Presidential Debate Recap: Will You Shut Up, Man?

If you’re reading this on September 30, last night was the first presidential debate, and holy f*ck am I emotionally exhausted. However, democracy doesn’t take mental health days so, here I am. 

Last night’s debate was in Cleveland, Ohio (go Cavs), and was moderated by Fox’s Chris Wallace. Heading into the debate, Wallace planned to focus on the candidates’ records, the Supreme Court, COVID, the economy, race, and election integrity. Trump was also expected to be asked questions about discoveries regarding his taxes. However, the debate’s main themes ended up being fragile masculinity, gaslighting, and interrupting each other. 

For some context, with only five weeks left until November 3rd, over a million voters have cast their ballots, and 86% of voters have made up their minds, according to Politico. So, we’re not sure how informative or influential this shit will end up being in the election. Quite honestly, if I wanted to see three guys yell at each other incoherently, I’d watch frat guys argue. 

Whether you watched it and got too wrapped up in our ‘drink or donate’ game to remember most of it or you decided not to subject your mental health to the sh*t show that was last nights debate, I’m here with what I think are the most importantly insane moments from the debate. Let’s talk about where this wild ride took us. 

On The Supreme Court

The debate started with a discussion over the Supreme Court that focused on Amy Coney Barrett, health care, and election results. While Trump claimed that he, as President, has the right to nominate a new justice, Biden held that the American people have a right to have a say in who gets to make the nomination, especially since people have already started voting. 

Trump also said that filling the late Justice Ginsburg’s seat was crucial before the election if the Supreme Court is tasked with a ruling on election results. This very much fits with the Republican party’s goal of politicizing the Supreme Court and court system in their favor rather than neutralizing the institution. 


Last night, the President continued to demonstrate his concerning misunderstanding of and desire to distract from the coronavirus pandemic. Voters have overwhelmingly disapproved of the Presidents’ handling of the virus, which has now killed over 200,000 Americans and 1 million people worldwide. Trump continued pushing the unsubstantiated claim that children and young people aren’t affected by the coronavirus. 

Donald Trump also claimed that his rallies that completely ignore social distancing guidelines have “no negative effect” as if Herman Cain didn’t just die after possibly contracting COVID at, wait for it, a Trump campaign event. The President tried to distinguish between his rallies and Joe Biden’s in a way that made Biden look weak and unpopular. IDK about anyone else, but I feel like following social distancing guidelines, taking precautions to make sure attendees are safe, and modeling mask-wearing behavior is a little more presidential than pretending that the virus doesn’t exist.  

On The Economy

Vice President Biden’s weakest moments were during discussions over the economy, if for no other reason than the fact that he made some exaggerated claims. While the economy in 2016 was not horrible and unemployment was falling, it certainly wasn’t at its best. However, President Trump’s claims that he “had to close the greatest economy in the history of the country” (due to the pandemic) were also incorrect. Trump came into office during a period of economic expansion that was in trouble before COVID-19. 

Trump also claimed that he brought back 700,000 manufacturing jobs, which is blatantly incorrect. According to the Washington Post‘s fact check of the debate, at most, 480,000 manufacturing jobs have been created during the Trump presidency. However, due to recent unemployment rates, Trump is responsible for a net loss of 252,000 jobs. 

On His Taxes

He did it again! President Trump claimed that in 2016 and 2017, he spent millions of dollars in federal income taxes as if the New York Times doesn’t have the receipts saying he paid $750 both of those years. When asked to back up his claims that the New York Times report about his taxes was fabricated, Trump decided to latch on to his excuse that his tax returns/audits are in progress. Sure, Jan.

On Family Matters

Like the true heartless asshole he is, the President had no issue attacking Joe Biden’s family. The President repeatedly brought up the Moscow mayor’s wife, unsubstantiated claims about Hunter Biden’s board membership with a private equity firm that has links to the Chinese government, and implied issues with nepotism. And, as much as I wanted to see Biden absolutely destroy Donald Trump’s adult children and the Trump family’s own issues with nepotism, Biden took the high road, which was probably the smart thing. 

Instead of absolutely dragging Ivanka, Eric, and Don Jr., Biden turned to face the camera and reminded viewers that this debate and the presidency were not about the Trumps and the Bidens but about American families, many of whom have suffered devastating losses due to the pandemic. 

Biden did, however, take this chance to discuss Beau’s military experiences in context of the disrespect with which the President talks about people who are enlisted in the military and veterans. Instead of, like, apologizing for being extremely disrespectful to the people who risk their lives for America, Trump responded with an out of pocket and unnecessary attack about Hunter Biden’s history of addiction. Biden responded with compassion, acknowledging the toll drug abuse has taken on his and so many other American families but noting he’s “proud of his son” for his recovery. 

On White Supremacy

Unsurprisingly, when asked if he would condemn white supremacists’ actions, Donald Trump refused to do so. It’s not that he didn’t answer the question; he gave us a pretty clear answer by telling Proud Boys, a white supremacist/nationalist group, to “stand back and stand by.” Call me radical, but I feel like condemning white supremacists and telling them to f*cking stop doing what they’re doing should be the primary litmus test for Presidential candidates? 

Trump also took this moment to talk about how ANTIFA and “the left” is a more significant threat and cause more violence than extremist groups on the radical right. Biden responded that, of course, he condemns white nationalists, opposes violence, and that “ANTIFA is an idea, not an organization.” As a fun reminder, ANTIFA quite literally means Anti-Fascist. 


Trump’s pre-debate strategy seemed to be setting an incredibly low bar for Joe Biden’s performance. The thing with this is that it was just a stupid idea because all Biden had to do was the bare f*cking minimum to overcome expectations. 

While Trump behaved like a bizarre combination of an out-of-control toddler and gaslighting ex, voters got a glimpse of the same Joe Biden who said “this is a big f*cking deal” during a bill signing. Biden may have made comments that would traditionally be considered inappropriate and crossing a line (read: “would you shut up, man?”) with a sitting president, his frustration was totally called for. Since Biden undoubtedly cleared the incredibly low bar the President set for him, the consensus seems to be that the former Vice President came out on top. 

Like Jake Tapper said, the debate “was a hot mess, inside of a dumpster fire, inside of a train wreck.” But, if you’re asking my opinion: 

Losers: Biden, Trump, Chris Wallace, and The American People

Winner: The viral tweets and memes that were made among the way

Images: Photos by Jim WATSON and SAUL LOEB / AFP; Giphy (7)

Reagan Anthony
Reagan Anthony
Reagan Anthony is aggressively from Cleveland and a junior at Tulane University. Her hobbies include taste testing chicken nuggets, 6 AM workout classes, and reminding people of her peanut allergy. If she isn’t color-coding her notes, she can be found stirring the pot at her favorite frat house. Reagan is spending the semester in London, and (like every other basic girl abroad) will be documenting her adventures on Instagram @thatssooreagan.