When President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden met for the final 2020 presidential election debate on Oct. 22, their discussion was surprisingly civil, thanks to moderator Kristen Welker. One thing, however, became abundantly clear: Trump revealed to America that he has no plan to govern, and we should punish him for it this Nov. 3.
The two began by discussing COVID-19. Biden slammed Trump for his lack of a comprehensive plan and for failing the American people throughout the entire crisis. Biden stated the obvious: “Anyone who is responsible for that many deaths should not remain as president of the United States of America.” Biden reiterated his own plan, pledging to implement widespread rapid testing, increase contact tracing and safely reopen schools if elected.
For his part, Trump downplayed the COVID-19 pandemic and excused his failures, maintaining that “nobody knew what this thing was” in the pandemic’s crucial early stages. He claimed immunity to the virus and extolled dexamethasone, the therapeutic drug he received while ill, as a “cure.” Regarding the rising rate of infection in the U.S., he blamed increased testing, and claimed to have saved millions from the virus. Despite the scientific consensus that many Americans will remain unvaccinated well into 2021, he claimed that Americans would have a vaccine “within weeks” and that “it’s going to be delivered.” When Welker pressured him for more information, he admitted that “it’s not a guarantee.” Trump’s continual ignorance of science has cost America too much, and his inability to recognize this should convince anyone that he is unfit to lead the U.S. for another four years.
In the debate’s next segment, Welker asked the candidates to respond to recent reports that Russia and Iran have begun interfering with the U.S. election. Trump characteristically exploited the question to attack Biden personally with groundless conspiracy theories, alleging that Biden somehow received a $3.5 million payment from Russia. After categorically denying Trump’s claim, Biden clearly emphasized that he would punish such foreign interference. Trump remained silent on the matter after this.
As the candidates moved to the topic of race, Biden again proved himself to be the more worthy candidate, emphasizing the importance of investing in minority communities. Trump, however, took this as an opportunity to again attack Biden, falsely accusing him of calling Black people “superpredators” and offering no coherent plan of his own. Instead, he bragged that “nobody has done more for the Black community than [him] … with the exception of Abraham Lincoln” and that he was the “least racist person in the room.” Perhaps he forgot that Welker, the first Black woman to ever moderate a presidential debate, was sitting right in front of him.
Biden made climate policy a cornerstone of his pitch, stressing that Americans “have a moral obligation to deal with [climate change]” and explaining specific environmental policies that would both mitigate the climate crisis and create jobs. Trump claimed, without evidence, that Biden’s plans would “destroy our country.” When subsequently asked about the environment and racism, Trump avoided both. Rather, he simply exclaimed that those living near oil refineries, disproportionately people of color, are “employed heavily” rather than harmed, but Biden showed his focus and empathy by claiming he will “transition [away] from the oil industry” and toward clean energy. Biden proved himself in possession of a comprehensive plan, while Trump showed his lack of commitment and action toward one of the most crucial matters on the ballot.
Health care, too, featured prominently in the debate. Trump stood by his opposition to Obamacare and promised to replace it with “brand new, beautiful health care,” for which he, yet again, provided no plan. He continued to lambast Biden for allegedly supporting “socialized medicine” that would take away millions of Americans’ private insurance plans. Biden immediately corrected Trump, pointing out that his plan would include a public option. After four years of inaction, Trump clearly has no interest in guaranteeing health care at all.
Welker also questioned Trump regarding recent reports of lawyers being unable to find the parents of 545 migrant children separated because of the Trump administration. He merely responded: “We’re working on it very — we’re trying very hard.” Biden’s response highlighted his compassion on the matter, even as he denounced it as “criminal” and claimed that “it makes [the U.S.] a laughingstock.”
The bottom line is that these are starkly different candidates with vastly different visions for America’s future. Most polls indicate that Biden won the debate; Trump simply maintained his charades and tried to defend his failed leadership. Now Biden and Trump’s cards are all on the table. It’s time for you to get out and vote.
Sara Perez (24C) is from Managua, Nicaragua.