President Donald Trump squared off against former Vice President and Democratic nominee Joe Biden in front of the nation for the first time last night.
At times it was a debate, at times it was a shouting match, and at times even moderator and Fox News anchor Chris Wallace “lost track as well” between the verbal attacks exchanged by the two nominees for President of the United States.
The topics for discussion were “The Trump and Biden Records,” “The Supreme Court,” “Covid-19,” “The Economy,” “Race and Violence in our Cities” and “The Integrity of the Election.”
The match quickly descended into a back-and-forth of accusations between the two candidates. President Trump’s Supreme Court nomination of Amy Coney Barrett became a proxy for a battle over the Affordable Care Act and the death toll of COVID-19, with Trump asserting that Biden would have killed “more than two million” Americans with his potential response to the deadly virus.
As tensions grew over issues like Roe v. Wade and the re-opening of the economy, Wallace struggled to contain the cacophony of both candidates trying to speak over each other. President Trump insisted that Biden answer whether or not he’d expand the Supreme Court, the former vice president fired back, asking, “Will you shut up, man?”
On the topic of race, both candidates took jabs at each other’s records. Vice President Biden swung at the president’s response to national protests and his low approval rating among Black voters; Trump taunted his opponent with the false claim that Biden referred to incarcerated Black people as “super predators, and you’ve called them worse than that.”
Despite several of the president’s attempts to derail the conversation, Wallace was able to inquire about the recent federal ban on racial sensitivity training that addresses White privilege or critical race theory.
“We were paying people hundreds of thousands of dollars to teach very bad ideas and frankly, very sick ideas,” President Trump countered, “they were teaching people to hate our country And I’m not going to do that. I’m not going to allow that to happen.”
Black viewers later expressed disappointment with the way race was addressed, both in the questions and the answers.
“Everything that’s wrong with race in America is three white men starting a conversation ‘about race’ and having it immediately degenerate into an argument about ‘law and order,’” CNN legal analyst Elliot Williams said in a tweet after the debate.
A chilling low moment of the night – and possibly, civil rights history – came when President Trump refused to denounce white supremacy in America.
While Biden briskly spoke of uniting law enforcement and activists to find a common solution, Trump reluctantly told the Proud Boys – a violent right-wing, extremist group – to “stand back and stand by.”
One of the precious few moments of clarity during a night of political mud-wrestling came when Vice President Biden turned away from his opponent and addressed the American public by looking directly into the camera.
“You have it in your control to determine what this country is going to look like the next four years,” Biden expressed, “ Is it going to change, or are you going to get four more years of these lies?”
When Wallace raised questions about the legitimacy of an election with an increased number of mail-in ballots, Vice President Biden tried to reassure the country that “no one has established at all that there is fraud related to mail-in ballots.”
Alternatively, President Trump appealed to his core voters, imploring them to “go into the polls and watch very carefully, because that’s what has to happen.”
In response to largely negative reviews of the first match, the Commission on Presidential Debates said it would change the format of the remaining two events. The vice-presidential debate will take place on Wednesday, October 7th in Salt Lake City, Utah and the next presidential square-off will be on October 15th in Miami. For more information on how to vote in your state, visit the United States Government website.