Updated: Nov 1, 2020
Is Civility in the Presidency Gone?
By Natasha Santana and Seamus Bozeman
When I think of the presidential debate, I think of a civil conversation discussing why one’s policy is better than their opponent, but on debate night, I saw one shriveled old white man and an old overly tanned white man with a wig hanging on a thin line bickering like they were two toddlers fighting over who gets the ice cream after dinner, and with Chris Wallace, the supposed moderator as the mother who had utterly given up. Honestly, it was just a bad TV show, but instead of multiple takes, it was ninety minutes of one unscripted take of chaos.
The chaos has been spread through the media like wildfire, due to the fact that not even one line lacked absolute absurdity.
The debate had no structure, it was a mess that damages any trust in the system of U.S. democracy. The two-party system has continued to lower the bar for political discourse and continues to sow chaos in an incredibly divided nation. The president gave little explanations and ranted on and on, but the fact that people considered anyone a winner, is atrocious. The losers were the people who watched it. We learned nothing about what each candidate was arguing for, what they were going to do for their next four years, or first term in office. Though props to Biden because Trump interrupted too much and failed to condemn White supremacy, instead telling the proud boys to “stand down and stand by”, giving Biden no time to share his thoughts on what his presidency might hold. Biden’s empathy for the two hundred thousand who died of COVID-19 was the highlight, but his low point was definitely when he told Trump to “shut up.” I certainly don’t see that as presidential behavior. If he is going to be our next leader, many would certainly like for his language to be more sophisticated. I know Trump has lowered the bar so far, it seems normal to say that, but I would certainly hope that Biden would hold himself to a higher standard.
Following the catastrophe, there have been many calls for changes in the debate’s format, and there have been new guidelines offered by The Commission on Presidential Debates, more on it here. The next debate is set to have a live audience, though that has been brought into question with Trump’s recent COVID-19 diagnosis.
The issues covered by both candidates ranged from the devastation of COVID-19, the Supreme Court, the economic recovery, election security, a reckoning with racial tensions, and many more issues that the United States faces today. I’ll quickly go over the responses of each candidate, and provide a short analysis and some commentary.
The coronavirus has killed over two-hundred thousand people, since the first death in February of this year, and has infected over 6 million. The Trump administration has bungled the U.S. response, giving no national outline on handling the virus, and has also been pushing ‘operation warp-speed’ to bring an untested vaccine before the elections, possibly endangering the population even farther. Trump has also denounced the use of masks, which may have increased the likelihood of his recent COVID-19 diagnosis. The Trump campaign’s constant indoor rallies and mass gatherings are in stark contrast to those of Biden’s where he only has a few reporters in the room, given his stance on the highly politicized issue. The COVID-19 outbreak in the U.S. brought little action to the debate stage, both candidates threw around little comfort for a wounded nation, though Biden did talk into the camera, condemning Trump’s lack of interest, and offering his condolences to the thousands who are grieving.
The economy had been on a positive incline for the first three and half years of the Trump administration, but much of that can be attributed to the success Obama had with recovering from the 2008 recession. The economy took a major side during the first few weeks of March as many states took drastic steps to reduce the spread of COVID-19, but millions lost their jobs and government support had completely crumbled, due to the deep polarization in congress. Both offered no hope and gave vague responses on what was next, though to Biden’s credit, Trump did a lot of incoherent ranting during this part, and Chris Wallace gave up on trying to stop him.
The Supreme Court
With the recent death of Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Trump chose Amy Coney Barrett, a social conservative who is grossly unqualified for the position. Biden really didn’t try and argue with Trump about clear republican hypocrisy and didn’t even try to attack Barrett, despite the fact that Roe v. Wade and Obamacare are set to be challenged and likely overturned by the new conservative majority, among many more landmark laws that were major wins for the LGBTQ community, and women.
Racial Tensions and Police Violence
After the police murdered George Floyd, and after 401 years of oppression of black people, in late May the country rose up into months of protests, with calls for massive change, racial justice, defunding the police, and political upheaval. Some cities early on contended with sometimes violent uprisings. Trump used this to call for ‘law and order’ which caused his base of paramilitary and white supremacists to rise up and ‘protect’ their homeland by supporting the violent police crackdowns on protesters. This drew praise from Qanon and many other right-wing conspiracy groups. While the democratic party is in support of racial justice, Biden has failed to properly accept the idea of defunding the police. He constantly tries to stay tough on crime, and does little when it comes to racial justice and the wellbeing of minorities in the United States. Trump definitely drew the most ire from me and millions of others because of his inability to denounce white supremacy, instead calling ANTIFA a terrorist organization, and telling the Proud Boys ‘to stand down, and stand by.’ The Proud Boys later adopted that as a slogan. Trump is a lot worse and threatens any progress made in this year’s mass reckoning, and reflection on race issues. Biden doesn’t have much to offer for voters of color and their guarantee for massive change is unlikely, until progressive leadership is in control.
The Integrity of the Elections and International Influence
The election is under tremendous threat from both international and national influence, as the current president, and Russia are pushing massive disinformation campaigns specifically around the heavy reliance on mail-in ballots, and the massively false claim of widespread fraud. This is the only topic that could be considered a win for Biden, as he repeated multiple times to vote Trump out.
Many thousands of mail-in ballots have been rejected at a much higher rate in communities of color, which has made it extremely difficult for those minorities, as thousands of mail-in ballots are not being properly filled out, and countless other issues are arising, which could be mitigated with proper educational information and stringent rules. The results could take months to settle, but with a dictator in power, it is unlikely. Additionally, with unchecked power and loyalist control of the major institutions, the idea of a free and fair election is slim.
Throughout the debate, many audiences at homes were targeted, ranging from a variety of demographics. As I was conversing with people on their reactions, and looking further into both candidate’s arguments, Biden has reached a demographic of people that haven’t been reached out to in many elections. Those are the ones that don’t consider themselves a part of either party, the ones who don’t think well of a two-party-system. The ones in the middle. Biden expressed beliefs that were nor too left, nor too right. The middle people who always find themselves in a tough spot over who to vote for, and who don’t usually vote at all have found themselves settling for Biden. One of my friends said, “Biden came to please not just the democrats but the people.” That stuck to me because I wondered, how many other moderate minded people did he provoke to vote this year?
Trump’s target audience was his blinded supporters, non-caring for his words, riled up like they were watching a UFC fight, watching him chastise any moment of civility with anger, rage and confusion, trying to prevent Joe Biden from keeping his train of thought and any semblance of sanity. It worked, and neither came out of the debate with any gain, but despite that, poll numbers slumped for Trump and rose for Biden. It might be a lead worth keeping in a hopeful landslide win against a ruthless dictator.
Written by writers Seamus Bozeman & Natasha Santana