After a start to the presidential campaign disrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic, the Republican candidate, Donald Trump, and his Democratic opponent, Joe Biden, meet, Tuesday, September 29, face to face on a television set for the first debate before the election of November 3. The two septuagenarians will debate from 9 p.m. East Coast time (3 hours in Paris), and will have 90 minutes to convince voters.
No risk of a physical confrontation: the two candidates will keep their distance and they are not expected to shake hands. The audience on the set will also be small, with only 80 to 90 people – previously tested negative for Covid-19 – will attend the debate held at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio.
MM. Trump and Biden will not have a chance to make an opening statement, and Fox News presenter Chris Wallace will moderate the hostilities. This experienced journalist, known for his uncompromising questions within the conservative channel, will interview the two candidates on six pre-established themes, which they will have to answer for 15 minutes. The first question will be for Donald Trump.
Joe Biden will likely appear masked, to underscore the seriousness of the pandemic that Donald Trump is accused of downplaying, as journalist Bob Woodward revealed in a book titled Rage (Simon & Schuster, untranslated). Since then, the president has been reduced to promises. “We will have enough vaccines for all Americans by April” 2021, he promised, making one of his campaign arguments.
Tuesday’s debate comes as the United States has passed the 200,000 death mark attributed to Covid-19, according to Johns Hopkins University. “Covid will be the third leading cause of death this year in the United States, more than accidents, strokes and Alzheimer’s disease”, tweeted Tom Frieden, former director of the Centers for the Prevention and Control of Diseases.
Confronted with numerous anti-racism protests and the alarming statistics of the Covid-19 epidemic in the United States, Donald Trump has constantly blamed the situation on others without ever making a mea culpa. Joe Biden will try to put him back on his record.
Entering politics half a century ago, Joe Biden, senator then vice-president of Barack Obama (from 1988 to 2016), hopes that his third attempt for the White House (he had already run for the Democratic primaries in 1988 and 2008) will be the correct one. This debate is an opportunity for him to relaunch his campaign. He has organized events in several states and regularly gave interviews, but the Covid-19 has not allowed him to make his comeback on stage. Although leading the polls, he will need to assert himself while providing concise answers and above all avoid the blunders he is used to making.
The former Democratic Vice President has shown on several occasions during the campaign that he sometimes finds it difficult to control himself in the face of Donald Trump’s repeated personal attacks on him. For weeks, the tenant of the White House has been mocking the physical and mental capacities of “Sleepy Joe” (“Joe asleep”), presenting it as a puppet manipulated by the “Radical left”.
Polls show that Team Trump’s repeated attacks on the mental health of Joe Biden, 77, have left their mark. Any hesitation by the Democratic candidate during the debate will thus be ruthlessly exploited by the president’s team on social media.
A highly watched Supreme Court appointment
Between the September 18 death of progressive Supreme Court justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and the November 3 presidential election, the incumbent US president has a historic opportunity to bolster his conservative electorate. He intends to arrive at this meeting crowned with his base, the choice of Amy Coney Barrett (also nicknamed “ACB”), a magistrate known for her traditionalist religious convictions, to sit on the highest American court.
He hopes to galvanize the Christian right, on which he relied heavily in his surprise election in 2016, and beyond the entire conservative camp, especially all those who want to see the Supreme Court reverse its judgment of 1973 (Roe v . Wade) legalizing the right of American women to terminate their pregnancy. He predicted a confirmation ” fast “ of this nomination by the Senate, where Republicans are in the majority.
Joe Biden reiterated his call to the Senate not to “Not to speak” before the presidential election, believing that this appointment would strengthen the conservative majority within this key institution which settles major social debates, such as the Affordable Care Act, more commonly known as Obamacare, on which “ACB” could come back.
Economic crisis and explosion of unemployment
Donald Trump’s handling of the health crisis and its economic consequences have affected the Republican president’s popularity with voters. At the end of March, shortly after the paralysis of the American economy, Republicans and Democrats almost unanimously adopted a historic plan of 2.2 trillion dollars (approximately 1.9 trillion euros). It included funds for SMEs, a moratorium to prevent evictions and $ 600 a week aid for the unemployed, and had been supplemented by $ 500 billion in new measures by the end of April.
The plan did not prevent layoffs: in one week, 6.6 million Americans had registered unprecedented unemployment. While half of the 22 million jobs destroyed in the spring have been re-created, 12.6 million people are still unemployed. The US Federal Bank is now forecasting 7.6% unemployment in 2020.
Growing racial tensions
The murder of George Floyd, an African American suffocated under the knee of a white policeman on May 25 in Minneapolis, Minnesota, mobilized hundreds of thousands of Americans. Across the country, citizens marched to denounce racism “Systemic” in the USA.
But the great ecumenical mobilization at the start of the summer gave way to incidents, such as Wednesday, September 23, after the Kentucky attorney general’s decision not to prosecute the two police officers responsible for the death of nurse Breonna Taylor, 26 years old, killed in her sleep on March 13 in Louisville. Two policemen sustained minor gunshot wounds. The suspect, a 26-year-old man, was arrested. On Thursday evening, several hundred protesters again defied the curfew.
The country has not emerged from the vicious circle which sees anti-racist demonstrations degenerate, the cities – generally democratic – caught in the cycle of repression, the police, exasperated after months of unrest, the extreme right, delighted to pour oil on the flame. Donald Trump is trying to take advantage of these incidents by posing as a defender of ” Law and order “ and regularly denounces “Looters” and “Anarchists” of the anti-racist movement.
At an event in Atlanta on Friday, the presidential candidate assured that the Black Lives Matter movement, which has sparked many protests across the country, “Did a lot of harm to the black community”. His opponent at the polls, Democrat Joe Biden, said “Understand the frustration” demonstrators, while calling for calm.
The conditions for holding the poll
Ahead in the polls, the president still refuses to commit to guaranteeing a peaceful passage of power if he is defeated by his Democratic rival. Mr. Trump regularly complains about the conditions under which the election is held and claims, without supporting evidence, that postal voting is a source of potential fraud. He also appeared to call for an outright cancellation of the mailed ballots. Donald Trump, who has voted by mail himself, had previously threatened not to recognize the 2016 presidential results when he faced Hillary Clinton.
The outcome of the vote will be decided in the Supreme Court, Donald Trump also said. According to him, this assumption justifies that the seat left vacant by the death, on September 18, of the judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg be filled as quickly as possible.
Bonus question? Donald Trump’s taxes
A seventh subject could interfere with the debate. The meeting between the two candidates actually comes barely two days after the revelations of the New York Times on the heritage of Donald Trump. According to the American daily, which published information on twenty years of the billionaire’s tax returns on Sunday, Mr. Trump only paid $ 750 in federal taxes in 2016, the year he was elected president of the states. United, then as many in 2017. His tax situation, which he has always refused to make public, should therefore also figure prominently in the discussions.
The two opponents for the presidency will meet again for two more debates, scheduled for October 15 and 22, respectively in Miami (Florida) and Nashville (Tennessee). Outgoing Vice President Mike Pence will face Joe Biden’s running mate, Senator and former prosecutor Kamala Harris, on October 7 in Salt Lake City, Utah.