2020 Presidential debate - An uncivil parley

The first of three Presidential debates involved more name-calling and shaming than a legitimate honest discussion.


Photo credit: Maria Oswalt / Unsplash

Anuj Sahebrao Rayate

“The country will be better served if you allow the opponent with fewer interruptions,” said the moderator of the first presidential debate Chris Wallace, only to be disappointed by both the candidates later on. Held at the Health Education Campus (HEC), the debate between the current President of the United States of America and the former Vice President Joe Biden was more a parody version of a presidential debate as one would expect in any of the pay-per-view American TV channels. Lack of substantial evidence, constant interruptions, not answering, breaking the 4th wall in the middle of a question- if this was a Netflix show, it would have attracted more eyeballs than it has done.

The debate was divided into 6 segments of 15 minutes each, with 2 minutes to each candidate and the rest of the time left for an open discussion. Each of these segments was divided according to the major issues in the US, ranging from judiciary and racism to the economy and the environment.

Judge Amy Coney Barrett, a lady with a history of conservative records replaced Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Joe Biden criticized the decision calling it an act of abuse of power, whereas President Trump put forth an argument stating the fact that Republicans were elected and this gave them the authority to do so. He also mentioned why Judge Barrett was best suited to be placed there, considering her academic records. Joe Biden, who has a controversial stance on Abortion Rights, went on to state that this decision might well end up hampering the fundamental rights of women.

The debate moved from the topic of Abortion Rights to discuss the healthcare systems both the candidates would offer in their tenure, at the centre of which was the current pandemic. “200,000 deaths, with over 7 million infected in the US, we have 4 per cent of the world’s population and 20% of the deaths”, stated the vice president at the start of the segment. He went on to criticize the Trump government for their high-handedness in handling the entire situation. “He did not have a plan”, Biden stated that Trump knew about the deadly effects of this since February but kept the nation in dark, passing false hopes. Countering this, President Trump repeated it several times that the number would have been 2 million if Biden was in power, while again emphasizing on the availability of the vaccine by the end of November. Explaining the Trump healthcare model, the President stated that the government had cut down drug prices, made deals with “favourite nations”, and allowed the governors to get drugs from abroad. Trump questioned Biden’s stand on the abolition of the private medical care systems. Biden, while stressing on the benefits of Obama care, stated that 20 million people got medical care. “We are giving a better plan at a lower price” interrupted Trump.

An unavoidable panic was created by the President, believes Biden. The President didn’t allow the people on the ground in China to travel to Wuhan to determine the danger the virus posed, he continued. He also said that there was a need to provide more protective gear and provide money to the people. President Trump, in response, claimed that the government had made plenty of ventilators, there were fewer deaths due to the virus now and the vaccine was just “weeks away”. Both of them also shared opposite views regarding closing down the country. While President Trump pointed out the loss in the Democratic-controlled states due to the shutdown, Biden marked the need for wearing masks.

Listing down his accomplishments on the economic front, the President stated that the economy was in the best form, with a record low unemployment rate. Vice President Biden countered by stating that Trump would be the first President to leave the office with fewer jobs than when he came in. He also stressed upon the hardships faced by small business owners. An investigation by the New York Times accused President Trump of paying only $750 as the federal income tax, when questioned about the same, “I have paid millions of dollars in taxes” is all he said. One of the lowest points in the debate was involving the personal lives of the candidates. It all started when the President accused Jr. Joe Biden of getting $3.5 million from Moscow. Biden didn’t really have any answer to it, either.

President Trump, who believes himself to be the biggest advocate of black Americans after Abraham Lincoln, was questioned by Biden over his policies of hate and racial division. Trump, in response, brought back an instance from the 1994 Crime Bill and accused Biden’s party of calling a particular race as ‘super predators’. He also believed that the states controlled by the lefts did not respect the term law and order, nor does Joe Biden himself. One of the major arguments here was the abolition of Racial Sensitivity Training. Trump defended the move as it was ‘racist’ and was bringing ‘radical revolution in schools and military’. His opponent called out the need for it, for Americans to learn to live together with one another.

Climate change
President Trump termed the ‘Paris Agreement’ as a disaster. He also went ahead and said that there was a need to balance the environment with the business. “Global warming is responsible for the forest fire, but it's more about fire management in places like California.” Joe Biden assured that when he makes it to power, no one will make a coal fire plant in the US. “We will move towards renewable energy,” Biden assured.

Taking into account the controversy around the mail-in ballot system, the candidates were asked about the assurance of election integrity. Joe Biden echoed the assurance given by the FBI, stating that there will be no manipulation. He also appealed to the voters to, “show up and vote”. “It is in your hands to determine what the country will look like in the next 4 years”, he continued. Contradictory to that, “Mail-in ballots are disasters” claimed president Trump. Either solicited ballots or in-person voting were the only two legitimate options Trump considered at the moment.

The vice presidential debate will be held on 7th October at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City and it will be moderated by Susan Page.

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