I am, of course, talking about the Presidential debate between Donald J. Trump and Joe Biden that was held in the US by the Presidential Debate Commission and moderated by Chris Wallace on September 29, 2020. As if 2020 could not get any stranger! Someone said it was not a debate but a “hot mess, inside a dumpster fire, inside a train wreck.” I think that demeans both the dumpster and the train wrecks. Those metaphors cannot really describe the unmitigated dark and foreboding mud wrestling that was called a debate. If the stakes were not so high then maybe it would be entertaining as watching mud wrestling with a fat pig. However, the sad fact is that the pig loves the mud and the more you stay in the cage with the pig the dirtier you get and he, of course, loves it all. Oy vay!
As I sat down to watch the debate with a glass of wine and cheese and crackers, I was hoping to learn little about the policy positions of these guys and maybe even understand what they intend to do to pull the country out of the ditch that it finds itself in. Fat chance! After two hours, the wine was undrunk and the cheese had gone stale. I watched open-mouthed a brawl that just was unimaginable in any civilized country, let alone the United States of America. There are too many areas that bothered me and millions of other people, let me just list a few areas.
COVID-19: The big elephant in the room. The US has little over 4% of the world population and 20% of the total worldwide deaths from COVID around 207,000 and counting. Why would that be? That was a question that the debate was supposed to get at. But, Trump kept interrupting and interrupting and interrupting so that no one understood any of the basic facts or the policy decisions that led us to this grim valley. He kept shouting that he has done a great job and without him, there would be millions of deaths from the “China Virus”. Of course, there is no evidence of any of that. If the assertion can be shown to be logical somehow (which it cannot be) how do you prove a negative? So, you may ask as to what happened in the US. The most likely answer is that presidential politics trumped the idea of life and death.
The President knew back in February of 2020 that the COVID-19 virus was a deadly airborne virus that attacks its victims capriciously. There was little data as to why some people contracted the disease and died and some were just OK. In the absence of science, the only thing we could have done was what humans have learned from other pandemics -- social distancing and wearing a face covering. But that was way too inconvenient for Trump and his party. The thought was it will crash the stock markets and create an economic downturn in an election year. These bozos forgot to understand that without taming the virus economic activities will be spotty at best and disastrous at worst. So, Trump politicized the wearing of masks and social distancing. He and his followers mocked half the country for wearing masks, stormed the Michigan State Capitol with log guns to open up the State after Trump asked them to “liberate” Michigan, they made it a point not to wear masks in stores causing many confrontations. A simple life-saving thing became a political slugfest.
I was hoping the debate will shed light on the underlying reasons for this debacle. But, we got nowhere. It was “I saved millions of lives, the US is the best country in the world dealing with the China Virus”. The moderator mercifully stopped the topic. Dear readers, here is what I think is the underlying reason for the Mask derision. Trump listened to some FOX News blowhard and heard about “herd immunity” (he actually cannot remember it properly and called it herd mentality) and wanted to see if the US can conquer the virus with herd immunity thus save the stock market and the economy. The problem is that the science says, in order for herd immunity to kick in 70% of the population needs to be infected. In the US, the mortality rate is little over 2.35%. Let us say it is 1% to be very conservative and easier on the arithmetic, besides Fattys do not count, eh? That means of the 330 million Americans some 231 million will have to be infected and using the 1% mortality rate some 2.31 million of us will die. Some 40% of Americans are obese and we know that this virus makes beeline for the Fattys, this includes Trump. Maybe the trick was to kill off the Fattys. But no one actually did the simple arithmetic before signing on to the herd immunity concept. Thus we are at 208,000 dead and counting. I desperately wanted the debate to flesh out the reasons for the horrid outcome from COVID-19 in the US. But, not to be.
White Supremacy: Another horrific moment of the debate was Trump’s refusal to denounce the White Supremacists that are organizing and terrorizing cities and towns. FBI lists White Supremacists as a clear security threat to the country, even above the Islamic terrorists. That is saying something, no? The killing of George Floyd started a vigorous protest across the nation. Trump’s response was to call the protesters violent lawbreakers and unleash the unmarked Federal soldiers in various cities, including Portland and Seattle. In each of the cities, a small group of the armed militia was involved in skirmishes with protesters. The White Supremacists are giving voice to deep-seated anxieties among some of the population about a demographic shift and loss of traditional power bases. The response has been attacks against People of Color and many other minorities.
The killing of some 15 people in El Paso Walmart comes to mind. Anyway, during the debate, the moderator asked Trump if he would denounce the White Supremacists. Befuddled Trump says who? In the back and forth shouting Biden suggested Proud Boys which is a violent White Supremacist group. Not sure why he name-checked the group, but he did. What Trump said after a lot of teeth-gnashing was very revealing. As opposed to denouncing he said, “Proud Boys Stand Back and Stand By”. This was almost a call to arms to the bigoted group. The Proud Boys of course came out with a logo with these words during the debate! This was so shocking to so many people that the chattering class went ape in condemnation. Trump is an “unmitigated racist” and this should not have been a revelation. It was just that it was said in a national debate that was being televised worldwide. The sheer scale of race baiting was just breathtaking.
Election Integrity: Trump has been saying for some time that the elections are rigged. He complains that the mail-in ballots are fraudulent, never mind that he himself votes by mail. This has become a big point of worry for most observers. Trump seems to be laying the groundwork for contesting any result that does not give him a win. In the US, the core of democracy is a peaceful transfer of power when a new President is elected. Unlike many illiberal countries, election results are sacrosanct here. The transfer of power is completed by the ritualistic inauguration ceremony in January after the November election the previous year. In our case, the transfer of power will happen on the 19th of January 2021. This is so well designed that for the last 100 years there was never any doubt about the procedure of transfer of power. Now, all of a sudden this has become an issue. Trump is simply refusing to accept a peaceful transfer of power. During the debate, he once again castigated mail-in ballots and said he would not accept them. The Democrats, the media, and the vast majority of people are in shock and despair. Bedwetting has begun in earnest in all quarters. There is no playbook as to what will happen if the chaos just mushrooms into uncontrollable violence.
So, the debate ended without me drinking a sip of the very fine wine and me joining the bedwetting class! America may be heading into a period of great turmoil and probable civil disorder. I hope that this country that I love so much has the foresight and fortitude to conquer the coming chaos if not avoid it. We can just vote and that we shall do, Insha’Allah!
Kayes Ahmed is a Bangladeshi American serial entrepreneur, thinker and writer. He lives with his two dogs in Colorado and California