Final presidential debate gives voters better insights into candidates’ platforms

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Photo by Benjamin Wells

Both candidates were spaced 12 feet apart at Thursday’s debate.

NBC news correspondent Kristin Welker moderated the second and final presidential debate from Belmont University in Tennessee Oct. 22. President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden squared off after a heated first debate.

Because of the nature of the previous presidential debate, the Commission on Presidential Debates added a rule that both candidates had two minutes of time to talk with the other candidate’s mic muted. Following the two-minute opening statements, both candidates had their mics unmuted, but were still expected not to talk over one another. 

As of Thursday night, 15 million Americans had already submitted their ballots via absentee or early voting. Trump also is currently behind in national polls and battleground states, including Wisconsin by five points, according to the most recent Marquette Law School poll.

The first topic brought up was COVID-19 and how each of the candidates would respond in the next four years. The coronavirus has killed over 225,000 Americans since March of this year.

“This is a worldwide problem,” Trump said. “But I have been congratulated by many countries in terms of what we’ve been able to do.”

Trump cited that the mortality rate in the United States is going down and that a vaccine should be ready within weeks, and if not, by the end of this year. However, experts like Dr. Anthony Fauci are saying that the distribution of a vaccine wouldn’t be ready until well into 2021 and that distancing and mask-wearing would still be in effect into 2022.

“We’re rounding the corner … it’ll go away,” Trump said.

But the former vice president shamed Trump for his response, which has been criticized by his opponents.

“Anyone who’s responsible for that many deaths should not remain as president of the United States of America,” Biden said.

Biden said that more Americans are expected to die between now and the end of the year, along with a “dark winter” for the pandemic.

Biden said if elected, he would encourage nationwide mask-wearing, rapid testing and set up national standards for social distancing and mask-wearing for opening schools and businesses, along with providing them with financial resources to remain open.

“I will take care of this, I will end this, and I will make sure we will have a plan,” Biden said.

Biden said if a vaccine is produced and ready for distribution by the end of this year, he would wait for scientists to approve it to ensure the safety of other American citizens.

Trump then slammed Biden for wanting to shut down the nation, saying that it would be detrimental to the economy. He also blamed China for the pandemic, something he has done numerous times.

“We can’t close our nation, or we’re not going to have a nation,” Trump said.

In a message to parents and teachers who are concerned about the reopening of schools, Trump said he wanted to keep schools opening up, despite public school systems across the nation moving to fully online formats for the rest of the year.

Biden then criticized Trump for having knowledge of the pandemic in January and choosing not to act because he didn’t want the American population to worry.

“He went on record and said … he knew how dangerous it was, but he didn’t tell us because he didn’t want (us) to panic,” Biden said.

The Associated Press broke the news Oct. 21 that Iran had been interfering with this year’s election in multiple battleground states by sending threatening messages to Democratic voters. This national security threat was brought up to both candidates.

“Any country … that interferes with our election will pay a price,” Biden said. “They’re affecting (American) sovereignty.”

Biden came after Trump for refusing to call out Russia, which interfered in the 2016 election.

In 2018, 13 Russians were charged with meddling in the 2016 presidential election by running a social media campaign toward the benefit of Donald Trump.

Trump came after Hunter Biden who is this for receiving $3.5 million from Russia, though Biden said he had never taken “a single penny” from any foreign country. Whether or not Hunter Biden received funds from a foreign source remains unknown.

When pressed on his tax returns and his involvement with foreign nations, Trump said he planned to reveal his taxes “as soon as he can.”

“I don’t make money from China, (Biden) does, I don’t make money from Ukraine, (Biden) does … I was put through a phony witch hunt,” Trump said.

The claim that Biden has received money from foreign nations lacks context and has yet to be proven true.

However, according to the New York Times, Trump has been proven to be involved with Ukraine, related to paying money to the nation to “investigate” the Biden campaign. This scandal lead to his impeachment earlier this year.

Following discussions on national security, American families and their health care was next on the docket.

Currently, the Affordable Care Act covers over 20 million Americans. The goal of the Affordable Care Act was to make health insurance available to more people who can’t afford private health insurance. President Trump is attempting to overturn the Affordable Care Act in the Supreme Court.

“What we’d like to do is terminate Obamacare … and come up with a brand new beautiful health care,” Trump said.

President Trump has yet to elaborate on what the “brand new beautiful healthcare” is.

Biden believed that the Affordable Care Act should be expanded and built upon. However, if the Supreme Court overrules the Affordable Care Act, Biden planned to replace it with another option: Bidencare.

The Biden health care plan involves giving competition to privatized health insurance companies and reduce premiums and drug prices by working with Medicare.

Biden has stated multiple times that he doesn’t want to eliminate private health care, a type of health care that covers a majority of Americans according to the U.S. Census website. Biden was also the only Democratic candidate during the primaries who supported a privatized healthcare system.

“We’re going to make sure we’re going to be in a system that protects pre-existing conditions,” Biden said. “People deserve to have affordable health care, period … (Trump) is never going to come up with a plan.”

President Trump was then asked about the issue of a stalemated coronavirus relief bill, which he blamed on Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Democrats in Congress. 

“Nancy Pelosi doesn’t want to approve anything because she’d love to have some victories on November 3 … we are ready, willing and waiting to do something,” Trump said.

Following the discussion on health care and the economy, immigration was brought up.

The situation at the U.S.-Mexico border was a basis for Trump’s campaign in 2016. Since his election, families have been detained and children have been put in cages in detainment centers at the border. More than 500 children remain separated from their parents.

Trump said he had a plan on how to reunite these children with their families but did not elaborate. He did say, however, that most of these children are brought over by human traffickers, gangs and drug cartels.

“These 500 plus kids came with parents, they separated them at the border to make it a disincentive to come here to begin with,” said Biden. “It’s not coyotes that brought them over, it was their parents. It makes us a laughing stock and violates every notion of who we are as a nation.”

Biden said he would send a pathway to citizenship for 11 million undocumented immigrants to Congress within the first 10 days in office.

The heated discussion on immigration led to the discussion of race in America.

In speaking directly to parents who are people of color, Trump said he had done more for Black people since Abraham Lincoln, a claim he has made multiple times.

Trump then claimed he was the “least racist person in the room.”

Biden followed up and said Trump was the most racist president America has ever had.

He also talked about fundamentally changing the prison system in order to provide support over punishment for people accused of drug crimes.

After race came the issue of climate change. Each candidate was able to provide their response to the current climate crisis that is happening worldwide.

Trump said that the United States has had the best carbon emission numbers in 35 years, criticized China, India and Russia for having “filthy” air and explained the Paris Climate Accord withdrawal was because of the risk to the economy.

The Paris Climate Accord is a United Nations agreement to organize toward a global initiative against climate change.

“We have done an incredible job environmentally, we have the cleanest air and the cleanest water,” Trump said.

But Biden felt the United States could do more.

“Climate change … is an existential threat to humanity, we have a moral obligation to do it,” Biden said. “We’re going to pass the point of no return in 8-10 years.”

Biden said that he was able to get environmental agencies and people worried about jobs to approve his climate plan.

His plan involved creating green infrastructure that will clean the environment and create 18.6 million jobs and one trillion dollars in economic growth.

Both candidates were able to present their ideas in a more regulated fashion than the first debate, and the American people will take to the polls in the middle of a pandemic to vote for the future of their nation Nov. 3

This story was written by Benjamin Wells. He can be reached at benjamin.wells@marquette.edu.