No fatal wounds in Trump/Biden final duel

Last debate: Trump and Biden laid out starkly different visions of America

Could it be a Biden landslide? No clear winner emerged as the candidates locked horns for a final time last night. Now, some believe anti-Trump sentiment could push Biden to a historic win.

The night started with a rare moment of agreement between the two rivals – the plexiglass dividing them could be removed, after both Trump and Biden tested negative for coronavirus.

But as the candidates stepped onto the stage in Nashville last night for the second presidential debate and set out their plans for the USA, deeper divisions began to emerge.

The first debate in September descended into chaos as the candidates talked over each other, with Trump interrupting Biden an astonishing 73 times.

This time, officials introduced a mute button in the hope of restoring order. It was a move that was largely successful – both candidates allowed each other to speak – but the mood remained ill-tempered.

The debate was divided into six key issues: fighting Covid-19, American families, race, climate change, national security and leadership.

In the end, much of the discussion focused on a topic which did not feature on the list – Joe Biden’s son Hunter. Trump pointed repeatedly to “horrible emails” that he claims proves the Biden family is corrupt.

Biden, in return, accused the president of embracing the “thugs” in charge of Russia and North Korea. And when Trump said “people are learning to live with Covid-19”, Biden went on the attack, replying: “people are learning to die with it”.

Indeed, for all his fire and fury, Trump failed to land a significant blow. Pundits agree this morning that the debate will not change the course of the election.

In recent weeks, while Trump has flown from rally to rally, his challenger has stayed largely silent. It is a campaign strategy that seems to be working. “The more Trump talks, the better off I am,” said Biden.

With 11 days to go, the Democrats are riding high in the polls. If he can maintain his lead, Biden will triumph on 3 November.

Now, some commentators are arguing that not only could Biden win a remarkable victory but also that he could be a remarkable president, despite the fact that at 78, he has neither the youthful vigour nor the oratory skills of his predecessors.

But what appears to be his greatest weakness could actually be an advantage, wrote Bill McKibben in The New Yorker yesterday. It seems unlikely that Biden will seek re-election aged 82 in 2024.

In fact, some believe that 2020 could be the year when personal and political circumstances merge, to create one of the most radical presidencies of the modern era.

In 1933, Roosevelt inherited a country in turmoil from the Great Depression, recalls journalist Evan Osnos in his new book Joe Biden: American Dreamer. Now, he is remembered as the man who saved the world from fascism.

Today, it is coronavirus that has altered our perceptions of what is possible. If he wants to, Biden could seize the opportunity to transform America, unfazed by the prospect of unpopularity.

By embracing the main ideas in the Green New Deal he could rebuild the world’s largest economy from the ground up in a way that helps protect the future of the planet, rather than destroying it.

So, could it really be a Biden landslide?

A new Roosevelt?

Yes, say some. Biden is leading comfortably in swing-state Pennsylvania, and if he can convert leads in Wisconsin and Michigan into wins, then he has a clear path to victory. Senior Democrats hope an anti-Trump vote will mean a big win for Biden. And with a record 48 million early votes cast, including a huge Democratic turnout, his campaigners hope much of their work is already done.

No, say others. He may be trailing in the polls, but Trump has shocked pundits in the past. His triumph in 2016 stunned the world, and his supporters are confident he can do it again. Biden should not be too certain of victory – approximately 8% of likely voters still have not decided which box to tick on the ballot, and many of them may have been listening closely to Donald Trump last night.

You Decide

  1. Would you want to be President of the USA one day?
  2. Do political candidates running for office have a moral duty to take part in debates?

Activities

  1. Imagine Trump and Biden came to your school today. Write a list of five questions you would like to ask each candidate this morning.
  2. You are running to be the leader of your country. Write an opening statement to read out at a debate where you are appearing. How will you appeal to as many people as possible?

Some People Say...

“Deliberation and debate is the way you stir the soul of our democracy.”

Jesse Jackson, American civil rights activist, minister and politician

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
It is generally agreed that if Joe Biden wins the election, it will take his running mate, Kamala Harris, one step closer to becoming the first female US president, and the first woman of colour to lead any Western nation. Unlike the UK, the US has a clear system for what happens in the event that the head of the government becomes incapacitated – the vice president takes over. With Joe Biden fast approaching his 80s, this could be a very real possibility for Harris.
What do we not know?
One main area of debate surrounds whether or not a Harris presidency would be welcomed or even accepted by the American public. Although the process is clearly set out in the US constitution, the last time a vice president stepped up was in 1974, when Gerald Ford took over following Nixon’s resignation. Ford ran for election in 1976, but lost. Today, nearly 50 years on, it is possible that many Americans may view a president who had not won a national vote as illegitimate.

Word Watch

Hunter
The claims relate to emails allegedly found on the laptop of Hunter Biden, who worked for a Ukrainian gas company while his father was vice-president. In one 2015 email, an advisor for the gas company is purported to thank Hunter for giving him the opportunity to meet his father. Joe Biden has denied it all firmly.
Roosevelt
Democrat Franklin Delano Roosevelt, or FDR, became the 32nd US president in 1933. He is the only president to have been elected four times.
Great Depression
A severe worldwide economic depression that started in the US in 1929. When Roosevelt was elected, the US unemployment rate stood at over 20%.
Green New Deal
Introduced by US congress representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and Senator Edward J Markey of Massachusetts, both Democrats, the Green New Deal calls on the government to wean the United States from fossil fuels and curb planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions across the economy. It also aims to guarantee new high-paying jobs in clean energy industries. Biden endorsed its ideas last night.

Subjects

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