The Presidential Debate:

A COVID-19 Lens

Alaa El Bouzrati


“Will you shut up, man?” said Former Vice President Joe Biden during the first 2020 presidential debate. Biden also called President Donald Trump a “clown” during this debate, unpresidential behavior we didn’t see coming; Trump, conversely, interrupted Biden seventy-three times in a manner we all saw coming. Even if Biden’s emotions got the best of him, can we blame him? 

In the midst of the chaos of 2020, millions watched the debate that fell woefully short as two grown white men traded insults for an hour and a half. Some may say there lies a nuance within who won the debate, but the pressing issue at hand here concerns the pandemic. On October 2nd, waves of shock, doubt, and confusion were sent throughout the world as Trump announced on Twitter that his COVID-19 diagnosis was positive. After downplaying the importance of wearing masks and proposing research into the efficacy of injecting ourselves with disinfectants to kill the Coronavirus, he was infected by the virus. The living irony of a man trended faster than the spread of the virus. With receiving such an adverse response from the general public, Trump continued to defend his absurd claims by stating it was just satire when he had in fact, become the subject of satire. 

But this political burlesque transcends the war of words between Trump and Biden as the significance lies with COVID-19 and its implications. During the presidential debate, Biden was quick to find fault with Trump’s response to the pandemic, claiming that the President does not have a plan and is not taking the crisis seriously. Biden said that Trump had been “totally irresponsible” with controlling social distancing. He seems to show no respect for procedures to stop the spread of the virus, demonstrated by his decision to hold rallies.  When asked why he was proceeding to hold rallies, Trump said, “People want to hear what I have to say.” and “We have tremendous crowds.” Thus far, he firmly believes that there has been “no negative effect[s].”

Moreover, Trump further blames China for the virus, previously referring to it as “the Chinese virus,” - containing racist undertones - and later states that “It’s China’s fault, it should have never happened,” adding that he had received praise from governors for doing a “phenomenal job.” 

Despite the previously mentioned turmoil of this year, the pandemic, the first economic recession in decades, and the Black Lives Matter movement against institutionalized racism and police brutality following the killing of George Floyd, these events have been so significant and recurring that we have begun to normalize them. Despite all these crises, this presidential race has been exceptionally stable. 

 All that has occurred has painted the American system in an ugly light. While one can find shortcomings with both candidates, as with all politicians, it is safe to say that we can at least find hope with Joe Biden.