In just a few days, America will see the first Presidential debate, being held in Cleveland, Ohio at Case Western Reserve University.
The debate will cover some of America’s most pressing issues, including Trump and Biden’s political records, the civil rights issues that have been at the center of American focus, the all-important Supreme Court pick, COVID-19, Election Security, and the perennial favorite, the economy.
Fox News’ Chris Wallace will be moderating.
What America Expects
I believe America expects this to be a no-holds-barred, all-out battle royale. Joe Biden has been touted as the candidate who can get tough with Donald Trump, and Trump has always been provocative, if not offensive in his debate performances. Experts believe this debate will be the most highly watched debate in US history.
The Nu Perspective
My expectations are not so dramatic, and in fact, I think a shouting contest will turn off the majority of voters, left and right alike.
I want to focus on what I think Joe Biden needs to do to come out on top in this one. In a typical debate (pre-2016) you could usually count on both candidates to bring something to the table in terms of substantive policy, and both candidates would be working under the same set of standards. However, it has become clear over the last three years that Donald Trump operates in a standard-less arena and, as he said, could shoot someone on 5th Avenue and not lose any support.
Trump supporters are Trump supporters. I doubt that even 5% of his base is available to consider Joe Biden. But who is available is the large swathe of Independent voters who are disillusioned with political parties.
These voters are looking for civility, unity and real action. From what I have observed, these voters want to see improvement that they have not seen over the last decade, or longer.
And this is why it is so important that Joe Biden does not engage in Donald Trump’s trench. Voters who he can capture are sick of the divisiveness. To capture those voters, he needs to come off as the stable, respectful unifying candidate.
The nation is in turmoil. We are in the midst of a pandemic, and have lost more lives through it than any other nation on Earth. A new civil-rights movement marches in the streets as time and time again, Black Americans are robbed of their lives and of justice, almost always unnecessarily. In November, the Supreme Court will hear a case that could overturn the Affordable Care Act, leaving millions of Americans uninsured, and risking large premium increases for Americans who remain insured.
These are not simply academic issues that are fun to talk about. These issues hold real bearing in people’s lives. So while an outright boxing match between candidates might be more entertaining, Americans have too much at stake to excuse that kind of performance.
Joe Biden has policy on his side. He has a path forward on healthcare, he has repeatedly said he would implement a national strategy to improve the response to COVID. On both issues, the Trump administration has offered nothing.
So while Joe Biden can opt to “get tough” on Donald Trump, an even easier and more effective target is simply to be real – be a real Presidential candidate. It may be as simple as saying ” I am going to be a leader for all Americans, whether they disagree with me, or not.” Paired with experience and comprehensive plans, his argument should be effective.
The only real concern is in how intelligent he sounds on the stage. Again, Donald Trump has no bar to meet. He can slur his words, he can lie, he can misspeak…it doesn’t matter. There is no consequence. But Joe Biden is under a microscope, not only from the right, but from Democrats who tend to hold their candidates to higher standards.
He cannot afford to misspeak. He cannot afford to come off as “cheap” should he try to get rough with Trump. He must be articulate, patient and witty a la Obama – a demeanor that earned Democrats two relatively easy electoral wins.
And he must not be overly divisive. Democrats may want to pack the courts should Republicans complete their justice-seat-stealing scheme. And they may be right to do so. But do not run on that premise. Run on the issues. Run on middle-class well-being. Americans are angry, they are depressed, they are confused and leaderless, and we have far more questions about our immediate future than we have answers.
So to summarize – Biden must be eloquent, issue-oriented, patient and perhaps most important, he must put forth an image of himself that shows he can be a leader for all Americans, not just a leader for the Democratic base.
The debate begins at 9PM EST and will be televised on CNN, Fox News, CBS, ABC, C-SPAN, NBC and MSNBC.
Join the Nu Deal on Facebook for a Debate Watch party beginning 15 minutes prior to the debate!