• arohi bhattacharya

Did the Final Presidential Debate do its job?

Updated: Oct 27, 2020

President Donald J. Trump and Former Vice President Joe Biden ended their second and final debate on the night of Thursday, October 23rd, 12 days before the presidential election, more calmly and composed than their previous one three weeks prior.

The final debate arose after much discussion and controversy from both parties after Trump, along with 35+ people connected to the White House testing positive for COVID-19, just a few days before the second presidential debate.

According to a Forbes article, Biden said that he would be willing to participate in the debate if “all necessary precautions” were taken, such as plexiglass shields and masks. Constrastingly, Trump refused to do a proposed virtual debate after his diagnosis.

The head commissioners and directors of the debate imposed a new rule for the debate to mute the candidate’s microphone while the other was speaking. This new rule was created in hopes of creating a more neutral conversation and a real debate compared to the first presidential debate on September 29, which reporters appropriately called “chaotic” and “horrendous”. The effort proved to be pretty successful for the lasting 90 minutes.

Kristen Welker, an American journalist and reporter, moderated the debate and presented the questions to the nominees, which had topics ranging from Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic to the plummeting unemployment rates to their respective healthcare proposals.

Both Trump and Biden were more subdued in their responses to the audience as well each other, though they maintained a strong opposition towards each other’s stances on the various issues.

Biden answered Trump’s perspective on immigration, calling him “one of the most racist presidents we've had in modern history”, to which Trump backfired by saying that he was “the least racist person in this room”.

Trump has proven to be infamous in stating false facts and ‘wishful thinking’, according to a CNN article, during the first debate, and he exhibited that during this one as well. His claims of releasing a vaccine to be distributed by the military in “a matter of weeks”, as well as that the state of the virus in America is doing well compared to other foreign countries who have seen recent spikes in cases, specifically Europe, include those of the incorrect facts Trump has said to the public.

Biden maintains a firm stance on reforming Obamacare into Bidencare, enforcing protective state mandates and transitioning from the oil and gas industries to ensure a zero-waste America for the future. He asserts his position of being a true Democratic president if elected, saying that “I [Biden] am going to make sure that you are represented. I am going to give you hope and I am going to choose fact over fiction. I will become president of not the red states, not the blue states, but the United States of America.”

But recently, American citizens have been questioning the purpose of presidential debates. Are they effective to voters? The New York Times concludes that debates are now “a formality, a modern ritual, one with far less meaning than people think.” Especially after the show of the first presidential debate of 2020, undecided voters were left where they started: uninfluenced, uninformed and unnoticed.

The final debate proved that the strategies and structure of the two candidates showed their true characteristics and provided an insight to viewers of their new role, or continuing, in office. While the effectiveness of these debates is contested because of its entertainment rather than informativity, the true statistics show that they don’t increase the number of voters through mailing or on Voting Day significantly.

“Scholars who have looked most carefully at the data have found that, when it comes to shifting enough votes to decide the outcome of the election, presidential debates have rarely, if ever, mattered,” John Sides of the Washington Monthly said.

So, instead of focusing all of the presidential committee’s financial and social resources towards a proven unproductive set of presidential debates, they should shift their attention towards providing more materials for eligible voters to vote.

Between all the accusations from the Trump and Biden campaign on foreign countries interfering with the election, it’s crucial that we give every opportunity possible to those who can and want to vote, especially since we have everything on the line and everything to lose as a country.