The first presidential debate between Trump and Joe Biden unraveled into an ugly scuffle as Trump bullied and interrupted Mr. Biden nearly every time he spoke and the former vice president denounced him as a “clown” and told him to “shut up.”
CLEVELAND, Ohio (Times Media Mexico) – The first of three American Presidential Debates pitted Democratic candidate Joe Biden against Republican incumbent Donald J. Trump. The debate was moderated by Fox News’ Chris Wallace, who posed a number of questions ranging from the controversy over filling the Supreme Court vacancy to racial justice and the Covid-19 pandemic.
Throughout, Trump and Biden’s discourse was fraught with interruptions and name-calling, making it hard for viewers to follow and identify the candidates’ positions. Though the polarization of political ideologies between Trump and Biden meant that there weren’t many new ideas presented, there are a few significant takeaways from Tuesday’s debate.
From the opening questions, Trump made it clear that he had no intention of sticking to the format he had previously agreed to. Though his constant interruptions eliminated any air of professionalism, they clearly had an effect on Biden, who seemed frustrated and angry to the point of saying, “will you just shut up, man?”. The first half of the debate consequently felt like less of an actual exchange of ideas and more like a verbal cacophony, eventually degrading into attacks on Biden’s intelligence and Trump arguing with Wallace while the moderator tried to ask his questions. For most viewers, this tit-for-tat detracted from the appeal of either candidate, and exemplified the dramatic political polarization and animosity to be found in the United States at the present time. In any case though, Trump’s aggressive domination of the debate, good or bad, made it difficult for Biden to clearly articulate his positions, and left him floundering in defense of ever-outlandish accusations.
Despite being constantly interrupted, Biden had been coached to keep his responses centered on the country, and consistently made a visual effort to look straight into the camera, at the viewers, while Trump spent most of the debate staring at and talking directly to Biden.
Most stark – even in an encounter characterized by deep division and personal animosity – were differences on the integrity of the election result and race. On the former, Trump cast unending (and independently uncorroborated) doubt on the election, to the point of refusing to agree to accept its result, and on the latter he markedly refused to dissociate himself from white supremacist groups, citing that the real problem was in fact leftist sub-terrorist organizations. “It’s a fact,” was a phrase Trump used un-ironically at various points in the debate, whereas in reality it often seemed as though facts had been outlawed altogether from the event.
The most important aspect of the encounter, however, was revealed not in the success of Biden’s rhetoric, but rather the nakedness of Trump’s. While many of Trump’s responses were focused on associating Biden with the far-left and portraying him as a failed politician (a historically successful tactic for Trump), his attacks on Biden’s family were unprecedented in a country which traditionally holds great store by public decorum.
Overall, the debate was less of an expression of Trump and Biden’s policy ideas, and more of an example of their character and the nature of the race to come. Trump was aggressive, personal, and dismissive of procedure and decorum, while Biden attempted to stick to his message of unity in the face of Trump’s rhetoric and interference.
For most voters, the debates change nothing – very few Americans are undecided in this race – but they will test the strength of Biden’s conviction and his ability to stand up to the incumbent, real and perceived.
On the night of the first debate, everything touched was tainted, and in the self-proclaimed “most important free nation on earth”, the biggest loser was democracy itself.
For Times Media Mexico
Kieran Hadley in Idaho
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