Five Things from the First Presidential Debate

Leah Lentz, Writer

Last night, the First Presidential Debate for the 2020 election caused headaches across the nation. The candidates were feisty and loud, the moderator was mad, and the TikToks made afterwards were funny. Overall, it could’ve gone worse. Here are five important takeaways from last night’s debate.

1. President Donald Trump restated his endorsement for Amy Coney Barrett, the current nominee to fill the vacancy on the Supreme Court.

As we know, a few weeks ago we were faced with the unfortunate passing of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, who was widely regarded as a champion of women’s rights, and one of the biggest supporters of Roe V. Wade. This week, it was announced that the Trump administration would be filling her seat with Judge Amy Coney Barrett, a 7th Circuit Court of Appeals judge. She has been receiving criticism since her nomination due to her conservative and Catholic-based viewpoints. Last night, Trump restated his endorsement, claiming he has seen liberal supporters also endorse Judge Barrett, and that the Democratic party would be in a similar rush to fill the open seat. 

2. Former VP Joe Biden and President Trump discussed national reopenings and how they were handled.

Joe Biden started off the section for Covid-19, stating, when he could get a word in, that there have been over 200,000 deaths and 7 million confirmed cases. He followed this up with the statement that Trump has had no plan since February, when he learned about this threat (confirmed a few weeks ago in an audio recording). Trump shot back that 1) Biden would have left the country open, causing more cases, 2) We are weeks away from a vaccine, and 3) Biden behaved just as poorly during the H1N1 pandemic in the early 2000s.

Trump also repeatedly made the case that if Biden had been in charge, the death count would be in the millions. It is important to note that whether or not this is true is irrelevant because, at the end of the day, Biden is not in charge. Biden criticized the Trump administration’s reopening plan, saying that it was initially too slow, and is now too fast. Trump argued that states that have elongated the shut down are doing poorly, especially naming Blue states. He is citing a May report from The Economist that the mortality rate in states that voted for Hillary Clinton was 3x higher than the rate in states that voted for Trump. 

3. Trump stated that he paid millions of dollars in income taxes in 2016 and 2017, contradicting a story released by the New York Times earlier this week.

In case you somehow haven’t heard, the New York Times reported on Sunday that the President paid only $750 in income tax in 2016 and 2017. During the economy section of last night’s debate, Biden brought this up as part of his opening two minutes, stating that the economy has developed the illusion of improvement because millionaires and billionaires are doing well whereas middle class Americans are not. This is known as the K-curve. 

Trump immediately objected, stating that he has paid millions in income taxes, and that we can look at his tax reports when they are finished. He followed this up with the statement that Joe Biden wrote the tax bill allowing him this severe tax break in the first place. 

4. The entire Race section of the debate.

In light of recent events, it was almost inevitable that this specific section of the debate go similarly to a car crash on the Atlantic City Expressway. To begin, Biden reminded the audience of the events in Charlottesville three years ago, in which, among other statements, Trump infamously said that there were “very fine people on both sides,” the sides being Black Lives Matter protesters and white supremacists. He also mentioned a recent peaceful protest in front of the White House, in which the protestors were tear-gassed by police so that the President could go to a church across the road to take a picture with the Bible. 

Obviously, this did not go well. Trump fired back, citing Biden’s 1994 crime bill, in which Biden supposedly referred to Black people as “super predators.” He continued that he has been endorsed by law enforcement agencies and organizations across the country, specifically referring to Florida, Texas, and Ohio organizations, as well as the sheriff in Portland, OR, a state which has been in turmoil for months. He followed up that cities run by Democrats have “no law and order.”

The debate transitioned to the discussions of systemic injustice, specifically that in the law enforcement and criminal justice system. The moderator asked Trump about his thoughts on Critical Race Theory as well as sensitivity training, which Trump recently denounced. He restated his denouncement calling them radical and racist, prompting Biden to flat out call him racist (Direct quote, actually, was “He’s racist!”). Trump asked viewers to look at violent crime rates in Oakland, New York City, and Chicago, which he claims have all gone up because of their largely democratic leadership.

Most notably, the President was asked if he would condemn white supremacists like those in Kenosha, WA, where recently Kyle Rittenhouse, white supremacist and murderer, killed multiple individuals. He initially said yes, but followed that statement with “Proud Boys, stand back and stand by,” which is not a condemnation. He proceeded to claim that this issue is more prevalent on the left.

5. Both Biden and Trump encouraged their supporters to exercise the right to vote; Biden emphasized that mail-in ballots are used every election and rarely cause fraud, while Trump reiterated that they corrupt the vote.

Both Trump and Biden encouraged citizens not only to vote but also to pay special attention to how they vote and what appears to be happening with their vote. Biden supported citizens using mail in ballots, and reminded the audience that approximately a quarter of Americans used mail in ballots during the midterm elections in 2018, and that they’ve been used by the military and other distant groups for years. Trump repeated that he believes they can open the door for unimaginable amounts of voter fraud, and said that even voting in person can cause similar fraud. He urged supporters to watch the polls and certify that their votes aren’t being thrown out.

Moving forward, we will be seeing two more Presidential Debates: one on October 15 and the other on October 22. We will also be seeing a Vice Presidential debate on October 7 between VP Mike Pence and Senator Kamala Harris. As this election season kicks into high gear, it is always worth the reminder to register to vote and hit the polls on November 3.