By Sherri Kolade
With only two weeks left until the presidential election on Tuesday, Nov. 3, the nation’s eyes were on the last presidential debate on Oct. 22 between US President Donald Trump and Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden.
The hour-and-a-half long debate was at Belmont University in Nashville and moderated by NBC News White House Correspondent Kristen Welker.
This was Biden and Trump’s final debate—their second debate (slated for Oct. 15) was canceled because Trump contracted COVID-19. The final debate had social distancing measures in place; there was no plexiglass or handshakes between the candidates.
The debate covered topics including COVID-19, American families and race in America. Biden is well-known in the African American community for his eight-year term as vice president to Barack Obama.
The first topic was COVID-19. More than 40,000 Americans are in the hospital with COVID-19. Since Trump and Biden last shared a stage, 16,000 people died from the disease, Welker confirmed. They were asked how they would handle the virus as president.
“The mortality rate is down 85 percent,” Trump said, adding that the country needs to be open. “We’re fighting it and we’re fighting it hard. … We have a vaccine that’s coming.”
Black people and other minority groups are still being impacted at a higher rate when it comes to catching, and recovering from, COVID-19. Some of these inequalities, according to the Centers for Disease Control, stem from healthcare access, discrimination, and wealth gaps.
Biden said that 220,000 Americans are dead and there are “1,000 deaths a day” with 70,000 new cases daily.
“If we just wore these masks…we can save 100,000 lives,” Biden said, adding there is no comprehensive plan in place to open safely. “I will take care of this and end this and make sure we have a plan.”
On the topic of American families, Welker addressed that healthcare is a pressing issue with a key vote on a new Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett to fill Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s seat after her passing. With over 20 million Americans receiving their healthcare through the Affordable Care Act, ACA, a lot is riding on the line for them if Trump overturns it. The healthcare policy protects people with pre-existing conditions from being discriminated against by insurers and also provided affordable healthcare coverage to more than 23 million Americans including more than 800,000 Michiganders.
Trump said that Obamacare is “no good” and he would come up with a better plan to protect people with preexisting conditions while keeping in mind the 180 million people with private healthcare.
Biden’s healthcare plan calls for “building on Obamacare” to reduce premiums and drug prices.
“Everyone should have the right to have affordable healthcare,” Biden said.
When it comes to how Black and brown Americans experience race in this country, Biden and Trump spoke about empathizing with those experiences.
Biden said that he’s never had to tell his social worker daughter to be safe and cautious if she’s stopped by police.
That’s a sharp contrast with how the Black community is received around some police officers—even when they are in their own homes like unfortunate shooting victim Breonna Taylor.
“There is institutional racism,” Biden said, adding that America is “moving the needle” to further inclusion but there is a lot further to go.
Trump said that he’s done a lot for the Black community with “tremendous investments” made to Black and Hispanic communities, and historically black colleges and universities (HBCU), though some disagree about what Trump has done for HBCUs.
Biden said that at the end of the day it’s about character.
“You know his character, you know my character; you know our reputation for honor and telling the truth,” Biden said. “The character of the country is on the ballot; our character is on the ballot. Look at us closely.”
Detroit resident Kija Gray watched the debate closely with her laptop in hand, typing a running commentary of what was said.
“Some of it is humorous,” Gray said. “What stood out to me—I feel like Joe Biden did much better this time talking about his strategy to unite the country, and Trump is caught in red states, blue states rhetoric. Mentioning that is not uniting; we’re facing a global crisis and racial reckoning this election is really a referendum of whether the United States is going to join the rest of the world in areas like healthcare. Or are they going to stay stuck where they are not taking responsibility for structural racism; things like the prison system and their hand in it.”
Gray, a Caribbean-Canadian woman (who lived in Detroit all of her life) said that socializing healthcare is not a problem.
“This is one of the only developed nations without a plan. Obamacare comes close to [socialized healthcare] but we’re still in some ways indentured servants because we have to work for our care…that seems really Draconian,” she said.