We’ve Reached the Breaking Point With Trump’s Lies on Display
The last presidential debate was proof of Trump’s failures — and his desperation to hold onto any credibility
The most civil 2020 presidential debate to date was delivered by a Black and Indigenous woman moderator, Kristen Welker, and a newly-introduced mute button to prevent candidates from interrupting each other. Looking slightly subdued, President Donald Trump debated his Democratic opponent Joe Biden on the topics of fighting Covid-19, American families, race in America, climate change, national security, and leadership, with Welker calmly and composedly asking difficult questions. One of only two Black women to ever moderate a presidential debate, Welker’s performance was so impressive that it gained her the title of “clear winner” of the debate on social media.
Despite Welker’s incisive performance, President Trump was determined to rewrite the last four years of his administration to his benefit. As usual, the lies are almost too many to keep up with: When asked about Covid-19, during a week where daily cases have peaked at 70,000 for the first time since July, Trump insisted that “we are rounding the turn,” saying a vaccine will be ready “within weeks.” Pressed by Welker on whether he could promise a new vaccine will be ready within weeks, Trump said he cannot; yet, he insists that, aside from Abraham Lincoln, “nobody has done more for the Black community” than him, meanwhile trying to wish away a pandemic where Black people are four times more likely to die than White people. Still, Trump assured the audience that he was the least racist person in the room, despite his long history of overt racism both inside and outside of the White House.
His reactionary approach to the debate failed to deliver a single coherent policy that would define his second term, opting to simply react to any criticism from his opponent with lies, conspiracy theories, and deflections.
Trump’s creation of alternate realities where he is the hero of everyone’s story is not new, but in a debate setup, the lack of outlining of actual policies for rhetorics of self-defense is frustrating. His reactionary approach to the debate failed to deliver a single coherent policy that would define his second term, opting to simply react to any criticism from his opponent with lies, conspiracy theories, and deflections. Biden, in turn, was left to dispel the lies Trump was telling, also massively failing to present policies that would set his bid for president apart. If voters were expecting to clarify Trump’s future plans for governance with this debate, they were sorely disappointed; as pointed out by Guardian analyst Malaika Jabali, it took 45 minutes for health care to be addressed in any significant way despite Covid-19 being at the top of the agenda.
The issue of race was only briefly discussed, but mostly in terms of personal guilt and no forward-looking solutions or reforms were even hinted at. Similarly, the question of immigration policies bounced back and forth between candidates with little to no clarity on what the future of the border looks like, despite Welker’s commendable insistence on asking the president how the 545 children who have been torn from their families due to Trumpian immigration policies will be reunited with their parents. We are at a critical point in history, where the right policies on climate change, mass incarceration, immigration, land ownership, workers’ rights, and health care could revolutionize the way we live and save us from climate disaster, and here stood two men who could help us see that future — but refused to do so.
Reckoning with the Democrats past policies and vowing to do better should have been central to Biden’s presidential bid, but Trump’s low level of rhetoric and narcissistic reputational management is a barrier to pushing these views forward.
And while Biden is certainly not even close to an ideal candidate — his records on race, immigration, and mass incarceration leave much to be desired, with some experts arguing that Obama’s immigration policies paved the way for the cruelty of the Trump administration — Trump’s self-delusions of grandeur uplift his candidacy into something that is at least not utterly chaotic or premised on a White supremacist personality cult. This difference between the two candidates should have been more emphasized by Biden through ownership of blame on the Democrats’ record on immigration and mass incarceration, and promises for more left-leaning, and structure-shifting policies that move away from criminalizing survival and border-crossing. Reckoning with the Democrats past policies and vowing to do better should have been central to Biden’s presidential bid, but Trump’s low level of rhetoric and narcissistic reputational management is a barrier to pushing these views forward. The constant need to fact-check and restate reality as Trump speaks to his base and creates alternate truths is an incredibly effective distraction.
It is disappointing that, even with a stellar moderator that asked the right questions, muted the right microphones, and insisted on the most pressing issues, voters were left with more questions than answers. Though Biden often shines because of Trump’s complete lack of competency, there is no doubt that if the Democrats win in November, they must be pushed left; we should not settle for mediocrity simply because Trump has conditioned us to incompetency and cruelty. The first step is voting him out.