“That was a hot mess, inside a dumpster fire, inside a train wreck” was how CNN’s Jake Tapper chose to describe the first presidential debate. The vice presidential debate, the following week, was met with its own fair share of messy moments, but with slightly less drama.
The hostility of the 2020 election is unlike any other, with both parties having seemingly little to no respect for the other. The presidential debate was declared a failure by almost every journalist and political analyst, political affiliations aside.
These debates can be hard to follow, especially when the candidates are constantly interrupting and taking shots at each other. VALLEY is here to tell you the highlights from both the presidential and vice presidential debate, how these debates compare and what we can expect moving forward.
Presidential Debate Highlights
The presidential debate was filled with standout moments that were both frustrating and worrisome to watch. No matter which political party you side with, this debate was a complete disappointment. The lack of maturity exhibited from the candidates was concerning, and made this debate far from constructive.
One of the most notorious moments that circulated social media was when President Donald Trump refused to denounce white supremacy. Instead of condemning it, he told the Proud Boys—a far- right group— to “stand back and stand by.”
Throughout the entire debate, both Donald Trump and Joe Biden spent their fair share of time making rude remarks and interrupting the other. This resulted in visible frustration from the moderator, and from journalists and political analysts. At one point, Biden even referred to Trump as a “clown.”
The hostility continued when Joe Biden confronted Donald Trump about his criticism towards those who serve in the military. Biden brought up his late son Beau Biden, who served in Iraq and also served as the former attorney general of Delaware. In response to Biden’s statements, Trump attacked Biden’s surviving son Hunter, who suffered from a drug addiction.
Biden defended his son and seized this moment to look directly into the camera.
“He’s overtaken it, he’s fixed it, he’s worked on it. And I’m proud of him. I’m proud of my son,” said Biden.
COVID-19 was another major topic brought up during the first presidential debate. Biden openly criticized Trump’s handling of the pandemic, especially since Donald Trump has continued to have campaign rallies. Trump fired back at Biden by making fun of his constant use of his mask. Following the debate, social media found these comments ironic, since Trump contracted the virus after not wearing a mask around his staff.
Whether you took the time to watch the first presidential debate or not, it was a pretty clear failure. The resentment that the two candidates have toward each other overpowered the importance of the debate itself, and the influence these debates can have on voting decisions.
Vice Presidential Debate Highlights
Both Senator Kamala Harris and Vice President Mike Pence received a great amount of criticism for spending their delegated time to answer a current question by circling back to the previous question. This happened multiple times throughout their debate.
Pence stated that Biden and Harris would be raising taxes for all citizens. Harris had to spend much of her allotted time stating that taxes would only be raised for those making over $400,000 a year.
This behavior became a clear pattern during the debate, with one candidate having to clear something up or defend themselves based on a statement the opposing candidate made.
One of the most controversial topics brought up during the debate was abortion. Due to the recent passing of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, there is a seat open on the Supreme Court that Donald Trump is looking to fill. The current candidate is Justice Amy Coney Barrett, who is known for her “pro-life” stance against abortion.
Many people fear that Roe v. Wade could be overturned if there is to be an even more conservative majority on the Supreme Court. When Pence was asked the question, “If Roe v. Wade is overturned, what would you want Indiana to do, would you want your home state to ban all abortions?” Pence started his answer by very blatantly circling back to the previous question.
Pence later stated, “I’m pro-life. I don’t apologize for it.” Although this answer was expected due to his Christian beliefs, it was also met with backlash. Harris restated that Biden and herself both believe in the right to choose.
Of course, we have to mention the infamous fly. Would it really be a conversation about the vice presidential debate if we didn’t? For a few minutes, a fly planted itself on the vice president’s head, without him seeming to notice. Almost immediately, there were countless memes blowing up on Instagram, Twitter and other social media platforms. Biden’s merchandise team even decided to come out with a fly swatter, which sold out in hours.
While this fly was making his way around Pence’s head, Pence spent this time to discuss Joe Biden’s belief that law enforcement has an implicit bias against minorities. Pence labeled this belief as a “great insult.” These comments made by Pence were not received well by many Americans, especially due to the prominence of the Black Lives Matter movement. Pence not only touched on law enforcement, but he also made implications that he disagreed with comments Biden has made about America’s systemic racism.
Harris was also met with criticism, especially on Twitter, after making a comment about her and Biden’s plan to decriminalize marijuana. During her time as the attorney general of California, her actions did not necessarily reflect this belief, which has caused both parties to label this plan hypocritical.
@darianmars on Twitter received 207K likes on a tweet stating: “DECRIMINALIZE MARIJUANA? COMING FROM THE WOMAN WHO JAILED 1500 PEOPLE OVER MARIJUANA POSSESSION?”
Overall, the vice presidential debate was received much better by the American people than the first presidential debate. Although there were some interruptions and many disagreements, the candidates held it together and were able to discuss the topics at hand, even though they did double back quite a few times.
How They Compare
Both debates included countless moments of hostility, but there were clear differences in the way the presidential and vice-presidential candidates handled themselves and the way they addressed the various topics. The presidential debate was filled with nonstop interruptions and rude remarks, while the vice-presidential candidates did a better job at following debate etiquette.
There were obvious tension and bitterness between Pence and Harris, but there was a greater level of maturity to this debate than what was exhibited during the first presidential debate. Biden and Trump spent much of their debate insulting one another, instead of giving the American public clear answers about the important topics at hand. Despite the fewer interruptions between Pence and Harris, the time they spent going back to discuss previous questions made the vice presidential debate frustrating and difficult to follow.
It has recently been reported that the Commission on Presidential Debates has cancelled the second of three presidential debates between Biden and Trump. This cancellation is due to a refusal from Trump to conduct the debate virtually, despite his positive COVID-19 diagnosis.
Following the first debate, there was buzz on social media and from major news sources that things have to change. The constant interruptions, insults and unprofessionalism made the debate a mess, and extremely difficult to watch for the American people. There have been discussions about a virtual debate, rule enforcement and other changes that could make the next debate a more civil affair.
Since Trump’s COVID-19 diagnosis, it is unclear what will happen with the debates moving forward. As of now, there will not be a second debate, but it is undetermined what the fate of the third will be. No matter what candidate you’re supporting, and whether we have another debate or not, VALLEY encourages you to stay informed and to get out and vote on Nov. 3.