2020 Presidential Debates Occur During COVID-19

Cassandra Bristol, Staff Writer

   The debates between the candidates of the Democratic and Republican Parties, occurring throughout the month of October, are now being hosted with social distancing enforced in various locations across the United States to give the American people an idea of what each candidate stands for.

   The first Presidential and Vice Presidential debates of 2020 were held on September 29 in Cleveland, Ohio and on October 7 in Salt Lake City, Utah, respectively. The third debate, which was set for October 15,was cancelled by the Commission on Presidential Debates after President Trump denied a virtual option, which was proposed due to his COVID-19 infection (debates.org).

   According to the Bill of Rights Institute, Presidential debates help “…establish the precedent that candidates should present their cases and state their criticisms before the public, and engage in a constructive dialogue with each other about the future course of the nation” (billofrightsinstitute.org).

   The debates added strict safety precautions due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, according to Case Western Reserve University and Cleveland Clinic. “A broad range of risk-mitigation strategies have been developed… [including] adding distance between seats, incorporating personal health screening and safety measures, and implementing disinfectant measures” according to Cleveland Clinic (clevelandclinic.org).

    There has been dispute over who ‘won’ the first Presidential debate. Junior Elisa Delle Monache said, “While the media did seem to focus more on Donald Trump’s actions, Joe Biden won the debate. Trump seemed aggravated and failed to denounce white supremacy. He was wildly over-aggressive with both the moderator and Biden. On the other hand, Biden told Trump to shut up and called him a clown, but he addressed the American people directly on core issues, such as racial inequality and COVID-19, and strongly spoke of his late son despite Trump attacking him.”

   Conversely, many of those on the right believe that Trump won his first debate. According to conservatives at The Washington Times, “If you believe ideas matter, President Donald Trump clearly won the debate on Tuesday night. The president defended his record and, for the most part, made strong arguments for his ideas.” (washingtontimes.com).

   On the topic of the Vice Presidential debate, Delle Monache added, “Kamala Harris was a skilled debater and covered her key points, and stood up for herself when her time was interrupted by Mike Pence. Pence remained calm and was great at normalizing right wing theories and making them seem unthreatening…This debate came much closer to a tie than the presidential debate, and although both candidates sidestepped questions, Harris won the debate. The final takeaway by the media was that a fly landed on Pence’s hair.”

   Many of those on the right believe that Vice President Pence won the Vice Presidential debate. According to Prominent Right-wing Political Figure Charlie Kirk, in a Fox News article, “Mike Pence is winning decisively. Kamala Harris comes across as condescending, bitter, and angry” (foxnews.com).

   According to the Federal Election Commission, debates, although not staged by the government, are required to be unbiased. “Candidate debates may… be staged by a [nonprofit], broadcaster, a bona fide newspaper, a magazine or other periodical publication as long as they are not owned or controlled by a political party, committee, or candidate” (fec.gov).

   According to the United States Senate, the first televised Presidential debate was on November 4, 1956, between representatives of the parties instead of the candidates themselves: former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt  for the Democrats and Senator Margaret Chase Smith for the Republicans. Although, what was largely agreed upon as the most historically significant televised debate was the one between President Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy (senate.gov).