The second and final debate between Joe Biden and Donald Trump happened as per schedule, though there were scares that this too would be abandoned because of the mute button and Biden’s ultimatum to Trump for a negative test. Going further into details is not on the agenda today. Trump equated himself to Lincoln while also stating that it was only ‘probable’ that the latter did as much as himself; there was clamour about tax returns; ‘coyotes’ were mentioned a few times for the President to explain that the 500 odd children hadn’t come with their parents; there was the unavoidable subject of COVID-19 and how the administration utterly failed at containing its expansive danger; one clearly couldn’t make sense of Trump’s habit of throwing in ‘millions’ and ‘billions’, sandwiching them in his words with an absolute lack of precision or specificity. All these were fitting to be jampacked into a ‘best of the debate’ video but still keeps you wondering if it was the best there was to offer at all.
But, one thing stood out this time and this was significantly new if put alongside the table of contents from the earlier debate – this is the China connection that each candidate seemed keen on thrusting upon the other. For some reason, and perhaps a very cognitive one, they are convinced that this single point will be enough to eclipse all others mentioned during the course of the ninety-plus minutes. After all, playing with the foe is perilous and not advisable; certainly not when you’re President of the United States or running for the office. Their debate over who actually got involved in business deals and other personal commitments with China either proves how ill-informed they are of the average voter’s inclination or how well-equipped they are with the ‘typical politician’s’ reliable tactics. It would be nothing but sad news for us if the latter turns out to be the rationale behind the ploy and if it ends up working.
It qualifies well as a last-minute twist, a bone for all to feed on, and a sealer of support because you’re talking about the worst foe who has seeped in to gain connections here – a trespasser with cronies within. All ingredients required to woo the American vote is right there if one were to believe and wholly agree with the campaign advisors. This year, casually dropping a Ukrainian or Russian rendezvous into debates won’t do the job – You have to go large and connect the ‘big guys’ to the Dragon. That is why when the New York Post and the New York Times published features on how Chinese connections were there to haunt Biden and Trump, respectively, everybody jumped up at it and the news literally raged ahead. Both point at business pursuits of each individual or their family members – since Donald Trump is a tycoon himself with no more a goal than turning all of White House into an extension of his own personal purse (as his niece puts it), it seems all the more a direct connection and believable too. However, there’s a catch to such judgement.
Yes, Donald Trump must be voted out. There could be little disagreement here when you’re genuinely concerned about how the political and social fabric of the country has been nibbled at the very core. There are numerous reasons – healthcare, climate change, social security, judicial integrity – that prove the case for an ousting of the incumbent. But, if we are going to reduce it all to a single issue that has just popped up (and when read against the current of nationalistic discontentment, appears to be apt timing), there wouldn’t be much sanctity in our decisions. We should be weighing all the factors that are most crucial to us – and agree or not, the China connection does not size up as a prime priority. Evaluating the administration’s failure in tackling the coronavirus spread or another issue like climate change and then deciding this is not how it ought to be is how our minds should be working now. And if you’re a conservative, maybe try assessing how active Biden and his camp were in this respect.
To put it all in a capsule: Do not let the fleeting, less relevant, headline-grabbers influence where your vote is headed.