BIPP: The second (and final) great debate

Trey Gaither, BIPP Intern

Unlike its predecessor, the second presidential debate between Democratic candidate Joe Biden and U.S. President Donald Trump offered Americans an opportunity to parse each candidate’s values and policy stances and gain a clearer image of what their respective terms would look like. The debate forced the two candidates to muscle down and take definitive stances on key social, political and economic issues that affect the everyday lives of American citizens; topics ranged from navigating issues of racial justice to articulating the precise role of immigration in American domestic policy, as well as included plans to address the COVID-19 surge in places like the Midwest. Discussions about these key social and economic issues allow Americans to truly get a deeper understanding of the candidate’s larger political philosophy, as well as their vision for the next four years of American life. While Trump did a more fluid job in explaining his stance on healthcare, for instance, he failed to provide a comprehensive solution to address the Movement for Black Lives, which in recent months has taken to the streets in protest of widespread police brutality. Biden, conversely, seemed to have very specific plans for how to handle COVID-19, climate change and police brutality.

The topics of the second debate were largely to the advantage of Biden; the former vice president was able to assume a more offensive role than previous spars with the incumbent president. On questions regarding racial injustice, immigration and tax reform, Trump played defense, delineating achievements he believes contributed to the success of underprivileged communities throughout his first term. For example, he applauds himself for being active within Historically Black Colleges & Universities (HBCUs), claiming that because he has vouched for them in the past, he has proven himself to substantively support the Black community. The president even cast himself as having “done more” for Black people than any American president in history, with the “possible exception” of former President Abraham Lincoln. Biden then mockingly referred to Trump as “Abraham Lincoln” later in the debate, to which the president helpfully clarified, “I didn’t say I was Abraham Lincoln.”

On the topic of racial justice and incarceration, Trump condemned Biden for his apparent antagonism to such initiatives during his nearly half a century in the political sphere. Simultaneously, the commander in chief applauded himself once again for advancing Black lives through investment in opportunity zones, criminal justice reform and development of predominantly Black higher-learning institutions. Yet he outlined no clear ideas to expand these initiatives in a prospective second term. Biden, on the other hand, forcefully advocated for improved training and greater funding to social programs to lessen the burden of police responsibility. Specifically, he intends to focus on creating community programs that would offer aid police forces could not provide, like psychological and mental counseling and counseling. The former vice president highlighted the infamous “Talk” that Black families must undergo with their children, regarding the proper behavior during a police interaction to prevent death or injury. Similar to a conversation between a daughter and her parents regarding sexual abuse or assault, the talk represents one of the numerous safety measures Black families employ to keep their bodies, and those of their children, safe. The talk is inherently an admonition to carry oneself as a Black individual, a means to operate within a system where a single misstep or errant movement could mean death. It involves teaching a culture of young Black bodies that a harsh reality awaits them in their adulthood, and how to avoid the worst of it. Many Black parents have this talk with their children, a heartbreaking reminder of how our police system can be utilized towards terrorizing Black families and Black neighborhoods. Biden points out how few White Americans feel the need to have such a “Talk,” representing their potential privilege which those with darker skin cannot enjoy. 

With the second and final debate over, it is time to go out and exercise the right to elect the next president of the United States. In a time so fraught with interacting social, economic, political, environment and natural crises, the role of the president will be crucial in returning America to a track of prosperity and mutual trust. Let us make this election count.

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