Last week’s presidential town halls had vastly different feels about them.
This past Thursday, Oct.15, was supposed to mark the second debate between President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden.
After Trump’s diagnosis of COVID-19, the bipartisan committee of Presidential Debates moved to make the town hall debate virtual.
Trump said he would not participate in a debate of this nature, so instead of following suit, Trump took to Miami, and Biden to Philadelphia, to hold their own town hall meetings.
These two events occurred at the same time, therefore, they were competing for air time and viewers.
Some speculated that Trump did this purposely so that he could take away viewers from Biden, and also so that he could brag about ratings; however, this may have backfired on him if this truly was the goal.
Television viewership of the town halls actually had one million more people watching Joe Biden than Donald Trump according to Business Insider.
The debates had two very different tones. Biden held his town hall in the birthplace of America: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, while Trump held his outdoors in Miami, Florida.
Both Florida and Pennsylvania are key swing states in this election.
Joe Biden’s Town Hall
Joe Biden’s town hall held topics of conversation about policy. While he did get a couple jabs in at Trump, most of what he had to say was about what he plans to do if he gets elected.
Biden began the debate by condemning Trump’s handling of the pandemic. He briefly attacked Trump for not being on the side of science.
“We [Americans] make up 4% of the world’s population, we account for 20% of the world’s [COVID-19] deaths,” Biden said.
Biden then went on to explain how he plans to keep the economy open while also minimizing the effects of the pandemic. He discussed the vaccine, saying that he would take it and promote it if the vaccine is approved by the scientific community.
Granted, he did mention that he would not simply take Trump’s word alone on the vaccine. Biden relaid that Trump lied to the American people about the severity of this virus too many times for the President to be considered a reliable source of information.
The topic of town hall then switched to taxes. A Republican voter asked Biden about how he plans to repeal the Trump tax cut without raising taxes on the middle class.
Biden responded by clarifying that he wants to repeal the parts that give corporations a tax cut of 21%. Biden claims the tax rate for corporations was at 35% and that a reasonable tax rate is 28%.
This is a number he believes Republicans and Democrats can get behind. Biden says by raising corporate tax cuts to 28%, the U.S. could generate $1.3 trillion.
Biden believes that the wealthy need to pay their fair share.
“91 of the fortune 500 companies don’t pay a single penny,” he said.
Biden claims that a Wall Street analysis of his tax plan states that he would generate a trillion dollars more than Trump’s plan and millions more jobs.
Biden went on to explain how he wants to create more jobs. One strategy is to give tax incentives to companies who keep jobs here and raise taxes on companies who leave. He also wants to add jobs by encouraging investment into renewable energy.
One voter gave Biden his toughest question of the day.
“Besides, ‘you aint black,’ what do you have to say to young black voters who see voting for you as further participation in a system that continually fails to protect them?,” a community member asked.
While Biden has since walked back his “you ain’t black” comment he did not address it directly in this instance.
Biden instead talked about his plans to combat racial injustice by creating a fairer justice system and better opportunities for minorities to create wealth. He said this starts with our education system, and using the resources young people have at their disposal.
Later on, Biden was pressed on his view of the police force. He supports law enforcement, and believes that more of them will help. It should also be noted that Biden advocates for community policing and less militarization of the police force.
Biden admitted that voting for the 1994 crime bill was “a mistake.” He did defend his vote by stating there was good and bad in that bill and that at the time “every member of the congressional black caucus voted for it.”
When speaking about the Supreme Court, Biden still has yet to give an answer as to whether or not he supports court packing. He said he will give an answer before election day.
Biden went on to say that if Trump has his way on the Supreme Court, LGBTQ+ rights, healthcare and many other issues are at stake. He went on to explain that he would repeal the executive orders that bar transgendered persons from serving in the military.
After the town hall ended, Biden stuck around for quite some time to continue speaking with voters.
Donald Trump’s Town Hall
A few states south in Florida, Trump’s town hall was a bit different.
Trump was asked whether or not he took a test the day of the debate. He claimed that he could not recall because he takes them so often. Trump then defended his and other White House officials action of not wearing masks at what is now being considered a “super spreader” event a few weeks ago at the White House.
Trump still stands by his statement that he supports wearing masks, but only when they are needed.
His next batch of questioning was about white supremacy and conspiracy theories. Trump said he absolutely condemns white supremacy, but when pressed further, he said it was unfair to keep asking him to condemn white supremacy when Biden is never asked to condemn ANTIFA.
The topic of QAnon was then brought up. The moderator described QAnon to Trump as a conspiracy theory that the country is being run by pedophillic, satanic Democrats, and that Trump is the saviour who is fighting against this deep state.
Trump was asked to disavow this, but responded by saying, “I know nothing about it. I know they are very much against pedophillia.”
Trump was then asked why he retweeted a conspiracy theory that “Biden orchestrated to have Seal Team 6 killed to cover up the fake death of Bin Laden.” He responded by saying that it wasn’t his tweet, and that it was just a retweet.
“You’re the President. You’re not just someone’s crazy uncle who can retweet whatever,” Savannah Guthrie, the moderator, said.
Trump responded that without social media, he wouldn’t be able to say anything to defend himself to the press.
The conversation moved to talk of the election. Guthrie pointed to Trump’s own FBI Director who said there is no evidence of widespread voter fraud.
Trump’s response was that the director is, “not doing a very good job.”
Trump also admitted that he is at least $400 million in debt. While he did not give any specific numbers, he said his debt is normal and it is “peanuts” to the rest of his assets.
He claimed that all of his debt is tied up in normal loans from regular banks, but was unable to confirm that none of those banks were in foriegn countries.
Trump was questioned about comments he made in 2016 where he said that former President Barack Obama should not appoint a justice so close to an election. He said that if the roles were flipped, Democrats would be doing the same thing.
Sticking to the discussion of Obama, Trump touted his success of repealing the individual mandate of Obamacare. He stressed that he wanted to protect people with preexisting conditions but he still did not give a comprehensive healthcare plan of his own.
On immigaration, Trump said that he wants to do work to help DREAMers, even though this past fall he has tried to get DACA off the books and has put more extensions on who can be protected under DACA.
He touted building 400 miles of border wall, however, according to The Washington Post, while hundreds of miles have been funded, as of August, only 5 miles of new wall has been built under President Trump.
When it came to Roe v. Wade the President was silent. Trump’s stance on abortion has changed a few times over the years from being pro-choice at one point to now being pro-life with exceptions.
“Would you like to see Roe v. Wade overturned?,”Guthrie asked.
Trump claimed that he never brought that or healthcare up with Amy Coney Barret, his Supreme Court nominee.
Guthrie agreed that it was good for him not to directly influence her but that voters should know where he stands.
“Most pro-life Republicans would like to see Roe v. Wade overturned and abortion banned,” she says.
Trump replied that she was likely right, however, he did not want to speculate on anything right now.
Trump had to play the defensive as he defended his record with COVID-19, his appointment of Barret, and his promotion of conspiracy theories.
Biden had a town hall that focused primarily on specific plans to rally America, build the economy and fight of COVID. The 2nd and final presidential debate will take place on October 22nd.