The Presidential Debate: The Facts Behind the Chaos

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Marley Dias, Politics and Editorials Editor

Politics can be tough on all of us. Especially for Gen Z, this is the first time in many of our lives that we have become aware of the ways in which the decision made by the country’s government can affect us. Although we were infants and children during the Obama administration, we are now teens and young adults under the Trump administration, and this means a whole different world. 

Tuesday nights’ debate was a look into what the future may hold for us and for all Americans.  We got a bird’s eye view into the personalities of both our current and potential leaders. The 90-minute, unedited, exchange between President Donald Trump and Former Vice President Joe Biden, moderated by Fox News Anchor Chris Wallace was revealing and left us with a lot of information to process.

Here is a guide of the top three things that happened during the debate and why they should matter to us as young people. Each of these things will impact our lives today and in the future. 

Number 1: Amy Coney Barret and the Supreme Court Nomination

Amy Coney Barret is a 48-year-old former lawyer, law professor and appeals court judge for her more than 15-year career. After being a top student at Notre Dame, she went back to the college to teach law. In May 2017, President Trump nominated her for the Seventh Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, responsible for Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin. 

Judge Barret is a highly religious and objects to women’s choice when it comes to abortion. However, in her 2017 confirmation for her seat on the U.S. Appeals Court she said that, “It is never appropriate for a judge to impose that judge’s personal convictions whether they derive from faith or anywhere else,” 

If appointed to the Supreme Court, she could play a big part in the overturning of the Affordable Care Act(ACA). According to the Center for American Progress, the ACA has provided health care for 20 million people, and if repealed could have states lose $135 billion dollars in federal funding marketplaces, Medicaid, and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). 

During the debate Trump said that, “I think that she [Barret] will be outstanding, she’s going to be as good as anybody that has served on that court.” Barret would be replacing the seat once held by Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died only seven days before Trump’s decision to nominate Barrett.

Trump argues that, “we [The Republican Party] have the right to choose her [Judge Barret] and very few people knowingly would say otherwise — and by the way the Democrats, they wouldn’t even think about that, doing it. If they had — the only difference is they’d try and do it faster. There’s no way they would give it [Supreme Court Nomination] up.”

Biden rebutted, arguing instead that Trump’s goal to repeal the ACA would put millions of people at risk, including the more than 100 million people who have pre-existing conditions and cannot be discriminated against under this act. 

Trump challenged Biden with the claim that, “There aren’t 100 million people with pre-existing conditions. As far as the say is concerned, people already had their say.” According to the Department of Health and Human Services 2017 ASPE Brief there are over 130 million Americans with pre-existing conditions-all of whom are at risk of losing healthcare if ACA is repealed.

President Trump remained resolute in his position that this opportunity to fill the seat should be taken, and that Barrett is the right choice. If confirmed, she would be a great conduit for many of Trump’s ideas and future plans.

And this will definitely shape our lives going forward. 

Number 2: COVID-19 and The Global Pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic has taken the world by storm, with more 7 million infected in the United States and over 208,000 deaths. Many people are looking to President Trump for solutions and plans to eradicate this deadly virus. Yet the President has offered little way forward. 

After the debate, President Trump, First Lady Melania Trump, along with others on his staff and people who attended his recent events tested positive for COVID-19. At the time of this report, he is hospitalized at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.

During the debate Biden maintained that Trump has no plan to help Americans stay safe, pointing to evidence that although the United States has only 4 percent of cases, we have 20 percent of the all deaths from COVID-19. Biden holds the President accountable for these deaths because President Trump did not acknowledge that he knew COVID was happening and maintains that Trump has “been totally irresponsible the way in which he has handled the social distancing, and people wearing masks, basically encouraged them not to. And he’s a fool on that”. 

Although the CDC and the White House have “guidelines” on COVID-19 protocol, President Trump has not offered clear and consistent guidelines on how Americans can stay safe. Instead, the President has consistently made fun of those who wear masks, and he even mocked Vice President Biden during the debates over his precautionary measures. 

The President has argued that “People want their schools, no, people want their schools open. They don’t want to be shut down. They don’t want their state shut down. They want their restaurants… People want their places open. They want to get back to their lives.” 

Despite the President’s claim, according to an AP-NORC poll that, “Only about 1 in 10 Americans think daycare centers, preschools or K-12 schools should open this fall without restrictions.” It is clear that even though it would be nice to have our schools, restaurants, and states open, people are aware that there is more risk than reward.

Trump also claimed that, “Many of your Democrat governors said President Trump did a phenomenal job. We worked with the governors… The governor said I did a phenomenal job, most of them said that they attract people that would not be necessarily on my side, said that President Trump’s a phenomenal job.” 

According to a poll conducted by The Gallup, 63% of Americans feel as though their governors care about the safety and health of their community, while only 36% said the same for President Trump. 

In addition, Governor Cuomo of New York has consistently argued that Donald Trump has not done a good job of planning and preparation during this pandemic. During an April press briefing Cuomo said, “The state should this, the state should this, the state should this. Yes, well, what support have you [President Trump] given the states?… None. How can that even be?” 

“This is mayhem,” he said. “We need a coordinated approach between the federal government and the states.” 

Another Democratic governor, JB Pritzker of Illinois said that, “In the midst of a global pandemic, states were forced to play some sort of sick Hunger Games game show to save the lives of our people,” Prtizker said. “This is not a reality TV show. These are real things that are happening in the United States of America in the year 2020.”

He also said that he, “was so frustrated to see the president just sort of pronounce that, ‘Well, everybody should open their schools.’ Well, great. Please, please provide us with the kind of guidance that will help us do that,” Pritzker said. Trump is not as well received or liked in his response to COVID-19 as he claimed during the debate. 

Without a plan to protect our health, many of us will lose friends and family, and may be confined in our homes for months to come. 

Number 3: Race and Social Justice

The Black Lives Matter protests this year from the deaths of unarmed George Floyd, Ahmaud Aubrey and Breonna Taylor have led to continuous protests. It has been a grave, scary time for many Black people in America, concerned that the police are not protecting them and instead are opting to publicly lynch them. 

Biden has supported racist policies in his past. In 1977, Biden favored housing, but not busing integration, as it was more “orderly”. He said that, “Unless we do something about this, my children are going to grow up in a jungle, the jungle being a racial jungle with tensions built so high that it is going to explode at some point.” He has later apologized for these comments, but they stand out as a part of his racially insensitive history. 

During the debate when he was asked about whether he believed that systematic racism existed, Vice President Biden agreed it does. He also said that solving racial issues are, “about equity and equality. It’s about decency. It’s about the Constitution. And we have never walked away from trying to quite require equity for everyone, equality for the whole America.”

Trump’s responded to the same question by drawing a comparison between his administration and President Obama’s.

President Trump said, “During the Obama-Biden administration, there was tremendous division. There was hatred, you look at Ferguson, you look at, you go to very many places. Look at Oakland. Look what happened in Oakland. Look what happened in Baltimore. Look what happened- Frankly, it was more violent than what I’m even seeing now” 

This issue remains unresolved. The protests erupted after 4 police officers murdered Minneapolis man George Floyd and they were not charged with first degree murder.  The city was full of unrest and anguish for the continual failures of the United States Justice System to address racial injustice. 

Protests occurred all over the country, and many in Minnesota. Although some turned more violent with fires and police officers tear gassing protestors, the majority were non-violent. In the United States and abroad, protestors were united in their goal to fight for equal protection under the law for Black people. 

Rather than presenting his plans to fight racial injustice justice, President Trump wrote the following tweets. “I can’t stand back & watch this happen to a great American City, Minneapolis. A total lack of leadership. Either the very weak Radical Left Mayor, Jacob Frey, get his act together and bring the City under control, or I will send in the National Guard & get the job done right….. These THUGS are dishonoring the memory of George Floyd, and I won’t let that happen. Just spoke to Governor Tim Walz and told him that the Military is with him all the way. Any difficulty and we will assume control but, when the looting starts, the shooting starts. Thank you!” 

This extremely inflammatory statement angered thousands of protesters because the President gave no solution to helping the Black community, but rather labeled those who were protesting as “THUGS”. 

Moderator Chris Wallace also asked President Trump to denounce white supremacy, and Trump’s response caused shock to those watching the debate. President Trump said, “Proud Boys, stand back and stand by. But I’ll tell you what, 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”.

According to their website the Proud Boys are “A men’s organization founded in 2016 by Vice Media co-founder Gavin McInnes. McInnes has described the Proud Boys as a pro-Western fraternal organization for men who refuse to apologize for creating the modern world; aka Western Chauvinists.”

In 2018, the FBI called the Proud Boys an extremist group with tiesto white nationalism, that Proud Boy members have contributed to escalating violent activities at political rallies held on college campuses and in cities like Charlottesville, Portland, Oregon, and Seattle, Washington.

The President did not denounce white supremacy, and instead placed the blame on Democrats rather than addressing the problem as a whole. 

The phrase “stand by” is defined as “support or remain loyal to (someone), typically in a time of need and to be ready to deal or assist with something”. The refusal to denounce white supremacy  makes it seem as though President Trump wants white supremacist groups to remain loyal to him, and be ready to obstruct voting, fight back against others, and spread white nationalism across the country.

The Proud Boys saw President Trump’s message of support and immediately  started selling “Proud Boys Matter” and “Stand Back and Stand By” shirts on their website.  

Racial tensions remain high in the United States and the statements made during the debate further exacerbated these issues. While our generation continues to push for racial harmony it is clear that our political leaders are not in consensus about what it will take to move our country toward this goal. 

These three topics should matter to you as they are issues of safety, honesty, and equity. Our future as a nation weighs heavily on our ability to protect our freedoms and rights. 

Although this is only one of many more important discussions that will happen before the election, it is critical that we focus on what is happening at federal and local levels. Please vote if you are able to, and help protect our democracy.