6 Takeaways From the Final 2020 Presidential Debate

The second and final presidential debate was held on October 22 at 9PM EST.  Moderated by  Kristen Welker, NBC News’ White House correspondent, the debate rules were slightly changed to prevent the debacle that was witnessed by millions in the first debate.

If you need a reminder of what happened the first go around, that was the time Trump interrupted, ranted, and disrespected both Biden, the moderator and the debate format. It had created an unintelligible spectacle that hurt Trump’s standings in the polls.

The second presidential debate saw Biden coming in with a strong showing, while Trump fell apart (again) in significant ways, despite commentary from political pundits stating they thought he was “bleeding out less” following his showing. However, notably, Trump was most excited when he was attacking Biden’s family, not about any of the issues.

In case you missed it, here’s a run-down of the topics, and in a nutshell:

Fighting COVID-19

The US has the most deaths of any wealthy nation, and our president, first lady, their son, and over thirty of their intimate staff tested positive for COVID 19. This in itself is a huge indication that the Trump administration has not been able to effectively address the pandemic.

In fact, it was our president who stated, and continues to say, “It’s going away.”  Meanwhile, scientists, medical professionals, and Biden continue to inform the public that there may be over 100,00 more deaths before the end. During the debate Trump commented, “People are just going to have to learn to live with it.” In response, Biden said that too many people are dying to just dismiss it.

American Families

In this segment Trump called Biden a politician for appealing to American families.  In response, Biden asked Trump about the separation of children at the border. In particular, Biden focused on the over 500 children in detention centers who have yet to be reunited with their parents because they cannot be found.

Additionally, and noticeably on the topic of health care, when brought up, Trump split his time between ranting about Bernie Sanders and socialism, and a random rant about fracking. Biden appealed to the millions of Americans who currently don’t have health care. “I believe health care is not a privilege, it’s a right.” He also addressed the need for universal coverage through a government option.

Race in America

Remember in the first debate when the president was asked to denounce White supremacy, to which he made the statement, “Around Boys, stand back and stand by?” You’d think he would use this time on stage to smooth that comment over – but no. When asked if he understood “the talk” that Black parents have with their children, he responded, “I am the least racist person in this room.” He went on to talk about the work he has done for Blacks with the Prisoner Reform Act, providing more jobs for Blacks in America, and his funding to historically Black colleges, where he bragged about giving them more than they requested – “and they were surprised,” he added. And once again, he stated, “No other president since Abraham Lincoln has done more for the Black people in this country than me.”

Biden, on the other hand, talked about his daughter dedicating her life to social work, as well as his work with the Black communities. He said he understood about the talk and stayed focused on the question. It is important to note that Biden has a questionable history of crime bills he’s supported in the 40 plus years of him serving this country. When asked by the president and the moderator about this, he stated, “I made mistakes.”

Climate Change

Let’s just start out with the obvious: The president does not acknowledge that the threat to climate change exists. With his record of increasing Fracking, oil use, coal use, and other choices that have increased our dependence on fossil fuels, the environment is crumbling at the hands of greed. He went on to state that renewal energy was going to destroy the economy. 

In contrast, the former Vice President stated that his plan was to transition towards renewable energy, as well as a promise to get the United States back into the Paris Climate Agreement. 

The surprise of the evening is when Biden stated he wanted to phase out the oil industry, to which Trump smiled as a nod to industry workers. Many Biden supporters were pleased to see Biden stand up for renewable energy with honesty and integrity, not sidestepping uncomfortable truths in order to appease special interest groups.

National Security

This was a strong area for the president since he has not initiated any foreign wars during his term, as in contrast to the Obama Biden era.

There is a looming question over the vulnerability of a Biden administration and its potential of getting caught up in a potential foreign war (as happened in prior administrations.)

At home, however, the president didn’t fair as well in stats. During his administration, acts domestic terrorism have increased by double (or even triple) digits. In spite of Trump’s claims to support what he calls “law and order,” events such as the Governor of Michigan’s Gretchen Whitmer kidnapping plot, and Trump’s utter failure to address it, as well as the obvious connection between Trump’s rhetoric and the plot itself, bear stunning testimony to the destruction of our security and safety under his administration.

In foreign voting interference, Trump did not object or say he would hold Iran or Russia accountable for their roles in the 2020 election.  On the contrary, Biden said he would hold foreign governments accountable.

Additionally, Trump was clear that he feels his policy on North Korea has been a huge win for America because the leader of North Korea likes him. “He didn’t like Obama,” he went on to say.

Biden pointed out that appeasing people is not a historic win, as in the case of getting along with Hitler, and that the North Korean leader did not like Obama because Obama was willing to try to hold him accountable. In response, Biden asked about Trump’s dubious relationships with China and Russia, to which the president had no defense, and responded by asking Biden about an allegation of taking money from China.


The final category of debate was the area of leadership. In my opinion, this is where Trump showed the most failure. His ludicrous antics as a president have left us looking completely foolish as a country. The evidence can be found in many areas. One only has to look at the circus of his administration, from appointing family members with no experience in the political world, to the countless of close staff members to resign or get fired (more than any other administration has ever seen,) to see that his leadership is flawed, not only to the people around him, but to the country as a whole. Let’s not forget his countless tweets and retweets per day that perpetuate conspiracy theories, hate, xenophobia and more. He has managed to divide this country more than any other president in the history of the United States.

In the final question posed by the moderator, each candidate was asked: “What will you say in your inauguration speech to those who did not vote for you?”


“We have to make a country totally successful, as it was prior to the plague coming in from China. … We had the best Black unemployment numbers in the history of our country, hispanic, women, Asian, people with diplomas, with no diplomas, MIT graduates, number one in the class, everybody had the best numbers. And you know what the other side wanted to get together, they wanted to unify.

“Success is going to bring us together. We are on the road to success. But I’m cutting taxes and he wants to raise everybody’s taxes and he wants to put new regulations on everything. He will kill it. If he gets in, you will have a depression the likes of which you’ve never seen. Your 401(k)s will go to hell, and it’ll be a very, very sad day for this country.”


“I’m the American president, I represent all of you whether you voted for me or for against me. And I’m going to make sure that you’re represented. I’m going to give you hope. We’re going to move. We’re going to choose science over fiction. We’re going to choose hope over fear. We’re going to choose to move forward because we have enormous opportunities, enormous opportunities to make things better. We can grow this economy. We can deal with the systemic racism. And at the same time, we can make sure that our economy is being run and moved and motivated by clean energy, creating millions of new jobs. And that’s the fact. That’s what we’re going to do.

“And I’m going to say, as I said at the beginning, what is on the ballot here is the character of this country – decency, honor, respect, treating people with dignity, making sure that everyone has an even chance. I’m going to make sure you get that. You haven’t been getting it the last four years.”

In case you have not participated in the early voting or mail in voting options, and you are still undecided, please take a moment to reflect on the kind of leadership you want to see in this country. Which one of the men with bring back civility, honor, unity? I think the answer is clear, don’t you?

Lastly, make sure you vote. It’s the least we can do to bring the change we want to see.

Sarah is a social worker and certified alcohol and drug counselor in the San Francisco Bay Area, the traditional land of the Ohlone people. She likes to paint, drum, sing, and spend quality time with her family and God.