After months of vigorous campaigning, President Donald Trump and former Vice President, Joe Biden finally faced off head-to-head in the first 2020 presidential debate. The discussion started off with professional comments, but quickly escalated into what many Americans consider “the worst presidential debate in history.”
After every question was posed, each candidate was permitted two uninterrupted minutes to state their claim. Once the four initial minutes had concluded, the remaining fifteen yielded a free-for-all discussion. Although President Trump held his tongue during Biden’s sanctioned 120 seconds, he struggled to keep his composure once the undisturbed portion had passed. Biden could barely finish a sentence before Trump hopped into the discussion to oppose his rival’s assertion. As the two opponents proceeded to speak over one another, many viewers found themselves in a state of confusion and frustration. At times, moderator Chris Wallace interjected, attempting to halt the convoluted argument, but was continuously ignored.
Trump may have acted a tad cocky and disrespectful during his opponent’s reserved time frame, but Biden refused to go down without a fight. Although he did not act as aggressively as Trump, Biden too made his fair share of interruptions, and even referred to Trump as a liar, a clown, and “the worst president that America has ever had.”
Once Wallace was pushed to his limit and finally began to moderate, he asked Trump a question referring to white supremacy. Trump is constantly chastising Biden for dismissing Antifa and other left wing extremists, so Wallace asked if the president was willing to do the same on his end, and “condemn white supremacists and militia groups, and to say they need to stand down.” After the question was clear, Trump did what politicians do best and deflected, going into a new direction that did not respond to the posed comment. Instead of denouncing white supremacy, the president made a slightly related comment, then immediately flipped the blame onto the opposing political party.
“You want to call them? What do you want to call them? Give me a name, give me a name, go ahead — who would you like me to condemn?” Trump said. “[…] Proud Boys, stand back and stand by. But I’ll tell you what: Somebody’s got to do something about antifa and the left. Because this is not a right-wing problem — this is a left-wing problem.”
As political figures, it would be unusual for either opponent to leave the debate without redirecting at least one question. Trump left white supremacy and certain personal tax-related questions unanswered, but Biden too rejected a few pointed comments. When asked about court packing, Biden refrained from stating his plan, and instead focused on the viewers. The moderator wanted to know, if Amy Coney Barrett- Trump’s nominee- were to be elected as the new Supreme Court Justice, filling the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s seat, if Biden would support adding justices to the court. In response, Biden explained that by giving his opinion, Americans would focus more on his decision than their own. Instead of giving a straight answer, the former vice president spoke to the audience, demanding that their vote dictate the future of the Supreme Court.
“Whatever position I take on that, that’ll become the issue” Biden said. “The issue is the American people should speak. You should go out and vote. You’re in voting, now vote and let your senators know how strongly you feel. But vote now.”
The constant yapping, and unprofessional interjections makes it clear that there was no real winner last Wednesday night, just an opponent who did not lose as bad as the other. According to many partisan news sources, such as CNN and CBS News, Biden left the stage with a stronger outcome, simply because of how he dealt with Trump. As the President interfered, by putting his nose where it did not belong, Biden stayed calm and collected, determined to get his point across. Although the majority of American voters are still loyal to their original electoral choice, the candidates’ performances did have a slight effect on the presidential polls. Research collected by FiveThirtyEight, an unbiased poll analysis site, indicates a marginal increase in citizens who believe Biden will win the election, and a small drop in Trump followers.
Throughout the debate, Biden attempted to direct his statements at the viewers, focusing on their concerns and desires. Trump, on the other hand, was more focused on interrupting Biden’s comments, opposing his claims even before they were fully formulated. At one point, feeling irritated and angered by his rival, Biden called out with hostility, “would you shut up, man?”; As the two wrestled for the talking stick, the discussion increasingly looked more like a debacle than a debate.