Final debate makes one thing Clear; America’s character is on the line.

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Courtesy of Creative Commons

Mia Steadman, Contributing Writer

The final presidential debate kicked off Thursday night with moderator and NBC anchor and correspondent, Kristen Welker, determined to not have a redo of the first, chaotic debate, which left few voters feeling informed. Since the second presidential debate was canceled after coronavirus concerns arose, this debate was the second and final time that Republican incumbent Donald Trump and Democrat Joe Biden faced off before Election Day on Nov 3.

Because of the new measures the Commission on Presidential Debates applied for future debates, this debate’s format was different. At the beginning of each new topic, the candidates were each granted two minutes, uninterrupted, to respond. The other’s microphone remained muted until the two minutes were up, then both microphones were kept on for the rest of the discussion on that topic.

Welker started by asking each candidate how they would lead the country during the next phase of the coronavirus. Trump did not comment on his leading strategy going forward concerning the pandemic but claimed that a vaccine is ready and will be announced “within weeks.” Trump also solidified his status as firmly anti-shutdown.

Biden said that the president’s response to the crisis has been “absolutely tragic,” and that he still lacks a comprehensive plan for dealing with it. Biden vowed to encourage all Americans to wear masks, to invest more in rapid testing and to set up national standards for reopening schools and businesses while providing financial support. He also said that Trump knew of the coronavirus’ severity in January while downplaying the crisis to Americans and admonished him for not taking responsibility for it.

“I take full responsibility. It’s not my fault that it came here. It’s China’s fault,” the president responded.

The next question focused on that U.S. intelligence officials recently confirmed that Russia and Iran are actively trying to influence the upcoming election. In response, Biden demanded to know whether or not the president has confronted Putin on this issue. Trump claimed that Biden accepted $3.5 million from Putin, and claimed “There has been nobody tougher on Russia than Donald Trump.”

No evidence that suggests that Biden ever received money from Putin.

Biden also said that the president has still not released his tax returns, which Trump then repeated that his accounts are under audit and said he would release them as soon as he could.

Trump discussed terminating Obamacare, and how he previously terminated the individual mandate, which he called “the worst part of Obamacare.” He also falsely claimed that Biden wanted to terminate 180 million healthcare insurance plans.

Biden defended his plan to expand Obamacare, turning it into “Bidencare,” which would provide a public option for those without private insurance while not forcing anyone out of their current plan.

In the case of raising the federal minimum wage for $15 an hour, Biden supported the idea and Trump wanted to leave the decision up to the states. Both of them inaccurately described the ramifications of raising the minimum wage. Trump claimed that it has been proven that doing so would cause many small businesses to fire their employees — of which there is some proof, but is not proven. Biden’s claim that there is no evidence that businesses will close if the minimum wage is raised is also inaccurate because there is evidence.

The conversation became heated when the topic of immigration, and the Trump administration’s family separation practice, came up. Trump claimed that because of what he calls “catch and release,” murderers and rapists would come in, get their names taken down, and then be allowed into the country, which is incorrect as ICE is required to hold rapists and murderers under the Immigration Nationality Act. Trump also attempted to divert the blame by correctly saying that the infamous cages were built during the Obama administration; however, Biden was also correct when he said that the cages were not used to systematically separate parents from their children at that time.

“Kids were ripped from their [parents] arms and separated. And now they cannot find over 500 sets of those parents and those kids are alone… It’s criminal,” said Biden, who also vowed to send Congress a pathway to citizenship for 11 million undocumented people in Ameria within his first 100 days in office.

Trump avoided the topic of the racism that black and brown Americans experience, and focused on his contributions to the Black community.

“Nobody has done more for the Black community than Donald Trump. And if you look, with the exception of Abraham Lincoln… nobody has done what I’ve done,” said Trump, to which Biden responded by pointing out that the president pushed for the “Central Park Five,” five innocent Black children accused of rape in 1989, to get the death penalty.

When the president’s history of describing the Black Lives Matter movement as a symbol of hate came up, Trump was quick to point to his criminal justice and prison reform efforts, though he didn’t go into specifics.

“I can’t even see the audience because it’s so dark, but I don’t care who’s in the audience. I’m the least racist person in this room,” Trump said, when Welker, a Black woman, asked him to respond to men who might find his anti-BLM rhetoric concerning.

When asked about families living in “Fence Line” communities near chemical plants, who are more likely to be people of color, Biden expressed his concern and said that pollutants need to be restricted to protect them.

Trump argued that “The families that we’re talking about are employed heavily and they are making a lot of money, more money than they’ve ever made.”

“The fact is those frontline communities, it doesn’t matter what you’re paying them. It matters how you keep them safe,” Biden said.

He also ruled out banning fracking, but cited the need for American industries to transition to complete zero emissions by 2025 and said that he would work to transition from the oil industry.

Welker finished off the night by asking the candidates to step into a hypothetical future where they each win the presidency: “What will you say in your address to Americans who did not vote for you?”

Trump instead talked about his unemployment numbers, incorrectly saying that Biden wants to raise everybody’s taxes, and by warning about the depression he believes America would be doomed for if his opponent wins.

“What is on the ballot here is the character of this country,” said Biden. “Decency. Honor. Respect. Treating people with dignity. Making sure that everyone has an even chance. Now, I’m going to make sure you get that,” said Biden.