Your Official Debate Recap

Writer: Lauren Cohn

With the presidential election just days aways, voters should hopefully already have a pretty good idea of how they plan on voting. After two presidential debates, two competing town halls, and one vice presidential debate, there’s been ample opportunity to learn about the candidates and make informed decisions. For anyone who hasn’t watched the debates, I recommend you do so; if not for the actual content of the candidates’ policy proposals, then so that all the jokes on SNL actually make sense. That being said, it’s not too late to learn about the candidates for anyone who may still be undecided. So, if you aren’t in the mood to rewatch hours of interruptions and question dodging, take a look at our official debate recap, highlighting all the important moments and all the ridiculously unimportant ones too.

There were two presidential debates between Trump and Biden, one vice presidential debate between Pence and Harris, and two separate town halls for the presidential candidates that aired at the exact same time.

First presidential debate:

  • Trump didn’t hold back, and at certain points, he took it a little too far.
  • Biden shared a compassionate and sincere moment with the American people after Trump criticized his son’s struggles with addiction by looking in the camera and honestly reflecting, “My son, like a lot of people you know at home, he had a drug problem… He’s overtaken it. He’s fixed it. He’s worked on it. And I’m proud of him.”
  • Trump did not explicitly denounce white supremacy when asked by moderator, Chris Wallace, instead telling a far-right extremist group, Proud Boys, to “stand back and stand by”. Interestingly, he denounced what he refers to as the “radical left”.
  • Biden did not answer the question of court-packing in the case that Judge Amy Coney Barrett is confirmed to the Supreme Court. Court-packing is the endeavor that members of the Democratic party have discussed as a response to the now 6-3 ratio of supreme court judges by adding additional justices to balance the federal judiciary. 
  • Biden attacked Trump’s late and irresponsible response to the COVID-19 pandemic, stating, “a lot of people died, and a lot more are gonna die unless he gets a lot smarter, a lot quicker.” Trump, alternately, assured viewers that it wouldn’t be long until a vaccine is widely available. Trump also mocked Biden for wearing masks, saying, “I don’t wear masks like him. Every time you see him, he’s got a mask.”
  • Trump fixated on Hunter Biden’s alleged interactions with Russia and returned to the issue after Biden asserted that “this is not about my family or his family, this is about your family — the American people,”
  • Trump continued to assert that the election will feature significant amounts of fraud, and did not speak on whether or not he would encourage his supporters to be peaceful if election results are unclear
  • On the subject of the supreme court, Biden pointed out the hypocrisy in confirming a new judge and pivoted into a discussion about the uncertainty of the Affordable Care Act enacted in 2010 by the Obama administration and its protections for those with preexisting conditions. He also discussed the potential fate of Roe v. Wade
  • Biden did not keep his lack of respect for Trump to himself, getting in various quips like, “will you shut up, man?” and calling him a clown.

BIGGEST TAKEAWAY: The debate was a disaster, doing nothing to truly reach that middle section of voters each candidate needs to persuade. Interruptions and yelling made it virtually impossible to understand the goals of either candidate.

First Vice-presidential debate:

  • There was a fly on Pence’s head for several minutes, which instantly became a joke, with the Biden campaign even selling fly swatters that state, “truth over flies”. Clever.
  • The last question came from an 8th grader asking about unity amidst such great political division. While Pence criticized the media for a false portrayal, Harris took the time to discuss some moments that highlight this division and promote Biden as the candidate who can unite the people.
  • When asked whether Breonna Taylor received the justice she deserved, Pence believed that it had been served in her case and that saying that “law enforcement has an implicit bias against minorities is a great insult to the men and women who serve in law enforcement.”
  • Harris did not answer the question of court-packing, similar to Biden did last week
  • Pence blames China for the Coronavirus pandemic, while Harris blames Trump’s response for all of the American lives lost
  • Harris says that Trump and Pence are “coming for” anyone with preexisting conditions
  • Harris calls the Trump administration’s handling of the pandemic “the greatest failure of any presidential administration in the history of our country” and emphasized how Trump minimized the seriousness of it early on.
  • While Pence cut off Harris, she quipped back, “Mr. Vice President– I’m speaking”

BIGGEST TAKEAWAY: The fly on Pence’s head took over any discussion of the actual debate, turning otherwise valuable conversations about the candidates’ respective policy goals into memes.

Town Halls

  • The presidential debates morphed into two competing town halls after Trump refused to engage in a virtual town hall with Biden due to COVID concerns and Biden planned an individual time with ABC. Concerns over health followed Trump’s positive COVID diagnosis.
  • After the host of the town hall with Trump, Savannah Guthrie, asked about the conspiracy theory, QAnon, Trump refused to denounce it, saying, “I know nothing about it. I do know that they are very much against pedophilia”. The theory describes an ongoing battle between Trump and a “deep state” child sex trafficking ring run by Democrats. He instead pivoted to a discussion about antifa and the “radical left”
  • Biden gave a clearer answer on his stance on court packing, saying, “I’m not a fan, but it depends on how this turns out”. He said that he would indicate his position before election day.
  • Biden called his support for a decades-old crime bill blamed for increasing incarceration a mistake. He defended parts of the legislation like drug courts, but said he regretted what the states did locally
  • When asked by the host, Trump did not really know if he had been tested for COVID before the first debate
  • Biden’s town hall was 90 minutes while Trump’s town hall was only an hour
  • Biden spent another half hour after his town hall talking directly to the people there, continuing to answer questions from those who didn’t  initially get the opportunity
  • Trump suggested that the reports that reveal he has more than $400 million in debt are wrong
  • Biden responded to a question about foreign policy, saying that “America first has made America alone”
  • A woman sitting right behind Trump continued to nod her head at every answer in an almost cartoonish way, instantly becoming a meme
  • A lady flirted with Trump, complimenting his smile, before asking her question

BIGGEST TAKEAWAY: There was a very clear and stark difference between the two town halls: a calm and concise town hall with Biden and a loud and slightly chaotic one with Trump

Second Presidential Debate

  • Biden and Trump were much more restrained than the first time.Both their microphones were muted during the other candidate’s two minute response, preventing them from speaking over each other and promoting calm attacks 
  • COVID took center stage, with Trump saying that a vaccine would be ready “in weeks” and using his own experience with the virus to support the power of new drugs
  • Instead of focusing on his own treatment of undocumented immigrants and the separation of children, Trump talked about the Obama administration’s creation of the detention facilities
  • Trump responded to an attack from Biden by saying that the children separated from their parents are “so well taken care of” in “facilities that are so clean”
  • Trump touted his criminal justice reform and used this to attack Biden’s initial support of the crime bill in the 90s that led to a sharp increase in the number of black Americans in prisons.
  • Trump repeatedly emphasized how he has accomplished more during his 4 years as president than Biden has in 47 years
  • While Trump called himself the “least racist person in the room”, Biden referred to him has “one of the most racist presidents”

BIGGEST TAKEAWAY: As the last opportunity to hear the candidates talk about their policies in such a manner, the last debate highlighted how crucial it is to vote in November regardless of any perceived fraudulence or civil unrest.

Please, please, please vote by or on November 3rd if you can!!! Regardless of outcome, November 4th scares me because of the intense division of our country over the past four years. This may be one of the most important elections of our lifetime, especially as young adults who will have to grow up in this different and new climate. Nevertheless, if we all come together to exercise our right to vote, we can all come together to face any challenges that will inevitably come our way in the last few months of the year. 

For voting information and resources specific to Fulton County, visit this website, created by me and Tess Berman!

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