On Oct. 22, Joe Biden and Donald Trump are scheduled to square off for the second and final presidential candidates debate. Moderated by NBC News’ Kristen Welker, the debate will feature six 15-minute sections devoted to COVID-19, families, race in America, climate change, national security, and leadership. The debate, which takes place just 12 days before voting ends on Nov. 3, will begin at 9 p.m. EST and will be streamed at the link below.
At 12 p.m. EST the next day, The Real News Network will livestream a recap of the debate, featuring Daniel Denvir, host of The Dig podcast, and co-chair of Reclaim Rhode Island, which in September helped four progressives defeat conservatives in the state Democratic primary.
The Commission on Presidential Debates has said any candidate who interrupts or talks over their opponent for the first two minutes of each section will be muted—a change made after the first presidential debate was widely panned for being nearly unwatchable due to constant interruptions by Trump.
Trump’s actions have become increasingly unhinged. In the past weeks he has come under fire for leading a crowd in a chant of ‘lock her up,’ targeted at Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, 10 days after the FBI foiled a plot to kidnap her. He’s attacked debate moderator Welker and accused her of being a “radical Democrat.” And despite contracting COVID-19 himself, Trump continues to defy social distancing guidelines as he holds packed campaign rallies across the country, boasting about ignoring scientific advice, pushing conspiracy theories, and promising a cure for COVID-19, even as his campaign events have likely spread it. Originally scheduled for Oct. 15, the second debate was initially cancelled after Trump tested positive for COVID-19. An infected Trump refused to participate virtually and instead appeared at his own town hall hosted by NBC News, which aired at the same time as a Biden town hall on ABC. Trump’s town hall was viewed by a little over 13 million people, while Biden’s was viewed by a little over 14 million people.
The US is experiencing a third wave of coronavirus cases, with a 36% increase in positivity during the past two weeks. Over 220,000 people have died from COVID-19 in the United States, and the true toll of the pandemic could be much higher; The CDC reports the country has experienced 299,028 excess deaths since late January.
American families have been particularly hard hit by COVID-19 and the associated economic downturn. The pandemic has hit low income families the hardest, with 46% saying they have had trouble paying their bills, and 32% reporting difficulties paying their rent or mortgage, according to Pew Research. Black and Latinx communities were twice as likely to face economic difficulties this year. Overall, 1 in 4 US adults say a member of their household was laid off during the pandemic, and half of those say they are still unemployed, while a third of adults say their hours or pay have been cut, the report found.
Trump has attacked Biden for “wanting to listen to scientists,” and has demanded states that are experiencing COVID-19 outbreaks end lockdowns. Trump has called on Attorney General William Barr to “act” against the Bidens for alleged corruption, and is widely expected to use the debate to go after Biden’s son Hunter for alleged corruption. Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani—who himself was recently caught with his pants down with an actress in the ‘Borat’ movie—has been the source of alleged recordings of the Bidens published by the New York Post (which even Fox News originally found too questionable to report on, and were blocked by social media for sharing hacked materials). Biden has been advised to hit back by highlighting the hypocrisy of Trump’s attacks, whose family has vastly enriched themselves during his presidency and is currently being investigated over reports of corruption and money laundering. A court fined Trump $1.9 million and shut down the Trump Foundation for illegally misusing charitable funds for political purposes.
While the GOP has continued to back Trump, a majority of voters say they believe the worst of the pandemic is yet to come, and support two major parts of Biden’s plan to address the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new New York Times/Siena College poll: a new stimulus package (72% favor) and a national mask mandate (59% favor). A majority of respondents in the Times poll and a recent Kaiser Family Foundation poll voiced support for Medicare for All, which Biden opposes.
Biden was leading in national polls 36 days ahead of the election, and is up in Virginia (Biden +11), Michigan (Biden +8), and Wisconsin (Biden +7), but Trump remains within striking distance in the swing states of Pennsylvania (Biden +6.2), Florida (Biden +3.5), and North Carolina (Biden +2.9), and is now leading in Ohio (Trump +.2).
Progressives have criticized Biden for reportedly vetting Republicans for key cabinet positions, including former Ohio Gov. John Kasich—who passed one of the nation’s “most restrictive abortion bans, expanded fracking, and stripped public sector employees of their right to unionize—and Charlie Dent, congressman turned healthcare industry lobbyist. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and progressive groups are demanding no corporate lobbyists receive Senate-confirmed positions in a potential Biden administration.
While the Republican-controlled Senate could vote as early as Monday to confirm Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is reportedly lobbying the White House against the passage of another stimulus deal. House Democrats advanced a slimmed-down version of the $2.2 trillion HEROES Act in October. On Oct. 20, Chief Justice John Roberts, a Republican appointee, sided with liberal justices and left in place a Pennsylvania law that allowed mail-in ballots to be counted if received within three days of Nov. 3. But on Oct. 21, Roberts sided with conservatives to block curbside voting in Alabama, making it more difficult to vote during the pandemic, supporting larger Republican voter suppression operation that has helped pass restrictive voting laws in 25 states since 2000. Coney Barrett’s confirmation would give the new court a decisive 6-3 conservative majority. The court is scheduled to consider a challenge to the Affordable Care Act on Nov. 10, and could rule on legal challenges to the Nov. 3 election.
During the first presidential debate Trump refused to accept the results of the presidential election, and signalled his far-right supporters to “stand by,” and possibly intimidate voters in Democratic strongholds like Philadelphia. Trump has said Antifa is behind a plot to orchestrate a coup against him, and said he wants to brand it a terrorist organization. Oct. 15, Trump boasted about ordering the killing of the antifacist activist Michael Reinoehl in Portland, who was suspected of killing a Trump supporter, and gunned down by a federal task force. Eyewitnesses say officers did not identify themselves before firing 30 times. Trump has also amplified conspiracy theories like QAnon, which the FBI has warned poses a domestic terror threat.