The US will hold its presidential election in November this year.
Donald Trump, the incumbent President is being challenged for the top job by challenger Joe Biden of the Democratic Party and on September 29, we witnessed the first Presidential debate between the contenders.
Sadly, the event was an unmitigated disaster and if anyone believed western leaders were paragons of virtue, as the debate progressed, were shorn of this disbelief. What we witnessed were two old men going for each other, breaking all norms of debating etiquette. The presidential election is being conducted amid the coronavirus pandemic which has killed 1,024,093 people (as at October 2) worldwide in the past ten months. Up to October 2, 34,354,350 cases had been registered worldwide, and the US is the worst-hit country with 207,816 deaths from 7,279,065 cases, averaging nearly 900 deaths per day. The US is also in the grip of violent countrywide protests and demonstrations regarding the treatment of its non white citizens.
According to the ‘APM Research Lab’ Black Americans experience the highest COVID-19 mortality rates nationwide —more than twice as high as the rate for Whites and Asians, who have the lowest actual rates. They are also twice as likely to be picked on by the police, often without reason. According to the New York Times of May 28, 2020, as a result of the coronavirus U.S. jobless claims passed 40 million and many of the relief programmes introduced at the beginning of the pandemic may soon expire. This has left Americans scared of what would happen to them if pandemic relief is not renewed.
Data shown by the the ‘Pew research Centre’ in 2018 reveals, despite notable growth in the non-White eligible voter population, non-Hispanic White voters still made up the large majority (67%) of the US electorate in 2018. The White ethnic group saw the smallest growth rate out of all racial ethnic groups from 2000 to 2018, causing their share to shrink by nearly 10 percentage points. The reports points out however, that “...even with declines in all 50 states, White eligible voters still make up the majority of most states’ electorates.
The presidential debate itself, from its commencement deteriorated into chaos and a contempt for rules of debate, with the US President relentlessly attacking his rival during clashes on the coronavirus pandemic, race, the economy and appointments to the Supreme Court. During the debate which was telecast live worldwide, the US President broke all rules of debate, interrupting his challenger so often, it ultimately led to Biden at snapping “...shut up man, this is so unpresidential...” With a little over a month to election date, Trump, according to polls and surveys is trailing his challenger in national as well as in battleground states. (floating votes in local parlance).
Amid accusations that he has mishandled the pandemic, reports of his non payment of federal taxes, accusations of dividing US society on racial lines, growing unemployment and pooh-phooing the Covid-19 pandemic, Trump made dominating the debate and playing to his white ethnic voter base his central strategy ..
He refused to condemn white extremism. Called on by the moderator Chris Wallace from ‘Fox News’ (a Trump supportive TV channel), to denounce white supremacist violence after two anti-racist activists were killed during protests in Wisconsin, the president said “sure” and asked which group he should condemn. When Biden named the ‘Proud Boys’, a far-right white extremist group, Trump blamed violence on the left!
Challenged that he avoided paying any federal taxes for years, Trump bragged he took advantage of tax loopholes and that as a successful businessman he didn’t “want to pay taxes”. Whilst Trump’s debating style was abominable, not once during the debate did he veer away from his defence of White America, his voter base. He stood up for it from the word go, insulted his opponent for wearing a mask and condemned violence on the left despite all evidence to the contrary. In short he stood by his white base which gave him victory at the last presidential election. Whether he gained any new supporters is debatable.
So who won the first presidential debate?
But all of this has now been thrown to the winds. Trump, his wife and numerous members of his team have contracted the virus. They now all wear masks, it as if ‘karma’ kicked back. We wish the US President a speedy recovery, trust he has not injected himself with detergent and hope he and other virus deniers learn from this painful lesson and join hands with medical experts to defeat the virus.