On Sept. 29, the first of three presidential debates took place between President Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden. The debate was largely deemed a shit show, as Trump flew off the rails and constantly (literally, constantly) interrupted Biden. It appeared to be a deliberate strategy to throw off Biden and make him come off confused or unable to complete his thoughts.
However, Trump only ended up damaging himself. Biden was deemed the winner of the debate (if a winner could even be determined from that 90-minute dumpster fire), and Trump brought the focus to himself as he astonishingly couldn’t even bring himself to denounce white supremacy. All he could muster was “stand back and stand by,” which he said regarding the Proud Boys, a far-right extremist group.
The Proud Boys relish in being “western chauvinists,” and according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, espouse white nationalist rhetoric and anti-Muslim sentiment. It’s hard to think of many things that come easier than denouncing white supremacy, so to hear the President not even make an attempt in front of the seventy-three million people that watched was beyond troubling. It was dangerous.
In addition to that disquieting moment, the President continued to spread misinformation about voting. At this point, it is abundantly obvious: the President doesn’t want masses of people voting by mail because he knows that a larger turnout correlates with higher odds of him losing the election.
This isn’t surprising. The President has solicited foreign help to bolster his reelection odds. He knew the severity of COVID-19 and sat on that information because he didn’t want “panic.” Spreading misinformation fits in line with his playbook. He urged his supporters to be “poll watchers,” essentially people who hover around polling locations and instill fear/intimidation in people merely waiting in line to vote.
Unfortunately, the debate was a disservice to everyone watching. We were the losers of the night because there was hardly any semblance of policy discussion. Even without the interruptions, it’s hard to imagine what Trump would have put forward as far as policy, considering that the official Republican platform for 2020 is mere recycling of 2016’s.
As if 2020 couldn’t fly even further off the rails, President Trump announced on Twitter that he and First Lady Melania Trump were diagnosed with COVID-19 on October 2. As of this writing, Trump is at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center undergoing treatment. It’s a bit of a surprise the President is just now contracting it, considering his rallies where social distancing wasn’t being practiced and large swaths of people weren’t wearing masks. Many in his inner circle hadn’t been wearing masks until his announcement.
As for what this means between now and November 3, your guess is as good as mine. As it stands, there’s a possibility that the remaining scheduled debates between Trump and Biden will be canceled. It seems that the Vice Presidential debate between California Sen. Kamala Harris and Vice President Mike Pence is still underway, as Pence tested negative for COVID-19 on October 2.
Trump will be off the campaign trail until at least mid-October, assuming that he recovers. What remains to be seen is how Trump’s rhetoric will change, if at all, when it comes to the pandemic. For so long he has downplayed it, and his response to the pandemic has been slow. He regularly mocked Joe Biden for constantly wearing a mask. Will, there be a stark change in tone, or will he propose scaling back the reopening of many parts of the country? Will he proclaim that he “defeated” COVID and that it isn’t that bad? In a presidency as unpredictable as this one, it is hard to say.
The effects that Trump’s diagnosis will have on the Senate confirmation hearings for Judge Amy Coney Barrett are yet to be known; along with Trump, Republican Senator Mike Lee of Utah, and Republican Senator Thom Tillis of North Carolina, have tested positive for COVID-19. Considering that Republican Senators Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins have said they won’t support approving a judge until after the election, this may prolong their goal to get another judge onto the Supreme Court before November 3.
Meanwhile, more than two million Americans have already voted. Texans can only vote by mail if they are 65 or older, are sick or disabled, are out of the country on Election Day or during early voting, or are in jail but still eligible to vote. This means that everyone else who doesn’t fall under one of those qualifications must vote early or on Election Day. It is important that everyone makes a plan for how they’re going to vote, as it can’t be stressed enough how make-or-break this election is. Early voting started October 13 and runs through October 30.