/OPINION: Trump falls flat in town hall
Graphic by Bell Jackson.

OPINION: Trump falls flat in town hall

The two presidential nominees held separate town halls Thursday, Oct 15.  

The town halls replaced the debate that was supposed to take place the same night. President Trump backed out of the debate because he refused to participate in a virtual town hall, even though he recently tested positive for COVID-19. 

Joe Biden’s town hall was held in Philadelphia at the National Constitution Center. ABC’s George Stephanopoulos moderated the town hall. While Biden was in Philadelphia, Trump’s town hall was held in Miami at the Pérez Art Museum. NBC’s Savannah Guthrie moderated the town hall. 

Soon after Trump officially backed out of the debate, ABC picked up Biden to hold a town hall. The town halls were held at the same time on separate networks with Biden on ABC and Trump on NBC.  

Significant outrage was expressed over NBC scheduling the event. It prevented Americans from viewing each nominee with a side-by-side comparison.  

Social media soon blew up with calls to boycott NBC with hashtags like “#BoycottNBC” and “#BoycottMSNBC.” Former staffers and even current members of the news network expressed their disapproval.  

Former NBC “Today Show” member Katie Couric  tweeted, ”Having dueling town halls is bad for democracy – voters should be able to watch both and I don’t think many will.” 

Both town halls centered around COVID-19 and the general response made by the country.  

Trump’s entire beginning of the event centered around a timeline clarification of the events surrounding his positive COVID-19 test.  

He stated, “Hey, I’m president, I have to see people. I can’t be in a room…” Guthrie responded, in reference to Trump holding an event at the White House with no masks, “You can see people with a mask, right?”  

Trump cited a study that said 85% of the people with a mask catch the virus. The  study he referenced had nothing to do with the percentage of mask wearers who contract COVID-19. The  studyaimed to observe how the virus was spread through community exposure.  

During the other town hall, Biden immediately began taking questions.  

The first question came from a voter concerned over the government’s response to COVID-19. He asked Biden what he would have done, “looking back,” and then what a Biden administration would do towards the future.  

Biden gave an extensive answer, outlining the failed response by the Trump administration. Biden cited his public statements, and news pieces he wrote, talking about what he believed the administration should be doing.  

“The point was, he [Trump] missed enormous opportunities…It is a President’s responsibility to lead, and he did not do that…” stated Biden.  

The most contentious points from Biden’s town hall was his comments on the question of packing the Supreme Court. Following increasingly more pressure to give his clear position, he stated he is “not a fan.”  

Biden followed up on the response, saying that his position on the subject will depend on how the current administration handles the confirmation. He said that he would come out with a clear response before election day. 

Another tough question came from a young voter. He asked, “Besides ‘you ain’t Black,’ what do you have to say to young Black voters who see…a system that continually fails to protect them?” 

Biden gave a lengthy answer, highlighting his previous work and current support for education policy, including his $70 billion plan for HBCU’s and a plan to help Black families earn more wealth.  

The response was followed by another voter addressing concern over Biden’s past support of the Crime Bill, a highly controversial piece of legislation passed in 1994. The bill is often cited for having a drastic impact on mass incarceration. 

Biden responded with different pieces of the bill that he individually supported, such as his Violence Against Women Act and The Assault Weapons Ban. He stated he voted against the bill’s controversial part, the mandatory sentencing of “three strikes and you’re out.” 

The rest of Biden’s town hall saw lengthy policy discussion and the presidential nominee addressed each and every question asked. Biden was able to show America how he would act as the next president of our country. 

The Trump town hall saw President Trump on the defensive. After trying to clarify the events following Trump’s positive COVID-19 test, he was asked about his hesitance to denounce white supremacy. He again dodged, saying, “I denounce Antifa.”  

Guthrie then asked him to denounce QAnon, a conspiracy group that believes the Democratic party is “a satanic cult run by the deep state” and that Trump is the savior. He refused to denounce the extremely dangerous group.  

Trump also stated, “So, I know nothing about QAnon,” then said he agrees with them in their stance against pedophilia. The president publicly gave credit to an absurd conspiracy theory based on  zero evidence  by refusing to denounce it.  

Following QAnon, Trump tried to fall back on his usual tactics of claiming that voter fraud is an issue in America. Guthrie cited Trump’s own FBI director, Christopher Wray, who said there is no evidence for widespread voter fraud. Trump dismissed his words, saying Wray “is not doing a very good job.” 

The rest of the town hall was the same format of Trump being asked a direct question, then becoming defensive and rambling statistics or studies that have been debunked numerous times over. 

From the first 15 minutes of each town hall, America can see a stark difference between the two nominees.  

Biden was able to answer questions directly and properly discuss policy so that the average American can understand.  

In contrast, Trump demonstrated his inability to give a direct answer and his inability to hold a respectful conversation. For the entire town hall, not just the first 15 minutes, Trump led with defensive and abruptly abrasive responses to the questions he was asked. Multiple times he commented in the middle of Guthrie speaking.  

At the end of the night, Biden appeared to be the most respectable. He maintained lengthy discussion of policy and gave the performance of a normal, honest politician who is for the people. He demonstrated the standard not just for Democrats, but for Americans as a whole. While doing so he gave sometimes lengthy, dense speeches that proved he is the opposite of the senile, crazy old man that conservatives portray him as.  

Voters have a choice between a man who is dignified and has been in office as a senator for over 30 years and vice president for 8 years, and a man who is a borderline fascist who lacks in any form of political experience prior to his four years of president and makes up for it in weak anecdotes. 

It is between a man who has convincingly proved his worth on numerous occasions and a man who has been the third president to become impeached in the history of our country. The future of the country depends on this choice and it will be decided by the Americans who decide to get up and exercise their right to vote.  

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Xander Swain is the copy editor for The Alabamian. He is majoring in political science, environmental studies, and sociology and wants to eventually obtain a Ph.D. in sociology. He enjoys cooking for his friends, listening to music and taking long walks on the beach.