Biden empathizes, Trump scares: Debate 2 roundup

Gustaf Kilander
4 min readOct 23, 2020

What was supposed to be the third debate, but ended up being the second and last, was substantial in comparison to the first, although that was a low bar to clear.

The mic of the opposing candidate was muted during the initial response to each question. Trump listened to his advisors telling him to let Biden speak himself into a hole. Biden didn’t speak himself into a hole but interrupting him as Trump did in the first debate did nothing but damage to his campaign. So Trump kept his cool all the way into the last bit of the debate when he started shouting “Who built the cages?” saying that the immigration facilities holding migrant children were built in 2014 during the Obama administration. While this is true, the practice of routinely separating children at the border is a Trump administration practice, not an Obama one. While the Obama administration did separate kids at the border, it was in cases where the child’s safety was in doubt, or when the parent had a serious criminal past. The Trump administration, on the other hand, egged on by then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions, pushed for family separations as a deterrent to stop families from attempting to enter the US.

On the handling of the Coronavirus, Trump brought out his greatest hits: he cited ramped up testing as the reason for the high number of cases and he said that first expectations were that 2.2 million Americans would die from COVID. The problem with that is that it was an estimate for if the US government and the American people did nothing do stem the spread of the virus, it was not a baseline for a successful response as Trump likes to imply.

Trump returned again and again to his go-to attack on Biden every time the former VP tried to suggest anything new: Why didn’t you do this when you were VP? Biden several times described partial successes that he wanted to finish, such as the treatment of drug offenses. But the reply that left the room quiet was when Biden said: We had a Republican congress. The Democrats had control of congress until the 2010 election, and a Republican Party with a surging Tea Party and Freedom Caucus was not about to make deals with Obama.

Biden did well what he always does well, he empathized with people, he described the struggle of minorities, while Trump again claimed he’s the best thing that’s happened to African Americans since Abraham Lincoln, despite all the racist polices and comments and plentiful other evidence to the contrary. Like comments he’s made previously, Trump claimed he was “the least racist person in the room” without any evidence in support and a lot of evidence against.

One of the oldest attacks in American politics is for a Republican to say that a Democrat is a socialist, an old Cold War tactic used to scare voters into thinking that the Democrats are the American version of the Bolsheviks. Trump didn’t outright call Biden a socialist, probably because he has realized that it doesn’t stick. What Trump did say was that Biden was in favor of socialized medicine and would outlaw private insurance. This turned into a layup for Biden as he got to do what he loves to do: talk about how he beat all those left-wingers in the primary because he disagreed with them. This is a win-win for Biden: he gets to appeal to undecided moderates and the few Republicans who are hesitating to vote for the President, without losing any progressives as they have no alternative in America’s two-party system. Trump still didn’t have a plan to show off, even after five years of talking about replacing Obamacare with something better.

Trump ended up spending a lot of time talking about things that most people haven’t heard about or which has no relevance in most people’s lives. He attacked Biden for his and his son’s dealings with foreign powers in a way that was lacking any and all facts, and he said the stock market would tank if Biden was elected. Most people haven’t heard the latest story about Hunter Biden and his laptop, and most aren’t living and dying with the ups and downs of the Nasdaq. Meanwhile, Biden often spoke directly into the camera trying to talk directly to people, and those were his strongest moments.

Trump blamed his accountant for not releasing his taxes despite the fact that as the President of the United States, he has the right and power to do so himself.

The moderator, Kristen Welker of NBC News, got a lot of credit for moderating a debate that didn’t collapse into chaos. Although that was probably just as much because of Trump realizing that screaming his head off didn’t exactly help in the end last time around.

Will this debate turn around the race? Most certainly not.

Will it stop the bleeding for the Trump campaign? Probably not.

Can Trump still win? The odds are heavily against him, but of course he can.



Gustaf Kilander

DC Journalist from Sweden with a BA from the UK