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  • Gabriella Ignacio

Racism in Politics: How did the first presidential debate relate to the candidates views on Asians?

Updated: May 14, 2021

The first presidential debate of 2020 has amassed a great amount of attention, and for good reason. The sheer amount of arguing, interruptions, and insults that occurred certainly made it a debate to remember. Despite the strange outcome, however, this debate also allowed people to hear the opinions of both Trump and Biden on important issues in our country. One topic that was thoroughly discussed was the coronavirus, and because of this, both candidates were able to demonstrate their attitudes towards China and Asians in general. In this blog, I will be highlighting how the beliefs of Trump and Biden are both similar and different when it comes to Asians.

To start, let’s observe how the two candidates addressed China when talking about the coronavirus. This section took the longest compared to any other one during the debate, and they discussed it for around 20 minutes total. Though they did agree on very minor aspects, for the most part, Trump and Biden had very conflicting opinions.

Biden, on one hand, believed that Trump did not take nearly as much preventative measures as he should have, and said that, “The President has no plan. He hasn’t laid out anything”. He also directly told his opponent to, “Get out of your bunker and get out of the sand trap in your golf course and go in the Oval Office and bring together the Democrats and Republicans and fund what needs to be done now to save lives.” Clearly, Biden is against the steps that Trump took when it came to coronavirus matters. Though he does speak very briefly about China’s relations to the virus, he quickly directs the conversation back to addressing Trump’s faults.

Although Biden does not comment much on China specifically during this section, he has done so in the past. For example, when the President blamed the virus on China back in July, Biden claimed that, “The average American doesn’t distinguish between Chinese people and other Asians”, and mentioned how “[America’s] had racists, and they’ve existed. They’ve tried to get elected president. [Trump] is the first one that has.” From these passages, we can see that Biden views Trump as racist towards Chinese people, and can also infer that he stands alongside Asians in a moral sense.

On the other hand, Trump had opposite beliefs, as well as addressed China much more directly. In one example, Trump boasted about how great of a job he did of handling the situation in America, and said that, “Many of your democrat governors said, ‘President Trump did a phenomenal job.’ We worked with the Governor. Oh really, go take a look. The Governors said I did a phenomenal job. Most of them said that. In fact, people that would not be necessarily on my side said that, ‘President Trump did a phenomenal job.’” Obviously, this statement greatly conflicts with what Biden said just a few minutes before, and takes a long while to rebut Biden's statements.

However, the main issue with Trump’s argument during this section lies within how he talked about China itself. For example, when discussing the relations between the coronavirus and the economy, Trump mentions, “So [The United States] built the greatest economy in history. We closed it down because of the China plague. When the plague came in, we closed it down, which was very hard psychologically to do . . . Should have never happened from China.” In another instance, while talking about the prevention of the coronavirus in our country, he says that “[The coronavirus] is China’s fault. It should have never happened . . . it was China’s fault.” These statements make it very clear that Trump continues to view China as the only party to blame when it comes to the spread of the coronavirus. Not only that, but by calling the coronavirus the “China Plague”, he is being insensitive and disrespectful to people of Chinese descent. Additionally, he has also called the coronavirus the “Kung Flu” on multiple different occasions, which simply goes to further prove his racist actions. The fact that he would even consider saying these things is beyond me, but despite that, this incident was only one of many examples during this debate where Trump said something of that maturity.

It goes without saying that this first presidential debate was unique in many aspects. Even so, it is still a valuable source to refer back to if you want to hear the opinion of a candidate on a specific topic. When it comes to the coronavirus and China, it is clear how the two opponents differ in opinion. In the end, however, it is up to the American people to determine who’s thoughts, ideas, and actions will actually go through.


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