By Amanda Menas
During the first presidential debate on Tuesday night, former Vice President Joe Biden presented a clear vision, speaking as a champion for public education. Through chaotic and relentless attacks, Trump showed that he was incapable of leading our students, educators, and country to a better future.
In each segment of the hour-and-a-half long debate, Trump continuously interrupted both the moderator and Biden, refused to take responsibility for the 200,000 lives lost to the coronavirus, and failed to present any plan for how to move forward. In one particularly chilling moment, Trump even told a known white supremacist group to “stand by” rather than denouncing them.
Biden took the time to speak directly to viewers at multiple points during the debate. “[Trump] doesn’t want to talk about what you need, the American people. It’s about you. That’s what we’re talking about here,” said Biden into the camera.
“In tonight’s debate, America saw once again why we need Joe Biden as our next president. They saw Joe Biden is an empathetic leader who will unite the country, rebuild the middle class, and create more opportunities for our students,” said former science teacher and NEA President Becky Pringle.
The debate was a reminder of what educators have been saying for the last three years: this is not normal. We need a president who speaks for and cares about all Americans. However, over the last three years of his presidency, Trump has sown doubt in scientists, ignored advice from doctors and health experts, and furthered racism and xenophobia for his own benefit.
“[Americans] heard Donald Trump promise four more years of division, distraction, and distortions. On COVID-19, Trump tried to distract us by blaming others rather than taking responsibility for his utter failure to lead in this time of crisis, leaving the economy in shambles and public schools and families to fend for themselves,” said Pringle.
Trump also reminded educators and parents that even during the coronavirus pandemic, he is willing to strip away health care for partisan games. Now is not the time to play politics with the lives of American people. During the debate, Trump lied about his continuous efforts to rip health care coverage and protections for pre-existing conditions away from millions of Americans.
Instead of preventing hundreds of thousands of educators from being laid off or furloughed due to the economic crisis brought on by the pandemic, Trump has told health experts to reduce the number of tests and minimized the protective nature of wearing masks. Trump has failed educators during this pandemic, but it did not need to be that way.
“Americans heard from Joe Biden his plan to lead our nation out of the COVID-19 pandemic, and how he would turn to scientists and doctors when making public health decisions and listen to educators and parents on how best to support our students during and coming out of these tough times,” said Pringle. Biden has released multiple plans to “Build Back Better,” from reopening schools safely to kickstarting the economy.
Trump’s failure to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic in terms of protecting the health of Americans as well as protecting the economy shows that he is ill equipped to lead for another term. Biden pointed out that millionaires and billionaires have been fine during the crisis under Trump’s tax plan, and asked, “folks at home, you folks living in Scranton and Claymont and all the small towns and working class towns in America, how well are you doing?” He noted that Trump paid just $750 in federal income taxes in 2017–”less tax than a school teacher,” said Biden.
Tonight’s debate made it clear that we can’t take 4 more years of Trump. Joe Biden is the leader that our country needs to tackle the COVID-19 crisis, stand up for educators, and create a path for a better future for our students.