First presidential debate: seeking clarity and truth among the chaos

“WILL YOU JUST SHUT UP, MAN?”: Last night’s debate often devolved into utter chaos. Patrick Semansky/AP

By Maxine Davey | Editor in Chief

September 30, 2020

Last night’s debate left viewers confused, angry, and worried for the future of America. Here’s a breakdown of the candidates’ views on central issues, facilitated (barely) by moderator Chris Wallace: the Supreme Court, COVID-19, race and violence, the environment, and the integrity of the election.

The Supreme Court:

According to Trump, Republicans won the 2016 election and control the Senate, and should therefore have the right to nominate Amy Barrett. Biden felt, however, that pushing a Supreme Court nomination through at this point in the election year strips away the American right to a say in Supreme Court nominees. Biden warned that Barrett will threaten healthcare access via the Affordable Care Act for millions of Americans and fundamentally change women’s rights by threatening the decision made in Roe v. Wade.


Joe Biden said that Trump “panicked” by not informing the American people of the dangers of the coronavirus when he found out in February (as he has admitted on tape). Biden then attacked Trump by calling him to get off the golf course, bring Democrats and Republicans together, and put together the funding necessary to save lives. Meanwhile, Trump claimed that a vaccine is weeks away while citing unnamed Democratic governors who apparently told him he did a “phenomenal job” handling the coronavirus. When Biden mentioned the 204,000 death toll Trump retorted that, under Biden, that number would have been much higher.

“I understand that many people just want things to get back to ‘normal,’ and how that may appeal to voters,” senior Isabelle Comes said. “However, he [Trump] took absolutely no accountability.”

Race and violence:

Trump refused to openly condemn white supremacy groups, responding to Wallace’s question—”Are you willing tonight to condemn white supremacists and militia groups…?”—by telling the Proud Boys (a neofascist organization) to “stand back and stand by.” Meanwhile, Biden stated that he does not support the movement to defund the police and criticized Trump’s local law enforcement department budget cuts.

“The most pressing issue was police brutality,” senior TJ Gerardo said. “[Biden’s] call for reform was starkly contrasted to Trump’s call for protest silencing through “law and order” policies.”

The environment:

Trump said he thinks America should do everything we can to have “immaculate” air and water and conceded that humans have played a part in climate change; however, he feels that forest management is the root of the wildfire issue in California rather than climate change. Biden stated that the first environmental action he will take if elected is to rejoin the Paris Climate Accord.

“While I respect Trump’s desire to preserve economic success, to do so at the risk of the planet (whose harm will first take its toll on the most vulnerable members of society) strikes me as short-sighted and unethical,” senior Juliet Heal said. “Biden’s purported infrastructure plans do seem a bit idealist, but he struck me as placing greater importance on the environment and the science behind it,” Heal also noted the time-sensitive nature of the climate crisis, and referred to it as the most pressing topic.

“The climate issue was handled poorly during the presidential debate,” senior Liam Mateer said. “With that being said, I believe that Biden has a more concrete plan to address climate change. He thoroughly discussed the implication of electric car charge stations along highways and promoted the transformation of our country towards the primary use of electric vehicles.”

Election integrity:

Trump believes that the increase in mail voting will lead to widespread fraud and, as a result, a rigged election. Biden responded by calling Americans to vote, encouraging civic participation during one of the most chaotic and divisive periods in recent American history.

UNPRESIDENTIAL: Both candidates resulted to childlike insults. Photo courtesy of CNN

Last night’s debate was riddled with lies and childish behavior. President Trump refused to fully yield Biden’s two minutes and continuously interrupted both Biden and Wallace, while Biden called Trump “the worst president we’ve ever had,” and a “clown.”. Trump also personally attacked Biden by questioning his education and launching assaults on his son, Hunter Biden, a former drug addict. Meanwhile, Biden repeatedly trailed off and diverged without finishing his thoughts, struggling to form assertive, coherent arguments.

“Trump used manipulation to win rather than well thought-out arguments,” senior Keith Hoffmeister said. “However, Biden also showed that he’s not the strongest orator or the quickest thinker.”

Americans are certainly faced with a choice that may be hard to swallow, regardless of political preference. However, the debate does not seem to have changed many students’ minds about the candidates.

“Personally, I went in tonight open and not searching for President Trump’s faults, but time and time again he fails the working class, he fails the minorities, and he fails to uphold the self-evident rights this country fights to hold strong,” junior Bethany Padilla said.

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