The final 2020 presidential debate before Nov. 3 general election between Republican President Donald Trump and Former Vice president and Democratic nominee Joe Biden was welcomed by Indian American voters.
Specifically, as this debate was constructive without much interruptions from Trump compared to the previous one. The interruptions of Trump were tamed mainly due to each candidate’s microphone was muted while his opponent made a statement on a topic.
However, Thursday’s, Oct. 22, clash still featured plenty of personal attacks between two men who had little respect for each other.
Held at Belmont University in Nashville, the 90-minute debate moderated by NBC’s Kristen Welker, who asked questions starting from COVID-19, to Vaccines, and how would they treat China, immigration, race, economy, healthcare, climate, and Trump dragging in India again.
Biden, 77, said coronavirus has killed more than 222,000 Americans and sickened more than 8 million. “Anyone who’s responsible for that many deaths should not remain as President of the United States of America.”
“We’re in a situation where there are 1000 deaths a day. And there are over 70,000, new cases per day,” Biden said during the first 27 minutes debate that was focused on coronavirus.
But Trump, 74 continued to downplay the severity of the public health crisis, defending his response and predicting that a vaccine was imminent, even though his own public health experts have said one would likely not be widely available to the American public until next summer.
“It will go away,” Trump said, offering a rosy assessment of the pandemic’s trajectory even as cases have started rising again across the US and public health experts warn that the US is on the precipice of a dangerous new wave.
“We’re rounding the corner,” he added.
“We can’t keep this country closed. This is a massive country with a massive economy,” Trump said. “There’s depression, alcohol, drugs at a level nobody’s ever seen before. The cure cannot be worse than the problem itself.”
KV Kumar, president & CEO of the Indian American International Chamber of Commerce and a Republican, gave the credit the moderated and believes this one Trump was sober and carried out himself with dignity and so did Biden. It was a good debate and good to see the last debate turned out to be the best debate.
But Amar Shergill, the first South Asian-American to lead the Progressive Caucus of the California Democratic Party, told indica News, “With the assistance of a muted microphone, Trump stabilized his demeanor but he could not escape his failure to manage the COVID crisis.”
He added, “Nor could he hide the bigotry that has been a hallmark of his presidency. When challenged to explain why he had ordered children to be stolen from their parents and why over 500 parents could not be located, he had no answer. Biden, repeatedly brought the conversation back to the challenges facing Americans and what his administration would do to rebuild the economy and make their lives better.”
Shergill said, “Trump needed a big moment to change the dynamics of this race but he barely moved the needle. We started the night with Biden leading the race and nothing about this debate changed that.”
“It’s time for South Asians to come together behind Biden. It’s shameful that some leading South Asian organizations are still standing on the sidelines while a recent survey shows that 72% of Indian Americans are voting for Biden.”
Anu Natarajan, Former Vice Mayor Anu Natarajan of Fremont, California and serving at the Indians for Biden National Council Advisory Board told indica News that while the debate was much better, than the first one, it was clear that Trump had nothing to offer in terms of his accomplishments over the last four years.
Instead of focusing on policy issues, he went on unsubstantiated allegations and personal attacks. Biden’s best line was – “This is not about our family, this about your families”. Biden was solid, decent and substantive.
Dr Suru Manek, author and member of the Indian American International Chamber of Commerce believes Trump was on the winning side.
Manek sharing his view with indica News said, “He (Trump) explained how quickly he acted, how quickly he banned China travel and Europe travel. Biden had called him a racist, a xenophobic and hasty in clamping down China travel.”
On the issue of climate change, Trump had definitely strained all his effort to build support with the Indian American community by openly calling India a “filth”.
Describing the air in Russia, India, and China as “filthy” has triggered mixed reactions on social media, with many amused or embarrassed by the statement.
Trump made the remarks as he denounced Democratic rival Joe Biden’s plans to tackle climate change
“Look at China, how filthy it is. Look at Russia, look at India – it’s filthy. The air is filthy,” Trump said.
Biden too skidded into a disastrous statement saying he would ban oil industry after 2035 because they pollute too much. For which Trump was only too glad to turn it around against Biden.
The candidates were asked what they would do to combat climate change – the first time in a presidential debate they were not questioned on whether they believed in it or not.
“I do love the environment,” said Trump, citing a federal program to plant trees and a drop in carbon emissions.
But he said he was not willing to harm businesses in order to help the environment.
Biden said his plan for a transition to a more climate-friendly economy would create high-paying jobs and boost U.S. businesses.
“Global warming is an existential threat to humanity,” Biden said. “We have a moral obligation to deal with it and we’re told by all the leading scientists in the world we don’t have much time.”
Trump, who trails Biden in national opinion polls, accused Biden of planning to destroy the oil industry, leading Biden to respond that he did believe the country should eventually replace oil with solar, wind and other forms of non-polluting power.
“I would transition from the oil industry, yes,” Biden said, prompting Trump to call for voters in states where oil is an important industry to note the former vice president’s stance.
“He is going to destroy the oil industry,” Trump said. “Will you remember that Texas? Will you remember that Pennsylvania, Oklahoma, Ohio?”
In reaction to Trump’s comment on India’s air quality, while there were endless outrages against the comment, many had noted that Trump was, after all, stating the obvious and the country’s air is “sadly filthy”.
Shekhar Gupta, editor-in-chief of The Print news website, said there was “no point in being outraged”.
“Every year about 15 of the 20 cities with the filthiest air in the world are in India. We’ve also done little to address this,” Gupta posted on Twitter.
Still, some on social media condemned Trump’s comments, calling it “a humiliation”.
“Wow. Wonderful. Great way to win over Indian Americans, Trump,” wrote US-based journalist, Wajahat Ali.
Even in the previous debate, Trump had spoken critically of India, questioning its coronavirus data amid criticism of his handling of the pandemic.
This could have an effect on his Indian American diaspora, clearing the myth of Trump being a ‘good friend’ to the country and his intentions being purely political.
Milan Vaishnav, Director and Senior Fellow, South Asia Program, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, felt the pinch on dragging India during the presidential debate.
“I thought this claim that “India is filthy” (in the context of talking about its air pollution struggles) to be especially unfortunate and lacking in grace, “ Vaishnav told indica News.
Adding his view overall he too felt last night debate was substantive said, “Debates are more akin to reality entertainment than hard news. I found last night’s debate to be the more substantive of the two presidential debates but President Trump rarely stayed on topic.”
MR Rangaswami, founder at Indiaspora sounded pleased with the debate and said “Thankfully this was a constructive debate without interruptions. This gave undecided voters a chance to judge the two candidates who had starkly different visions.”
“Voters are so excited that almost 50 million have already voted! “said Rangaswami told indica News, “ I am sending my ballot tomorrow.”
Deepka Lalwani, member of Santa Clara County Democratic Party, the board member at silicon valley Dawn, and the founder president of Milpitas Democratic club said, “It was nice to see Biden take offense position. Made him stronger.”
The stakes were high for both candidates, even if the debate was unlikely to dramatically redefine the conditions of the presidential race.
Biden has maintained a steady lead over the incumbent, according to public opinion polls, while Trump has struggled to outline his vision for a second term and grapple with voters’ disapproval of his response to the pandemic.
Despite the increasingly ugly and personal nature of the campaign, the evening featured a substantive policy debate as the candidates diverged sharply on the issues of race, immigration and climate.
Lalwani though noticed and said, that the ending was great Biden got such a heartfelt hug from Jill and Trump didn’t get one from his wife Melania in a mask.