A Recap of the First Presidential Debate

By: Sarah Govert 

The first presidential debate took place on Tuesday, September 29th between current President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden, with Chris Wallace of Fox News moderating. With the election looming a little more than a month away, this debate was crucial in firmly establishing opinions and views of each candidate and possibly convincing some Americans watching who to vote for. The debate covered six broad topics: Trump and Biden’s political records, the Supreme Court and the vacant seat, coronavirus, the economy, race and violence, and the integrity of the election. I’ll be recapping three of these topics in this article, and they are as follows: the Supreme Court, race and violence, and the integrity of the election. Let’s take a look at what the two presidential candidates had to say.

The Supreme Court:

In the week following Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s passing, President Trump has nominated Amy Coney Barrett to succeed her. This nomination has caused great tensions lately, as statements that were made by Republican Senators when former president Barack Obama attempted to nominate a Supreme Court Justice in the last year of his term have come to light once more. When President Trump was asked about why he is correct in his argument that a nominee must be considered, he stated “We have the Senate, we have the White House, and we have a phenomenal nominee, respected by all top, top academic — good in every way, good in every way.” Trump then goes on to say that they won the election, so they have the right to nominate a candidate, stopping after that point. In response, Biden commented that “the American people have a right to have a say to who the Supreme Court nominee is, and that say occurs when they vote for United States senators and when they vote for the President of the United States.” He goes on to say that Americans won’t get the chance to have a say anymore if the nomination goes through, as the election has already started and tens of thousands of citizens have voted already. He ends this point by saying that we should wait and see what the outcome of the election will be before moving forward with a nomination, and is then cut off by President Trump.

Race and Violence:

This segment of the debate begins with moderator Chris Wallace asking about the statement that President Trump made in Charlottesville, Virginia in 2017 following a white supremacist and neo-Nazi rally, after which President Trump stated that there were “very fine people on both sides.” Wallace asks from both candidates responses, as well as how they will deal with race issues, and Biden leads off the segment. He discusses how he has never walked away from trying to make America a place with equality for all, even though it hasn’t been accomplished thus far. Biden brings up the Charlottesville rally, describing the scene of anti-Semetic slurs and Ku Klux Klan members, emphasizing on how Trump called these people “very fine.” He goes on to discuss the peaceful protests that occurred after the death of George Floyd and how Trump had the military tear gas the protestors. He ends his point by stating, “The general who was with him said he only, all he ever wants to do is divide people, not unite people at all. This is a president who has used everything as a dog whistle to try to generate racist hatred, racist division.” Trump responds to Biden’s statements by bringing up a crime bill in 1994 done by Biden, in which he called African-Americans “super predators.” He then goes on to discuss how his campaign has the support of law enforcement. This segment concludes with the issue of systemic racism and injustice in America, with Biden stating that there is systemic injustice in education and law enforcement and the way that it’s enforced. He discusses how police officers must be held accountable and ends his section by reinforcing that peaceful protests are the answer. President Trump is then asked by Wallace about systemic racism and why he ended sensitivity training that addresses white privilege and critical race theory. He responds to these questions by saying, “I ended it because it’s racist… It was a radical revolution that was taking place in our military, in our schools, all over the place… They were teaching people to hate our country. They were teaching people that our country is a horrible place, it’s a racist place.” This segment is then concluded by Wallace.

The Integrity of the Election:

The final segment of the debate discusses the integrity of the elections and the confidence that both of the candidates have in the fact that the election will be fair and legitimate. Biden begins this segment, first talking about how people should go to iwillvote.com and decide how and when they’re going to vote in the upcoming election. He further reassures watchers of the debate in the legitimacy of mail-in ballots, stating, “His own Homeland Security director, as well as the FBI director, says there’s no evidence at all that mail-in ballots are a source of being manipulated and cheating.” He goes on to say that in-person voting will be able to happen as it usually does, with poll workers working diligently to make sure that all votes are counted and voters are able to stay socially distanced. He also restates that he will accept the results either way, win or lose. Biden ends his segment by reinforcing the need to vote, saying that “You will determine the outcome of the election.” However, President Trump uses his two minutes to express his views that this election is “going to be fraud like you’ve never seen.” He uses examples of finding ballots in creeks and wastepaper baskets already, saying that it’s a “rigged election.” Trump does agree that if it’s a fair election, he is “100% on board.” Wallace ends this segment of the debate by stating that on Election Night, Americans might not know who the president will be, possibly for weeks after. 

And with that final statement by moderator Chris Wallace, the first presidential debate of 2020 is concluded. The next debate will be broadcast on October 7th from the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, with Vice Presidential nominees Mike Pence and Kamala Harris debating, starting at 9 pm. To check out President Trump’s and former Vice President Joe Biden’s websites, see the additional resources listed below. The full transcript of the debate is also listed.

Additional Resources:






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