By Riley Mulcahy
Tuesday’s first presidential debate showcased the deepening of the political divide in America. The discussion, which lasted ninety minutes, was moderated by Fox News’s Chris Wallace. Wallace chose the six debate topics, including the Supreme Court nomination, Trump and Biden’s records, COVID-19, violence in major cities, and the validity of the 2020 election.
Due to the passing of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, there has been a growing controversy as to whether or not the spot should be filled before the election. When asked about his plans to nominate Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Court, President Trump responded, “We won the election, choices have consequences, we have the Senate, we have the White House.” The president went on to say that “The Democrats would try to do it [fill the seat] faster. They had Merrick Garland but didn’t have the election.” This refers to former President Obama’s nomination of Judge Merrick Garland, ten months before the 2016 election, with Republicans refusing to fill the seat before the election results.
The former Vice President’s response evoked the seat’s importance and urged Americans to have a say in the next Supreme Court Justice. Biden also argued that the election has “already started” and that not waiting for the results in November would be wrong.
Biden pointed to Barrett’s comments on the Affordable Care Act, which she called “unconstitutional.” Biden explained his plans to expand the Affordable Care Act. At the same time, President Trump reiterated a campaign promise to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act, without telling how he will replace it.
Throughout the night, President Trump repeatedly interrupted Biden, warning that the Democrats are the “radical left” and “socialist.” Wallace, who was in charge of making sure the night went smoothly, repeatedly urged the President to let Biden speak, noting that Trump’s team “agreed to the rules” ahead of time. At one point, Biden, who was particularly fed up with Trump’s lack of respect to the rules, called the President’s constant interruption “so unpresidential” and asked if he could “shut up man.”
In one of the most talked-about segments of the night, President Trump failed to stand against racism. According to The New York Times, Mr. Trump declined to condemn white supremacy and right-wing extremist groups when prompted by Mr. Wallace and Mr. Biden. When Mr. Wallace asked him whether he would be willing to do so, Mr. Trump replied, ‘Sure.’” President Trump then told the Proud Boys to “stand down and stand by.” Many, including members of the violent group, view this as a call of arms depending on the election results.
The debate has been labeled a “the worst debate in history” by many outlets, including The New Yorker, The Washington Post, and The Boston Globe. The regular rules of respect, decency, and class were replaced by Trump’s aggressive name-calling and the candidates speaking over each other. Given the contentious nature of the debate, a winner is not hard to decide.
Biden laid out his policies, confronted his differences with the Democratic Party’s progressive section, and questioned Trump’s response to the COVID-19 plan. On the other hand, Trump could not take any accountability in regard to his COVID-19 task force, calling the whole thing “political.” Instead of proposing solutions, the President placed blame on the Obama-Biden administration and warned of massive voter fraud cases that are not proven.
The election is less than a month away, and there has never been so much discussion on the election’s integrity. Many publications have made a call to cancel the remaining two debates, as Wallace did not control the night and Trump’s constant interruption made the debate unbearable. The debate commission responded to the criticism and with a promise to change the next debates’ format. “Last night's debate made clear that additional structure should be added to the format of the remaining debates to ensure a more orderly discussion of the issues.”
Ryan Ford '23,