Presidential Debate: What you should know

By Conor Kelly (TheLorian)

Tuesday night was one for the history books, as the two presidential candidates—President Donald J. Trump and former Vice President Joseph R. Biden— wrangled for dominance in the first presidential debate. While some predicted that Biden would stick to the issues and remain more focused on the fundamentals of the debate, few could have predicted the intensity that would be thrown both at and from the former Vice President. The moderator, Chris Wallace of Fox News, desperately tried to keep decorum between the candidates, sometimes engaging in direct appeals to the President with little success. Indeed, presidential historian Michael Beschloss condemned the debates, complaining about the lack of moderation in such a public affair, saying, “Moderate this debate Now.” It was an intense and unusual display for the nation.

Perhaps it was unsurprising that this debate ended in fire and fury; it had already begun before the debate itself. Hours before the debate started, The Independent reported that former President Barrack Obama indirectly accused the White House of attempting to suppress the African American vote. And right before the debate’s commencement, Fox reported that the Trump campaign had demanded third-party inspectors check both candidates’ ears for earphones. In response, the former Vice-President took to Twitter, mocking the demand.

In theory, the debate was split into four main categories—The Supreme Court, COVID-19, the state of race in America, and election integrity. But as the debate continued, entirely separate topics came up, with questions remaining unanswered and disregarded on both sides.

Beginning with the Supreme Court, President Trump touted the adage “elections have consequences,” arguing that the public’s will elected him and, therefore, was obligated to fill the Supreme Court seat left behind by the late Justice Ginsburg. Former Vice-President Biden hit back, arguing that the American people have the right to have their voices heard and reflected on the Supreme Court, insisting that the court should be filled after the election concluded, saying, “It’s just not appropriate to do this before the election.” Biden then criticized Judge Barrett, arguing that 100 million Americans had preexisting conditions and that they would be harmed by Judge Barrett’s opinion on the Affordable Care Act.

President Trump took issue with Biden’s assertion, arguing that the 100 million statistic was incorrect and without merit. Despite this, a Department of Health and Human Services report in 2017 found that between 61 million to 133 million Americans have some form of a preexisting condition. Although, that same report did not determine how the removal of the Affordable Care Act would impact their coverage. Biden incorrectly asserted that Judge Barrett believed that the Affordable Care Act was unconstitutional. While it is undoubtedly true that Judge Barrett has criticized the Affordable Care Act, she has not outright stated that the Affordable Care Act is unconstitutional. Her view on the issue remains in question.

From there, the debate became more challenging to decipher, as both candidates began to talk over each other. From there, the debate flip-flopped between healthcare and the Supreme Court, with Biden accusing President Trump of having no plan to replace the ACA, something that the administration denies. After further cross-talk, the former Vice President took a shot of his own at the President, showing the tension of the debate and the personal nature of the campaign while at the same time, side-stepping the issue of court-packing. The President also admitted that he was counting on the Supreme Court to examine the election results, something that is sure to inflame controversy.

On COVID-19, the two candidates sparred with increased intensity. Biden criticized Trump’s response to the COVID crisis, inaccurately arguing that the President had prevented masks from being provided to American schools. Under Trump, a federal program for masks did come to an end, but another soon took its place. Trump hit back at Biden’s intelligence, misconstruing past statements Dr. Fauci made on masks when the CDC recommended conserving masks for medical professionals. Both men defended their campaigning styles during the pandemic, touting them as desirable, engaging in another spat.

While it is unclear which way the current election will go, the general atmosphere surrounding the debates is much clearer. The Biden campaign received a net $3.8 million an hour after the debate had concluded, breaking a campaign record. The President’s campaign is unlikely to get a boost from the debate, as 48 percent of preliminary respondents said that Biden won the first debate compared to 41 percent for Trump, with an additional 10 percent believing it to be a tie. The President also suffers from a general dislike from the public, with 52 percent of Americans disapproving of the administration’s current state, as reported by FiveThirtyEight. It should be worth noting that this is only the first debate, and the polls are preliminary, making them subject to change. But if the debate is indeed representative of this election, then Americans are in for a rocky ride.

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Conor Kelly

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Conor J. Kelly is the Opinion Editor for the Lorian. He is a Staff Writer, and Political Science and History major.

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