On October 22, President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden debated at Belmont University in Nashville for the final time—and it was much more civil than their first encounter. After witnessing Trump screaming uncontrollably for 90 minutes in the first debate, the Commission on Presidential Debates implemented new rules: Only one candidate would have their microphone turned on during their allotted two-minute slot. Though Trump still attempted to overtalk Biden during open discussion when both mics were on, moderator Kristen Welker handled those interruptions like a pro.
All hail Welker! After Trump spent the week preemptively attacking the NBC journalist and anchor and claiming that she’d be “unfair” to him, she moderated as well or better than any other moderator during this presidential cycle. She asked tough questions, didn’t relent when either candidate attempted to throw her off her game, and kept the debate moving along. That was the difference-maker: Instead of trying to parse through each candidate’s answers, we watched them actually answer questions about how they’d handle the next phase of the pandemic, the U.S. policy that separated migrant children from their parents, climate change, the future of the Affordable Care Act, and many other issues.
More than 40 million Americans have already voted, but for those who are still undecided, this debate could be instructive in determining which candidate has the policies to correct the issues that matter most to you. Here are our five feminist takeaways from the final presidential debate, just 12 days out from the election.
1. We’re Fighting the Pandemic Alone
It can’t be stated enough: More than 220,000 people have died from the coronavirus in the United States. More than 8 million people have contracted the coronavirus and nearly 1,000 Americans are dying every single day. It’s a tragedy of epic proportions and there’s no sign that it will slow down anytime soon. COVID-19 has fundamentally altered our lives, so it wasn’t a surprise that Welker kicked off the debate with a question to Trump about the pandemic: “How would you lead the country during this next stage of the coronavirus crisis?” If nothing else, we now know that we’re in this alone. “We didn’t kill 2 million people so the United States of America is doing well” is one hell of a perspective to take, but that’s what Trump said during the debate. He also blamed Nancy Pelosi for the lack of a relief bill (to which Welker responded, “But you’re the president”), promised a vaccine that won’t come soon enough to save lives, and said that the coronavirus is “going away.” We have a federal government that’s still blaming large swathes of testing for the raging virus, so we have to protect ourselves because they have no interest in doing it. Wear a mask. Social distance. Only go outside when it’s necessary. As Biden said, “We’re not learning to live with COVID. We’re learning to die with it.”
2. Donate to a Food Bank and Other Local Relief Efforts
Since the pandemic began and the U.S. economy tanked as a result, working- and middle-class Americans have been awaiting relief from the federal government. Outside of a single relief bill that expired in July, the country has been pretending as if it’s business as usual; in actuality, people are suffering. A recent Columbia University study found that 8 million more Americans have slipped into poverty since the pandemic began and there will be a shortage of 8 billion meals in the next year if nothing changes. It’s clear that a relief bill isn’t coming as soon as it should, so we need to fill in the gap for one another. Find a local food bank and donate what you can. Choose a neighbor to bring meals to each week. Find relief efforts that will get people the resources they need to survive the dark winter that Biden is predicting. That’s the only way we’ll survive.
3. Immigrants Deserve a Different President
A bombshell report from the American Civil Liberties Union found that 545 migrant children separated from their parents and incarcerated during Trump’s no tolerance plan have not been reunited with their families. It’s a tragedy of epic proportions that will permanently alter the lives of these children and their parents, but Trump attempted to play it down during the debate. “They are so well taken care of,” he said. “They are in facilities that are so clean.” Trump also said that the United States has “as strong a border as we’ve ever had,” but also said that these migrant children were brought to the United States by cartels and coyotes. Not only is this patently false, it allows the Trump administration to evade accountability for a completely avoidable disaster. “500-plus kids came with [their] parents,” Biden said during the debate. “They separated them at the border to make it a disincentive to come to begin with. Big, real tough. We’re really strong. They got separated from their parents. And it makes us a laughingstock! And it violates every notion of who we are as a nation.” Yes, it does.
4. Pay Close Attention to Amy Coney Barrett’s Confirmation
The Judiciary Committee voted to move Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination to the Senate for a floor vote, which means we should be paying even more keen attention to what happens if she’s confirmed. During the debate, Trump implied that he’s intentionally gutted Obamacare without actually saying so because he knows how popular it is among Americans. “It no longer is Obamacare because without the individual mandate, it’s much different,” he said. “So I’d like to terminate Obamacare, come up with a brand-new, beautiful healthcare,” he continued. “The Democrats will do it because there’ll be tremendous pressure on them, and we might even have the House by that time.” That’s not going to happen, but it won’t prevent Trump from trying—and confirming Barrett is the first step in making this happen. Biden wants to pass Obamacare with a public option, which would automatically enroll people who otherwise can’t afford insurance in Medicare. There’s no doubt that Obamacare has its flaws: Premiums are expensive and not everyone can get coverage, but as Biden said, “People deserve to have affordable healthcare. Period.”
5. Donald Trump is a Racist. Period.
Though Trump declared that he’s the least racist president that the United States has ever had and that he’s done as much for Black Americans as Abraham Lincoln (that tall man who signed a little document called the Emancipation Proclamation), he showed again that he’s a white supremacist who prides himself on dogwhistling to his dwindling base. In this debate alone, he claimed that migrant children separated from their families were treated well in prisons; the Obama administration allowed “rapists and murderers” to come into the United States; and that only undocumented immigrants with “low IQs” show up to their court hearings. We’ve long known that Trump is a racist, but seeing it on display on a national stage further employs us to see it as an ideology worth voting against. As Biden rightly said, “Trump pours fuel on every single racist fire.”