Politics Update

Co+Deputy+Editor+in+Chief%3A+Online+Sal+Cerrell+and+Lead+News+Editor+Cameron+Spurr+break+down+the+most+important+political+stories+this+week.

Lucas Romualdo

Co Deputy Editor in Chief: Online Sal Cerrell and Lead News Editor Cameron Spurr break down the most important political stories this week.

Cameron Spurr and Sal Cerrell

The Presidential Debacle

You’d be forgiven for shutting your eyes during the first U.S. presidential debate and thinking you were listening to a quarrel between two-second grade students. The hallmarks of such an interaction were all present on the debate stage: name-calling, interrupting and tantrums ran abound.

There was little to no consensus as to whether President Donald Trump or former Vice President Joe Biden won the debate. Any arguments that usually arise in the following days as to which candidate made the greater impression were stifled. It was impossible to discern the candidates’ points through the crossfire of insults and interruptions.

However, one thing was clear once the 90-minute “debate” had finished – American political discourse lost a hefty chunk of its already dwindling reputation. 

Moderator Chris Wallace tried to control the situation from behind his desk, but spectacularly failed. His calls to move onto a new subject or give Biden adequate time to respond were repeatedly shouted over by the President.

According to The Independent, Wallace has since called the debate “a terrible missed opportunity.”

Seemingly, this was Trump’s strategy. It likely surprised him how competent Biden was in making his points, as Trump himself assumed “sleepy Joe” wouldn’t be able to. When the incoherent Biden perception was rendered unviable, Trump resorted to cornering him.

If there are any undecided voters out there who were looking to this debate to find answers, they didn’t get any. Both candidates struggled to provide specific answers to key policy questions. 

For Biden, this was most prominent when he was asked whether or not he would expand the number of justices from nine to 11, which he explicitly refused to answer. For Trump, his debate strategy consisted of personal attacks on Biden’s character and was light on policy proposals. 

Trump repeated baseless claims that Hunter Biden, Joe Biden’s son, had taken millions of dollars from Russian and Ukranian elites. He also falsely claimed that Biden finished last in his graduating class at the University of Delaware.

Though he appeared to shake off the latter attack, the comments from Trump did seem to affect his performance from that point on, as his responses were much less concise, with answers going down meaningless tangents that were difficult to follow.

At one point, Biden closed his eyes for a significant period of time as Trump attacked his sons, specifically targeting Hunter Biden for his past addiction to cocaine. 

Biden is not in the clear, however, as he too sent insults Trump’s way. He called the President a “clown,” and at one point told him, “Will you shut up, man?”

Because of Trump’s repeated interruptions, the Commission on Presidential Debates put out a statement in which they announced they would change the format of future events to ensure substantive policy as the center of discussion. This is a necessary step to ensure voters can use the debates as an opportunity to better understand the candidates’ policy proposals, rather than how many times each can interrupt the other. 

As of now, there are two more debates between the two candidates scheduled to take place before election day. However, it wouldn’t be surprising if the Biden campaign decides to pull out of the next two events, given the extent of the personal attacks leveled against the former Vice President. 

The Late September Surprise

For weeks, voters have been searching for a bombshell to crack the 2020 election open. They may have gotten one.

A New York Times investigation revealed Sept. 27 that Trump has, for the most part, paid peanuts in income tax over the last 20 or so years. 

In 2016, Trump paid $750 in federal income tax. A year later, his first as President, Trump paid the same figure. Examining records even further back, Trump paid nothing in 10 out of the previous 15 years.

Further, the report strikes down the image of a business mogul that Trump’s media personality portrays, contrasting it by unveiling millions in net losses reported from his business holdings over the past 20 years. These losses also explain the wave of deductions he received from the IRS.

Combining public records and newly obtained ones, the Times confirmed much of what had been speculated by scrutinizers throughout Trump’s campaign and first term. The one answer we didn’t get – any record of financial interaction with Russia.

Trump’s taxes have long been a contentious topic. During his 2016 campaign, he endured relentless pressure to release his returns without succumbing. It is custom for presidential candidates to release their returns so that voters can learn to whom they may owe money and whether they would maintain any conflicts of interest as President, among other valuable insights.

Trump’s defense for keeping them close to his chest for all of this time is that he cannot do so under routine audit from the IRS. According to the BBC, there is no legal basis for this claim.

The Times report reveals such concerns. Firstly, Trump has profited off of his international holdings far more than his domestic ones, potentially influencing his diplomatic interaction with these nations.

In response, Biden released his tax returns for the 2019 tax year, which proves he paid much more in federal income tax than Trump in 2016 and 2017. 

The never-ending saga of Trump’s tax returns will seemingly continue, however, as he, again, would not firmly commit to releasing them in full. Since The Times was able to acquire the most recent damning documents, it’s expected that more documents will be released over the coming years. 

Modi endures multifaceted challenges

For the past months, the U.S. has dominated the COVID-19 conversation as it quickly overtook European countries to become the leader in both cases and deaths. Now, India is rising as a potential challenger to this pandemic “prestige.”

According to the New York Times, one in 212 people in India have had the coronavirus. The country’s total of over six million cases puts it second, ahead of Brazil with nearly five million.

However, a CNN report cites a survey that found that more than 60 million people may unknowingly have COVID-19. Because of the country’s testing strategy, or lack thereof, this figure is unlikely to be officially corroborated.

India has the second-largest population in the world, and much of the nation is underdeveloped. So, by these standards, the country faces one of the most daunting fights with the virus. As seen elsewhere in the world, COVID-19 can tear through even the most developed healthcare infrastructure.

Such difficulty handling the virus has also forced a sharp economic downturn. Per Bloomberg, 21 million jobs have been lost during the pandemic.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s failure to contain the spread of COVID-19 raises further questions over his competency. 

Even before the pandemic, economic growth in key areas stood well below projections made by Modi himself. He has also beseeched the country’s secular governmental structure by promoting a Hindu nationalist ideology, much to the dismay of the large Muslim minority present in India. 

Large protests swept across the country in January, as millions took to the streets to protest against the government. 

While he may trouble the Muslim minority domestically, Modi has made friends on the international stage by adopting such nationalist rhetoric, including Trump.

A further problem Modi faces comes at his border with China. Chinese and Indian forces have recently fought intermittently over a border dispute between the two nuclear powers, killing dozens of Indian soldiers and drawing increased criticism for Modi. 

Strangely, despite all that his nation suffers, Modi still maintains relatively secure public support, possibly saved by his unending attempts at a populist image and pandering to the Hindu majority.