BJU students packed the Activity Center on Thursday Sept. 29 to watch President Donald Trump and former vice president Joe Biden debate major political issues in the first U.S. presidential debate of 2020. Chris Wallace, the anchor of Fox News Sunday, moderated the debate and asked questions about a variety of topics, including the Supreme Court, climate change and the electoral process.
One of the most prominent topics of the debate and one that was brought up continually was the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Biden criticized Trump’s handling of the pandemic, arguing that Trump had been negligent and lacked decisive action. Biden asserted that Trump is responsible for over 200,000 deaths, a steep increase in unemployment and a devastated economy due to his actions during the pandemic.
Trump responded by stating that if Biden’s plan for the pandemic had been followed, many more deaths would have occurred.
“You didn’t think we should’ve closed the country,” Trump said. “You wouldn’t have closed it for another two months. I closed the country . . . Dr. Fauci said, ‘President Trump saved thousands of lives.'”
Wallace moved the debate to economics, asking each candidate for his views on reopening businesses and schools after the national shutdown that occurred due to COVID-19.
Biden argued that Trump did not have a plan for reopening the economy, saying that businesses and schools needed more funds and proper sanitation tools before they could reopen again. Biden also said Trump refused to meet with other politicians to establish a plan.
“Nancy Pelosi and Charles Schumer have a plan,” Biden said. “He won’t even meet with them.”
Trump argued that Biden wants to shut down the country again, an action which he said would hurt the economy more than reopening would.
“Look at certain states that have been shut down,” Trump said. “Those states are not doing well. And [Biden] wants to shut down the whole country.”
Another major topic of debate was the protests that have been raging through American cities.
Trump accused Biden of lacking support from law enforcement agencies.
“You can’t even say the words ‘law enforcement,’” Trump said. “Because if you say those words, you’re going to lose all your radical left supporters.”
However, Biden accused Trump of instigating and worsening civil unrest by inflaming hatred and division in the American people. Biden recalled the incident on June 1 when Trump had protesters dispersed with tear gas before walking through the area the crowd was occupying to a church, where he posed with a Bible.
“This man [Trump] is the savior of African Americans? This man cares at all?” Biden said. “This man has done virtually nothing.”
Trump retorted by recalling the controversial 1994 crime bill Biden helped write, which critics said was a key factor in the mass incarceration of Black Americans in the 1990s.
“You called them, African Americans, ‘super predators,’” Trump said. “You have treated the African American community [and] the Black community about as bad as anybody in this country.”
The last issue the candidates both addressed was the electoral process itself. Wallace asked both candidates if they would encourage their supporters to refrain from civil unrest and if they themselves would refrain from declaring victory until the election results could be independently verified.
Trump declined to answer the question and repeated his previous public statements that the mail-in voting process is rife with fraud, stating that ballots were being thrown out or otherwise tampered with. Trump encouraged voters to be hypervigilant in ensuring their vote is counted.
“I am urging my supporters to go into the polls and watch very carefully,” Trump said. “Because that’s what needs to happen.” Biden agreed and urged the viewers to go out and cast their vote to ensure a legitimate election.
“Show up and vote,” Biden said. “You will determine the outcome of this election. If you’re able to vote early in your state, vote early. If you’re able to vote in person, vote in person. Vote whatever way is the best way for you.”
After the debate, many viewers across America weighed in on who they thought won. According to a post-debate poll by CNN, 60% of debate watchers said Biden won, 28% said Trump won, 5% said both did equally well and 7% said neither won or had no opinion. CBS reported in their post-debate poll that 48% of debate watches thought Biden won, 41% thought Trump won and 10% called it a tie.
Three days after the debate on Friday, Oct. 2, President Trump announced on Twitter that he and First Lady Melania Trump had both tested positive for COVID-19. The president was taken to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center for treatment that afternoon. Biden was also tested for the virus and tested negative. Trump returned to the White House Oct. 5.