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Nobody Won the First Presidential Debate, We All Lost

The empty stage for the first 2020 presidential debate is seen on Tuesday in Cleveland. Eric Baradat/AFP via Getty Images

Remember, let’s be polite; let’s be respectful, but most of all, let’s be outspoken.

On September 29, 2020, the first of three presidential debates took place in Cleveland, Ohio. Former Vice President Joe Biden went against President Donald Trump in a ninety-minute long debate moderated by Fox News Host Chris Wallace. The six topics of the debate were COVID-19, Economy, The Supreme Court, Race and Violence in American Cities, Trump’s and Biden’s Records, and the Integrity of the Election. They also touched on Climate Change and Environmental Issues.

In short, the nation should agree that debate was catastrophic. Both candidates slung personal attacks, Chris Wallace became an unofficial third debater, Trump consistently interrupted Biden, and the presidential debate dissolved into an elementary schoolyard shouting match.

The entire point of these debates is to inform undecided voters on the policies of the candidates or the candidates themselves, so they can confidently vote on election day. This debate did not achieve that objective or any objective aside from showing the growing toxicity of our political atmosphere.

If I were to pick a winner of this debate, it would be Joe Biden, not because of what Biden did, but because of what Trump did. Entering this debate, the problem for Trump was the expectations for Biden were exceedingly low because Trump painted Biden as an inadequate debater with a concerning memory. Throughout this debate, relative to his previous memory slips and verbal flops, Biden did decently in terms of speaking.

Furthermore, Trump’s interruptions damaged his debate performance. He constantly pressed Biden on issues to the point where it was annoying. On certain questions like the one asking if Biden would support packing the Supreme Court, Trump badgering Biden was appropriate because he refused to answer. However, badgering him on every single minuscule issue was irritating and may have been a major turn off for voters.

Also, the debate focused on Trump, not Biden. This may ultimately harm Trump because one of the reasons why Trump won in 2016 was because he went silent after the Access Hollywood tape released. During that time, the attention shifted to Hillary Clinton and the FBI investigation into her emails. Since there was intense scrutiny and focus on Clinton, Trump won because he was not Hillary.

The same applies now, except Biden currently plays Trump’s 2016 role. Biden basically could have let Trump speak for long periods to shift the attention on Trump, especially considering the fact Biden has not held as many public appearances as Trump. When leaving the debate, people will remember Trump’s constant badgering and interruptions as opposed to the underhanded insults from Biden.

Also, Trump’s worst moments were when he failed to denounce white supremacists and militias that have been responsible for violence in American cities for the past few months and when he failed to acknowledge the threat of climate change. He told the Proud Boys, a right-wing extremist group that engages in political violence, to “stand down.”

His best moments were his persistent attack on Hunter Biden’s connection to Russia and his question asking which law enforcement group supported Biden. These two were his best moments because Biden did not have a convincing response or rebuttal.

Despite this, the cons of Trump’s debate performance were far greater than the pros.

However, this was also not Biden’s night either. For the Biden campaign, the objective of this debate should have been trying to paint Biden as a moral contrast or alternative to Trump, referencing Michelle Obama’s famous quote: “When they go low, we go high.” Except Biden did not go high but, instead, mirrored some of the critiques of Trump. When Trump was attacking Biden on his intellect and son’s affiliation with Russia, he repeatedly called him a clown. He also stated, “Will you shut up, man?” To add insult to injury, he said, “You’re the worst president America has ever had.”

His best moments were when he focused on climate change and when he held a clear stance on election integrity. Biden was effective in providing an alternative environmental policy to Trump’s negligence of climate change. Biden also openly stated he would accept the election results whether he won or lost, while Trump said he would fight the results of a “rigged” election.

Finally, Wallace did the best anyone could have possibly done. He will receive major criticism for his inability to control the debates, but, in reality, there is not a better journalist that could have controlled both candidates from lashing out. Unless he cut their mikes, there was little Wallace could have done to combat Trump and Biden’s squabble.

This debate was a nightmare and an embarrassment of the highest level of politics. It showcased that pettiness was not exclusive to one side and that there is a greater emphasis on personal attacks than policy description. We can only pray that the conduct and atmosphere of the next presidential debates will be better than the fiasco the nation witnessed tonight.

Remember, let’s be polite; let’s be respectful, but most of all, let’s be outspoken.

One Comment

  1. Joseph Joseph 30 Sep 2020

    Humanity was a mistake.

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