- The equanimity that former Vice President Biden displayed during the debate is admirable and inspiring. His composure amid constant disruption by the President spoke volumes.
As I finished watching the first presidential debate of the 2020 election cycle, only one word can explain how I feel: enraged. I went into this debate expecting it to be infuriating, but I did not expect it to be as chaotic as it actually was. I went into this debate hoping to learn more about the nuances in the candidates’ positions on the pressing issues in this country today, but it only further reminded me of the gravity of the political divide we see today. I went into this debate hoping for at least some substantive discussion on what the individual policy platforms and stances were, but I came out having learned nothing new.
I started by taking notes of each of the two candidates’ answers, President Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden, to the questions posed by moderator Chris Wallace. I had even created a template beforehand to help me organize my notes: a table with three columns and seven rows to track the topics, questions, and answers given by the two candidates. But within the first couple of minutes of the debate, I realized that I didn’t have the resources required to keep track of the answer given how many times President Trump interrupted the former Vice President and the moderator.
As the Boston Globe reported , there was a moment during a discussion about the healthcare system in this country today, where President Trump interrupted the former Vice President “more than ten times during a 3-minute exchange.” The debate quickly devolved into a chaotic onslaught of quips and jabs and constant disruption. Even with all this, I tried to take notes as thoroughly as possible to keep track of any substantive discussions between the two politicians. And very soon, I was left with a Google document with many words that made no sense, neither on the page, it was typed on nor on stage, it was stated on.
And now let me be clear, last night President Trump showed us that he is unquestionably incapable of being presidential. If the constant interruption and jeering during most of former Vice President Biden’s responses were not enough evidence of this, his multiple, completely unsubstantiated claims should be. Let’s take a look at a couple of President Trump’s unsupported claims regarding the healthcare situation in America today. Below is the transcript of a brief interchange between the President and Wallace:
President Trump: Well, first of all, I guess I’m debating you, not him, but that’s okay. I’m not surprised. Let me just tell you something. There’s nothing symbolic. I’m cutting drug prices. I’m going with Favored Nations, which no President has the courage to do because you’re going against big pharma. Drug prices will be coming down 80 or 90%. You could have done it during your 47 year period in government, but you didn’t do it. Nobody’s done it. So we’re cutting healthcare.
Chris Wallace: What about pre-existing conditions?
President Trump: All of the things that we’ve done.
Former Vice President Biden: He has not done healthcare.
President Trump: I’ll give you an example. Insulin, it was destroying families, destroying people, the cost. I’m getting it for so cheap it’s like water, you want to know the truth. So cheap. Take a look at all of the drugs that we’re doing. Prescription drug prices, we’re going to allow our Governors now to go to other countries to buy drugs because when they paid just a tiny fraction of what we do.
None of these claims have any evidence to suggest that they could even remotely be true. In actuality, the country’s healthcare system is in shambles and a lot needs to be done before it can effectively serve those who need the most help. Not to mention, President Trump’s answers to questions about alternatives to the Affordable Care Act were unresponsive and borderline inarticulate. Not only has the process of gutting the Affordable Care Act been well underway for years now, but there has also been minimal enthusiasm by both the legislative and executive branches to roll out an alternative.
In a country that is being ravaged by the ramifications of ineffective leadership during a global pandemic, this situation is horrendous. We are literally waiting on the Supreme Court to review the constitutionality of the ACA (which the Court has already done in 2012 ) during its upcoming term to even talk about the healthcare problem in America. But I digress.
Even though I’d like to keep highlighting similar examples of President Trump dodging the question, lying to get out of one, I will refrain from doing so for the sake of my own and your sanity. I want to pivot to something that’s slightly more focused on one aspect of the characters of the candidates. As I spoke to one of my closest friends about the debate, she told me how shocking it was to see the former Vice President , who has struggled with and overcome a stuttering problem , be treated like that on stage. To be bullied like that in front of millions of people is not a comfortable situation for anybody, let alone someone who has overcome a speech disorder.
And as I have heard from my friend, the equanimity that former Vice President Biden displayed during the debate is incredibly admirable and inspiring. Even though it may not have seemed like he stood up to the President, his composure amid constant disruption by the President spoke volumes. Instead of caving in to the many ad hominem attacks that are so representative of President Trump’s rhetoric, the former Vice President spoke into the camera to the American people to urge us to see what’s right in front of us and vote.
Overall, the debate tonight has only reinforced the idea that the President is a bully and is someone who has gone through his time in the Oval Office using intimidation tactics and strong-arming to get what he wants. The Oval Office and the Executive’s role is one that exudes eloquence, poise, and integrity. Tonight, the whole nation witnessed the President lying about his tax records, lying about the number of Covid-19 related deaths, failing to condemn white supremacists and militias, and urging his supporters to go to the polls to act as poll watchers.
He has questioned the integrity of the election system in this country time and time again and implied that he will not accept the results of this election. And it’s our hands to use the power that we have to create the change we want to see. So, please get out and vote this election cycle. Request mail-in-ballots. Take the time to learn about local and state propositions. Use your state’s Voter’s Guide to get more information before election day. Voting is your right, and I strongly urge you to exercise it this November.
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Gowri Nayar is a recent graduate of the University of California, Berkeley, and is interested in pursuing a career in the legal field, with a special emphasis on constitutional law and civil liberties. Her undergraduate education was mainly focused on courses that helped her understand the complex ways in which various hierarchies and systems of domination operate with our society today. She hopes to be able to use her unique perspective as a first-generation South-Asian immigrant and as a daughter of a single parent, to make a positive and meaningful impact in her community.