What Happened during the First Presidential Debate?

Written By: Lily Tender

US President Donald Trump (L) and Democratic Presidential candidate and former US Vice President Joe Biden exchange arguments during the first presidential debate at Case Western Reserve University and Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio, on September 29, 2020. (Photo by Jim WATSON / AFP) (Photo by JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images)

On Sept. 29, 2020, President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden took to the stage for their first presidential debate. During the 90-minute long back-and-forth between the 2020 presidential candidates, topics like the coronavirus, climate change, and white supremacy were brought to the table, and both candidates gave a pretty unforgettable performance. Most people watching the debate would agree on one thing. Political views aside, the debate was chaotic and stressful, and not just for the candidates or Moderator Chris Wallace of Fox News, but for the American public. From Biden telling Trump to shut up to Trump insulting Biden’s deceased son, there is much to unpack about this debate. Here is your guide to some of the major things that happened during the first presidential debate of 2020, their implications, and what will happen next.

One of the most important issues discussed to the general public was COVID-19. Trump, who has taken a stance that masks are pointless, held rallies indoors with thousands of people, and repeatedly denied the seriousness of the disease, creates a stark contrast to Biden’s belief that masks are necessary, that we need to shut down states, and who has been holding social distanced rallies. When asked why the American people should trust either candidate with how they plan to handle COVID-19, Biden responded by saying “Do you believe for a moment what he’s telling you in light of all the lies he’s told you about the whole issue relating to COVID? He still hasn’t even acknowledged that he knew this was happening — knew how dangerous it would be back in February — and he didn’t even tell you,” according to CNBC. 

One of the most shocking, and equally terrifying conversations of the night revolved around white supremacy. When Trump was asked to condemn white supremacist groups, he did not. Instead, he said: “Proud Boys – Stand back, stand by, but I’ll tell you what, somebody’s got to do something about Antifa and the left because this is not a right-wing problem… This is a left-wing problem.” For context, the Proud Boys, as described by the SPLCU, “ regularly spout white nationalist memes and maintain affiliations with known extremists. They are known for anti-Muslim and misogynistic rhetoric. Proud Boys have appeared alongside other hate groups at extremist gatherings, like the ‘Unite the Right’ rally in Charlottesville.” The SPCLU has also designated the Proud Boys as a hate group. 

Climate change was also discussed at the debate where Trump denied the impact of global warming and took the stance of supporting electric vehicles and planting trees. Biden however backtracked on his campaign’s stance on climate change saying he does not support the green new deal, which is progressive legislation designed to address climate change and economic inequality. This was shocking as it goes against the previously stated beliefs of his campaign.

Whether you are voting for Biden or Trump in the 2020 election, it seems pretty unanimous that this debate was chaotic and unpresidential. If you did not get a chance to watch it, you should try to find some time to do so. The 90 minutes of arguing, interrupting, insults, and answering questions are important for every American to witness.

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