Chris Wallace if he would openly denounce white supremacist groups, such as the Proud Boys, Trump’s response was “stand back and stand by.”

After Trump said “stand back and stand by,” there has been a sudden rise in white supremacist activity. This is incredibly concerning to me. If the leader of the free world is not openly denouncing white supremacy, that is both troubling and also a grave threat to our society. The Proud Boys are a neo-fascist male-only white supremacist group founded in 2016 by far-right activist Gavin McInnes. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Proud Boys have been known for, “anti-Muslim and misogynistic rhetoric” and have “appeared alongside other hate groups at extremist gatherings like the ‘Unite The Right.’” 

If this doesn’t disturb people, then I don’t know what will. After Trump said “stand back and stand by,” the Proud Boys adopted those words as their new slogan on the social media app Telegram, and they have also stepped up recruitment. It is shocking how the words from the President can spark the rise and mobilization of white supremacist groups. Where do we go from here?

After Tuesday, I was left with very little hope for change. However, the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) have stated that they will change the debate format.  Specifically, the CPD said this past Wednesday that “additional structure should be added to the format of the remaining debates to ensure a more orderly discussion of the issues.” This seemed to be slightly reassuring to me as there would be an attempt to temper the wild discombobulation of the first debate. 

That relief was short lived, as more chaos occurred when the president and his wife tested positive for coronavirus. Though I originally doubted it, when I woke up on Friday morning, it was apparent that the President did in fact contract COVID-19, as he posted a tweet confirming the truth. Is this a sign? Is this karma? Will Trump finally start taking the pandemic seriously? 

Days before getting COVID-19, Trump was eager to disregard safety precautions by holding a political rally filled with people in Minnesota this past Wednesday. In a health crisis that has taken the lives of over 207,000 Americans, I would hope his circumstance would cause him to take the pandemic seriously. There were even signs that President Trump’s inner circle was threatened with the virus, as senior aide Hope Hicks contracted COVD-19 earlier this week. Trump stayed at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center for three nights and returned to the White House last Monday

In response to this alarming news, Joe Biden took an immediate test for the virus and tested negative. Current Vice President Mike Pence also tested negative for the virus and has confirmed that he will debate Kamala Harris Wednesday night.

It has been one complicated and stressful week, and I fear the worst is yet to come.