As Tuesday night’s debate winded down, like many others, I came away feeling shell-shocked and at a loss for words. The 90 minute affair had been taxing to watch, and hard to process, seemingly twisting and turning every few seconds with a new rebuttal from President Trump or former Vice President Biden. However, as the dust cleared, I came away with several robust conclusions about not only the debate, but how the candidates will proceed in the later stages of the presidential race.
First, I believe that regardless of how the proceedings carried on, Mr. Biden gained the upper hand in last night’s debate. President Trump has been trailing heavily in election forecasts; Mr. Biden has been dominating throughout the country, according to the interactive map on https://www.270towin.com/, with the most alarming part for Republicans being that former red states in the 2016 election (such as Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania) have recently been leaning towards blue. These states located close to the Midwest are crucial for Trump if he hopes to repeat a victory, and the recent forecasts have been alarming. However, this isn’t to say that President Trump has no shot at winning the election; as many clearly remember, in 2016 it was predicted that Hillary Clinton would win for months on end, yet on the night of the election, Donald Trump managed to sway several states last second. Also, while he has some ground to make up, there are still many neutral states hanging in balance, and a strong performance in the upcoming debates would certainly allow Mr. Trump to climb back into the race. But, this brings me back to my main point, which is that regardless of how many times he spoke Wednesday night, President Trump lost the debate handily to candidate Biden. As the debate commenced, it was clear that Trump’s focus was upon pressuring and attacking his opponent, and not on gaining the advantage by means of proposed solutions and policies. Mr. Biden however, made it very clear that his aim was not to levy any accusations against Trump (for the most part), but rather to play it safe and answer the moderator’s questions. This strategy, in my opinion, makes perfect sense for the former VP. Coming into this debate, leading as much as he is, Mr. Biden has no need to aggressively attack his foe in hopes of making up ground. By solidly answering questions throughout the night, albeit with a few interruptions which I will talk about soon, Mr. Biden made it clear that he is the choice for those who are still struggling between who to choose. As for the transparency of the two candidates’ strategies, look no further than where they set their eyes. As he answered questions, Mr. Biden looked either directly into the camera or at moderator Chris Wallace, opting to rarely glance over at the President. Mr. Trump however, almost never looked at the camera and stared intently at Biden, signaling his hostility not only with his posturing but with his frequent interruptions and personal attacks; and while his brutal comments may have delighted avid Trump supporters, in my mind there is no doubt that Mr. Biden came away with the upper hand last night.
In addition, it was extremely interesting as well as insightful to listen to how Trump and Biden answered the moderator’s questions, in the select moments during which they were not bickering. A few examples of topics covered include the Supreme Court, in which Trump avidly defended Amy Coney by referring to her noteworthy alma mater Notre Dame while Biden rejects this, the COVID-19 response, in which Biden accuses Trump of severe mishandling of the pandemic while Trump counters by referring to Biden’s alleged “poor response” to the Swine flu and H1N1 virus outbreaks while he was Vice President, the American economy, during which Trump flusters Biden by accusing him of using false statistics about the U.S. recovery post 2008 crisis, and climate change, during which Trump claims “scientists don’t know” what they’re talking about and that poor forest management was to blame for the uptick in wildfires along the west coast. As for what I took away from the many issues they covered, I believe that a lot more can be gained from Mr. Biden’s answers rather than Mr. Trumps. This makes sense, as the President currently in office has enacted many of the things already which he believes are needed in our country, while his opponent clearly has a lot more that he desires to change. One of the observations I made in my notes while watching was that Biden seemed to be attempting to appeal to moderates and less-radical Democrats. This was apparent as he was speaking on the issues of police brutality, in which he did not propose the common mantra of defunding the police, but rather putting more money into the policing system in order to potentially provide psychiatrists and therapists to accompany the squadrons and units. He even adds that while there are “bad apples” among the police force, most of the population throughout America remains good people. While this may have been inadvertent, Biden’s choice terminology and wording throughout this issue points to a possible goal of straying away from the radical left. He may have been attempting to sway centrists, moderates, and those who are still struggling to make a choice between him and Donald Trump. Purposeful or not, in my opinion this was a slight win for Biden’s corner; he made a point which Democratic voters would not oppose, yet appealed to indecisive voters at the same time. I have no such analysis for President Trump; he proposed very little new information throughout the debate, and continued to preach the same ideals which he has been for a long time. Additional issues they spoke on include the impact of Trump’s presidency on the black community, during which Mr. Biden claims his immense support of the African American population while the President refers to his approval rating from that group (which was 15% - 24% upon further research), and the shrinking middle class, during which Biden levied his position of growing up in a suburb to show his connection to that American class.
Finally, I believe that it’s important to reference the most disturbing part of the presidential debate, which was the conduct of both candidates, but most notably, that of the President. Like @BLStudent stated, moderator Chris Wallace could barely get a word in between the insults of Donald Trump and the rebuttals by Joe Biden; he was becoming increasingly frustrated as each candidate spoke out of turn and openly went against the policies of the debate which were agreed upon by the representatives of the party. The most intense moment of the night came when Donald Trump viciously insulted Joe Biden’s son, referring to him as a drug addict who was dishonorably discharged from the military. While I have no reference on who Mr. Biden’s son was, I thoroughly believe that referring to the family of your opposing candidate is severe misconduct, and immensely irrelevant to the point being made, regardless of topic. The fact is that the current President of the United States behaved extremely immaturely last night, lashing out petty insults and interrupting every second Joe Biden opened his mouth; and while Mr. Biden was slightly more civil, he too left much to be desired in his conduct throughout the night. This leads me to my final issue: where is the line for Donald Trump? This rhetorical question draws a plethora of answers, and I always believed that I would keep the character and policies of a presidential candidate separate from one another. It was my belief that it didn’t matter what you did as a person, as long as you were doing a good job running our country. President Trump has made me question my notion; his behavior, not only last night, but over the past four years has made America’s leader a laughingstock in comparison to those of other countries. His history of disgusting misconduct and horrific statements goes back longer than I’ve been alive. So I ask myself, and everybody else who used to share my viewpoint, can you endure this anymore? I think I have my answer.
The upcoming debates will be a spectacle to watch, regardless of whether they improve in quality or deteriorate further into insanity. The date of November 3rd looms prominently as the inevitable day comes for America to choose their leader for the next 4 years. It’s nerve-wracking to consider how different America might be in 2024, depending on which candidate wins the race, but at least for the time being, the best we can do is to just keep watching.