Thursday, October 22nd, President Trump and Former Vice President Biden engaged in the final presidential debate before Election Day. The two sparred over topics like the handling of the pandemic, climate change, national defense, and health care over the course of 90-minutes, with NBC News’ Kristen Welker moderating the discussion. To prevent the interruptions and accusations of the first presidential debate, the Commission on Presidential Debates decided to mute each candidate’s microphone during the other’s initial response to a debate question. This resulted in an effective, easy-to-follow debate, compared to the first catastrophe of unprompted jabs. There was also a marked difference in the response to the moderator, who respectfully kept the debate on-track.
Concerning Coronavirus, Biden delivered his plans for his possible term, including mandated mask wear, rapid testing, and regulation over businesses and schools reopening in compliance with CDC guidelines. President Trump then made his argument that life must go on, and that the U.S. has handled the pandemic to the best of their ability. With closing the borders to China in January and making PPE and ventilators more readily accessible, Trump defended his decisions in combatting the virus. “I say we’re learning to live with it. We have no choice. We can’t lock ourselves up in a basement like Joe does,” he said.
In terms of corruption allegations, both candidates threw several accusations at each other over financial and national security. President Trump claimed that Biden had been receiving payments from a Russian company, as well as accusations against his son, Hunter Biden. Former Vice President Biden then retaliated with references to President Trump’s federal tax returns, and the reported little to no paid taxes over the course of his lifetime. Biden then cited his released tax returns and questioned why Trump has yet to release his.
Turning to immigration and healthcare, Trump’s separation of families at the border became a popular topic between the two. Trump also accused Biden of the same action, yet there is a bit more investigation that needs to be done into this claim. The topic of the Affordable Care Act was also rehashed, with Trump preferring to repeal the act, but still insisting that he “[has] a plan to help people with pre-existing conditions.” Biden appears staunch in his decision to build upon the ACA and maintain private insurance.
During the debate, Biden recognized that some of Trump’s claims do not apply to him, given his more moderate stances. What Biden has seemed to recognize and accept is that Democratic support for him is based primarily in the reliance on ousting President Trump. By taking moderate stances, Biden ensures both the votes of the further left-leaning democrats, and those in the middle-ground.
Yet, when over 48.5 million Americans have already cast their vote in the early-voting process, what good is this debate in the first place?
While most people reference John F. Kennedy v. Richard Nixon as the first ever presidential debate, the first televised presidential debate actually took place in 1956 between Republican President Dwight D. Eisenhower and Democratic candidate, Adlai Stevenson – yet neither man was present at the debate. Instead, both sent in a surrogate to represent them. Eleanor Roosevelt argued for the Democrats, while Maine senator Margaret Chase Smith stood with the Republicans. According to the United States Senate website, “By 1956 both women routinely appeared on lists of America’s most admired women.” Two days before the election, November 4, the two discussed mainly foreign policy to the delight and intrigue of the American people. From here, the presidential debate became a significant influence in the votes of viewers, as the undecided could hear their respective takes straight from the source. Now, it seems the divide has grown so far that these debates offer nothing new to persuade or dissuade its viewers.