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Analysis

Two mockeries of democracy instead of one: Biden and Trump town halls replace debate

Donald Trump and Joe Biden held town hall-style encounters at the same time yesterday in what columnist and political cartoonist Ted Rall described as an event, “long on drama but short on credible solutions.” Trump and Biden were initially scheduled to face off in a traditional head-to-head debate. But this was called off due to a dispute over whether the debate would be held in person or virtually after Trump’s COVID diagnosis.

Trump: “We’re a winner on the excess mortality”

Trump’s utter lack of concern for the health and safety of working people and the public at large has been clear since the beginning of 2020. Trump and members of his administration have constantly dismissed and minimized the threat of the pandemic publicly, flouting scientific research and even behaving in ways proven to spread the virus themselves. In his town hall event, Trump underscored this disinterest in public health when he boasted, “We’re a winner on the excess mortality.”

What exactly he meant by this is unclear because the moderator did nothing to seek clarity. What is clear is that the number of excess deaths in the country is nearing 300,000 according to the Centers for Disease Control, and some studies predict that number could grow to 400,000 by year’s end. Excess deaths are determined by comparing the number of deaths over a period of time to a similar time period in previous years.

No matter how the United States stacks up against other countries in this statistic, it is unconscionable to brag in this way about a death toll approaching the current population of Cleveland, Ohio.

Trump advocated for a “herd immunity” approach to resolving the crisis, which would mean leaving residents of the country to fend for themselves and take their chances on the hopes that enough resistance can be built by mass community exposure and circulation of the virus, something that is surely a harrowing prospect for the elderly and others in high-risk categories. The United States has over 20 percent of the recorded cases of and deaths from COVID-19 despite having only about 4 percent of the world’s population and perhaps more wealth than any other government on earth.

Badgered into formally denouncing white supremacy in general terms, Trump then bent over backwards to avoid denouncing the absurd QAnon conspiracy theory that posits that a satanic cabal of pedophiles made up of high-level government officials secretly hold the levers of political power in the United States — and oppose Trump.

Biden: The candidate of business as usual

Democratic challenger Joe Biden approached his town hall event in a less chaotic manner than Trump but still managed to make some of his own fact-free claims such as, “You don’t have to lock down if you are wearing the mask.”

Biden proposed a nominal wealth tax, adding some figures about how much extra revenue a return to the Bush-era tax scheme would result in. The candidate clarified that he is unwilling to use the power of an Executive Order to force through this modest proposal if he would become President, saying such a move is something “a dictator” would do.

Given an opportunity to speak to the mass movement against racism that erupted into the streets this summer, Biden declined to breathe one word of serious criticism about the police during the entire event. He told a town hall participant, who asked a question about why young Black voters should bother to go to the polls to support him, “I’ve demonstrated I care about my whole career … dealing with a criminal justice system to make it fair and make it more decent.”

This is a ridiculous lie. Biden was the principle author of the 1994 crime bill that dramatically expanded mass incarceration. In a speech to the Senate as it was considering the bill, Biden said at the time, “We have predators on our streets that society has in fact, in part because of its neglect, created. They are beyond the pale many of those people, beyond the pale … We have no choice but to take them out of society.” In the same speech, Biden invoked more obvious racist dog whistles when he warned of a “cadre of young people, tens of thousands of them, born out of wedlock, without parents, without supervision, without any structure, without any conscience developing.”

Reflecting on the state of national politics, Rall told Liberation News, “[W]e have electoral politics without actual political discussions about the issues that most affect Americans” adding that, “It’s clear the ruling classes have no interest in helping us. We will have to do that ourselves.’

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