Well, that was certainly different. And it was very much welcomed. It's amazing how much can be taken from a debate when it has order, structure, respect, and dialogue.
Unfortunately, we had to resort to the cage match rules of debate - muting mics. Although, there were many moments where that should have happened as well and it didn't. Nonetheless, as stated, we'll take what we got.
In the final 2020 Presidential Debate, America got the best debate of this election season between President Donald Trump and former Vice President, Joe Biden. But let's not get crazy, this was nowhere near an encounter that anyone will talk about - and for that reason, I think it hurt the President in regards to election ramifications. Just my opinion.
Coming into this debate, President Trump was behind on the early polls - and of course, that's if you resign yourself to the legitimacy of said polls. 2016 would like to have a word with you if you do. However, I felt Trump needed a hail mary performance to undo the last debate and fill what has been missing in his campaign compared to 2016. He's enduring lagging polls, has taken several hits to what once was a mojo of not being a politician (more on that to come), and is having is grip on the super important demographic that gave him the White House -white suburban women - slip away.
Going into this, Biden needed to be what he was in the first debate, and really, what he's been asked to do throughout his entire campaign - stay solid, don't fall into Trump traps, and keep up. He's playing defense, which is so incredibly odd considering the dynamics of the situation - Trump looking for re-election.
So yeah, Biden had to be good enough to avoid a landslide. And Trump needed to run the score up if he got a lead in this one.
Truthfully, in my notes, I have this one as a draw. No, really, a draw. I thought Biden was exactly that - solid, probably even less so than the first debate. He was rocked various times (big time thoughts coming), and also lost credibility in his answers as the debate progressed.
Trump resorted to bumper sticker answers and his greatest hits responses on the topics he has historically performed lousy on - Coronavirus, Racism, and Immigration. However, despite those moments, he landed some late-round blows that I thought got him right back into it. He finished the discussion very strongly.
So yeah, it's a draw. I know a cop-out.
Yet, there is an overwhelming part of me that knows this country has already made its decision. In fact, there are millions of votes already in the bank. So this debate came a little too late. And for Trump, this was what he should have brought to the first debate.
Here are a few other thoughts on the final stop for debate season in 2020:
- As debate moderator, Kristen Walker was amazing. Yes, she benefited from the privilege of experience and having modifications put in place to get something - anything! - out of this debate season, however, she really held the bull by the horns in specific moments. Sir, I'm moving on! I'm moving on! She had amazing questions, had a few moments of fact-checked follow-ups, and kept a pace that was easy for the viewer.
A favorite of mine was her holding the President to the fire in regards to a stimulus package discussion: But sir, YOU are the President of the United States!
I'm pretty sure Chris Wallace is somewhere shaking with envy, maybe even a little salty on what should have been his moment in the first debate. And yeah, I was correct - Wallace be mad, yo.
My only criticism of Walker was her constant giving into the President who needed the last rebuttal on ALL topics being covered. Again, it's a smart tactic by Trump as he got away with it, but that should have been stopped after several attempts.
- Both men went suuuuuuuuuper traditional and cliche with the power suits and sporting the tie color of their respective political party. Blah...
- Trump started off this debate awfully. It says more about his campaign than anything else. The Coronavirus question automatically queues Trump into his usual greatest hits - closed the border to China, closed the border to Europe, build ventilators, blue states high, red states open and low, yada, yada, yada.
It's become so bad that viewers know what he will say once they hear the question. It's even worse when in scenarios and questions provoking future policy or plans, the President evades it with those same tired greatest hits that are sure to get his base excited but alienate and frustrate everyone else.
His inability to project forward in rhetoric has been immensely frustrating, and in a debate setting - especially, if points were awarded (as they were in my notes) - creates a bad round and an even worse optic. Especially, when your answer is the same tired jargon.
Look, look, we had to shut down the greatest economy in the world...cue the band!
- What has been overwhelmingly odd about this debate season has been watching the usual advantage the incumbent President has in re-election debate seasons NOT be exploited! Typically, argument strategies revolve around building continuation pathos for Americans, reminders of solid plans, and of course, future plans to come which build on that continuation.
From the moment debate season began, Trump has felt like the person doing the chasing. His sudden reverting of positioning himself as the anti-politician was a great idea in 2016 - and really, was damn credible - but comes off VERY disingenuous in 2020 after almost four years of service. Especially, when he is trying to do it this late in the game.
It's hard to harshly paint Biden as "just another politician" while dodging questions on tax returns or policy plans.
From research, much of this is Trump ignoring his debate prep and advisors. But I truly believe if he stayed away from the image of being anti-politician, and really played up the importance for continuation - despite poor numbers of Americans trusting him with the Pandemic - he would have a better shot. He's playing the underdog in a role where he's the champion - not the challenger. Doesn't. Make. Sense.
- Biden was there - just, well, there. He had moments of creating a stark contrast in terms of character and integrity, which was a nice touch. However, he once again felt like the boxer satisfied with winning the cards on jabs and punches landed, rather than ending this thing in the early rounds - which he VERY well had an opportunity to do.
- It was clear Trump listened to his advisors in this one. He was calm, yet, aggressive - with not much need for substance in various areas that were his clear weakness because the persona carried confidence. Trump felt more like the 2016 version of the man who got elected rather than the raging lunatic that he has been as of late.
- It's clear the President has had no answer for his unspoken tax returns. None.
But he tried tonight! - Prepaid taxes? ::eye roll:: Come on. Does his base really buy that? Of course, Biden had the chance to pin Trump against the wall, and he did. "What are you hiding?" Instead we received the same stock answer from Trump on auditing, and that he will do so soon. Cue the band playing to distract you.
- He actually has no plans for anything. Again, it's the inability to speak to policy and future plans. Not great.
- This might be more of a subjective take, but the Hunter Biden focus of Trump really doesn't do much for me. If there is something there to turn the election in his favor, by all means, go after it. But the way Trump and his campaign have input the topic into every scenario is a bit of a turnoff. It feels forced, it feels desperate, it at times feels sleazy and evading of topics, and most importantly, it feels irrelevant considering the two most important topics before voters for this election - the economy and the virus.
- FINALLY, Trump landed the 1994 Crime Bill haymaker. And you know what? Trump really gave Biden the business in this segment by hammering the impact it had on black America and his administration's inability to get anything done even when he had the White House for eight years.
"Why didn't you get it done in the eight years you were in office?" was a tremendous line by Trump. Down goes Biden! Down goes Biden!
In all seriousness, Biden really took a beating in that segment, which quickly snowballed into other segments on the debate's back-half. Biden was clearly rattled following this exchange. Why the heck has it taken so long for the Trump camp to get to that? Or really, why hasn't Trump listened to his debate prep and advisors a lot sooner? He actually took notes this debate, which helped him sort his thoughts for that moment!
- Also, after establishing that he would be a President for ALL Americans throughout the debate, Biden responded to Trump's goldmine question of "why couldn't you get it done in eight years?" with the excuse of dealing with a red congress - it felt so weak. It also flew in the face of what was a great re-hash of President Obama's line, "I don't see blue states or red states, just the United States."
- "I'll be President this time. Not vice-president." VERY interesting response by Biden on the topic of cages and the operation of separating children from parents at the border. Felt like some serious shade being thrown at 44.
- Watching Trump try to pivot out of his response pertaining to the 500+ kids now separated from their parents was so cringe-worthy. It was the one question I was hoping he would use his Trump-ness and deflect, agitate, insult, and ignore his way out of it. If there was ever a moment where being him works, that was it!! Cue the band, cue the damn band, man!!! Listen, we shut down the greatest econo....
But of course, Trump gave responding to it a whirl...oy vey.
He engaged and ended up saying - "They are being taken care of" Oooof. It quite possibly could be a truthful statement, but it was tactless and creates negative pathos energy surrounding the topic. Bad look. Bad feel.
Trump has no ability to evoke compassion effectively. He's had so many missed opportunities throughout debate season - heck, throughout his Presidency - to do so.
- Biden was at his best tonight when he was passionate about moral ethics and fiber. Those moments - talking about children at the border, racism in American, and caring for the "American people". Really, his "line-in-the-sand" gesture of this election being about the character and moral fiber of America was a nice touch.
“What is on the ballot this year is the character of this country." Because it's so true.
- Do both Biden and Trump realize how bad the optic is on two extremely old wealthy white men who represent everything wrong with our system in terms of systemic advantages, generational wealth, and unfair practices, arguing about how many millions they have in off-shore accounts and slinging verbal slander about who received the more sketchy large sum of money from international connections?
Of course, all of this while the country hangs by a thread economically.
- Speaking of, you ever notice who we NEVER hear from in regards to Trump (and his base) consistently telling everyone who would listen that they've done more for black America since Abe Lincoln? Oh, you know, black people.
It's a statement and arguing point that often sounds more like a contrasting defense to ignore the whistle-blowing and other racist actions, rather than an actual point of caring for this specific group of people.
So yeah, black people got let out of jail from the bias rulings of the court system, are now given equal opportunities at employment and a livelihood, and had their colleges funded like the other majority-white institutions. That's apparently considered "a lot" for black people in this country.
So yeah, that's about on par with freeing slaves. Step aside LBJ, that civil rights stuff wasn't important.
For real though, let's go even further - how about the optic of two old rich white guys in power competing about the total number of black felons they've given clemency to? Let's stop, please.
- Though, it should be noted that while Trump has done good things in this area - he definitely has - what the outcome of voting demographics will look like for 2020 is of the highest interest. According to Pew Research, 98% of black women voted for Hilary Clinton in 2016. 81% of black men joined them. Less than 5% of black voters (combined men and women) punched tickets for Donald Trump. A VERY jarring statistic. This should be interesting to watch...especially considering Biden's past and the recent claims of Lincol....er Trump.
- Biden not asking the President to address white supremacy again was a mistake. A huge mistake. If I'm putting together the Biden binder and attack strategy, this isn't the main topic, but its definitely a priority to address. If Trump says it, great - but we all know he's not giving up that section of the base. Not. A. Chance.
- Again, the topic is "racism in America", not "race in America".
- The topic of a new minimum wage was an interesting one. I've come around to the idea of raising the minimum age salary in our country. The stark different views from the two candidates were nice to see. Why? Because these are some of the underlying issues that rarely have been discussed in this election climate, and we want to know where each candidate positions themselves on the topic.
- Is it fair to say that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez lives rent-free in the mind of Donald Trump?
- "They want to replace buildings with small, little windows". Ummmmmmm, what?!!!! I had no idea what the President was saying here.
I honestly wanted to yell, "stick to the prep!!!". It was obvious by Trump's eyes he had a coach in the audience. It worked tremendously for him tonight, until moments like this where his Trump-ness bubbled up and overflowed. Little tiny windows!!!! SMH.
- Trump makes the oddest faces while awaiting his turn to speak. Body language says plenty in debates.
Which is also why Biden looking at his watch excessively down the stretch just added to his downward-spiral. Bad, bad, bad look.
- Biden continues to be super flip-floppish on fracking and most energy-issues. He took another L tonight in this category.
His sudden stance on the oil industry - after being forced by the President into a corner (great job by Trump) - was a bit jarring, and really, a questionable move for his campaign.
- Biden failed once again to deliver the knockout moment so many anti-Trump or pro-Biden voters have wanted out of these debates. There were moments to do so, but he is walking this VERY fine line of appearing Presidential (or counter-Trump) and being aggressive, which is an awkward style when up against a man that is the special type of enigma in Donald J. Trump.
His biggest and only chance to do this would be on election night - uninterrupted, of course. That's the ultimate of ultimate moments for that group. We'll see if it happens...
Go Vote! It's important.
Until next debate season...