Nashville, Tennessee played host to the final presidential debate ahead of the November 3rd election between President Donald Trump and Former Vice President Joe Biden. Unsurprisingly, policy matters played second fiddle to point scoring and scaremongering from both ends of the stage.
For the most part, both candidates were restrained: the interruptions which dominated the first debate were replaced by wry smiles and looks of haughty derision. And thankfully Trump didn’t walk out early after some tough questions, as was the case last week. Valuable insight indeed from the President on how to ace an interview.
On Covid-19, or as he called it: the “plague coming in from China”, Trump took ‘full responsibility’ before immediately undermining this: “its not my fault it came here”. In repeating his mistake from the first debate, he postulated that 2.2 million Americans were modelled to expected to die, insinuating that he deserves praise that the current number of US deaths stands at only around a quarter of a million. Again misleadingly, Trump said that “we’ve rounded the corner….. it’s going away.” Meanwhile, cases and hospital admissions from Covid-19 are rising, and the number of deaths remains high.
Biden’s handling of the same topic left the audience with no doubt as to where he thought blame lay – with his opponent. While stopping short of blaming Trump for the outbreak of the virus, Biden did however blame the President’s “ineptitude that caused the country to shut down in large parts”. In doing so, the former VP promised to “shut down the virus, not the country”: a nod to growing frustration over varying levels of restriction nationwide. However, given the former VP’s public caution towards the virus, and how it should be handled, Biden’s promise was likely targeted at winning support from those disenfranchised by restrictions on life, rather than an accurate reflection of his standpoint.
When asked to address America’s black community, Trump’s hubris took on a new level as he claimed that “maybe with the possible exception of Abraham Lincoln, nobody has done for more for the black community than Donald Trump.” A bold claim indeed from a President who has been subject to scrutiny for his handling of the BLM movement, and the subsequent riots across the nation. Trump’s proclamation of “I’m the least racist person in this room” probably made viewers wonder who was in the crowd.
In their respective calls to unite the country under their banner, Trump promised that ‘success will bring us together’, while Biden’s final emotional plea emphasised equality and ‘making sure everyone gets a fair chance’. These optimistic messages, while a fresh change of pace, would have been infinitely more poignant had much of the campaign trail not been filled with opponent-bashing and a lack of respect.
Biden: “What is on the ballot here is the character of this country.”
By the end of next week, we will know who will hold the office of President of the United States for the next four years. Arguably, this election will be the most important in American history; that’s certainly how many analysts see it. This might seem strange given that no real change is occurring, regardless of the result. Biden is a former vice president, he arguably represents a step back to the Obama administration and offers little in terms of progression as a white man. However, should Trump triumph, we would be subject to another 4 years of erraticism, tweets, and controversy.
The eyes of the world will be on America’s election, and rightfully so. To say that the result affects Americans only is naive and myopic: the very way western society views racism, democracy, abortion, the current pandemic, and climate change are all at stake.
If watching one shouting match, two separate town hall meetings, and one debate is any indication of how either Trump or Biden will hold office, then we really are – as the Big Bang Theory’s Leonard Hofstadter would put it – attached to another object by an incline plane wrapped helically around an axis. Screwed, that is.