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Trump and Biden Fought, Said Nothing About American Families

The debate has no clear cut winner, but the losers continue to be parents.

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Anyone who watched the first Presidential Debate between Donald Trump and Joe Biden could agree on two words: Shit Show. Not only was the debate unfocused and confusing, but it was, all too often, two guys figuring out ways to insult each other. If you were undecided (assuming that type of voter exists) this debate probably didn’t give you much to go on. Trump interrupted Biden a lot. Biden called Trump a “clown” and told him to “shut up, man.” It was not pretty, but on the upside, if you have relatives who are not of the same political persuasion as yourself, the first Trump-Biden debate probably looked a lot like some recent holiday gatherings; old guys snapping at each other.

The most disquieting thing about the debate wasn’t necessarily the hostility, but more that it seemed to lack any messages aimed at people. There were a lot of topics like climate change and tax codes in the debate — but not a lot of discussions about families or children. The word “family” was uttered seven times total in the debate, and in all of those instances, it was connected to either Trump’s personal family or Biden’s. Here’s a quick dip:

Biden: Look, here’s the deal. We want to talk about families and ethics. I don’t want to do that. I mean, his family, we could talk about all night. His family’s already-

Trump: My family lost a fortune by coming down and helping us with governance.

If you feel sorry for Trump’s family for taking a pay cut so he could become a politician, I’m not quite sure what kind of lifestyle you have, but I’m guessing it includes $70,000 haircuts and writing-off your adult child as a tax expense. That said, it’s not like Biden had a slam-dunk when talking about families either. Eventually, Biden said: “This is not about my family or his family. It’s about your family, the American people,” which is commendable, but it’s also kind of a giant no duh. Again, these are the only times the word “family” was mentioned. Meanwhile, the word “families” was only uttered twice, once by Biden in that early quote about “families and ethics,” and another time by Trump while talking about the cost of insulin, saying the “high cost was destroying families.”

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Obviously, people who depend on insulin need care and deserve affordable access to their medication, but for Trump, the only time he mentioned “families” was either in connection with his own, or people who need insulin. In other words, outside of platitudes, the candidates didn’t really talk about families at all.

Think this is just a semantic point? It’s not. Guess how many times the words “kids” or “children” were mentioned? Just one time each. Trump said “Young children aren’t, even younger people aren’t [as vulnerable to COVID-19 as older people].” This statement has been widely repeated and is almost certainly false. Plus, it ignores the idea that children can still spread COVID-19, which puts their caregivers at risk. Still, outside of the context, it’s telling that the only time Trump talked about children it was to use children as an example of something that basically isn’t true; the false notion that children and young people aren’t affected by COVID-19.

Biden meanwhile said the world “child” once and the word “kid” once. Relative to “racial insensitivity,” Biden said: “It makes a gigantic difference in the way a child is able to grow up and have a sense of self-esteem.” This again is a statement that we can agree on, but it’s not like we have a clear-cut idea of how Biden will help protect kids from racism in schools, other than the simple fact that he’s not Trump, a person who has done nothing to protect people from racism, and refused to actually condemn the racist group the Proud Boys, and instead told them to “Stand back and stand by,” implying — what? — that he’ll need some thugs to beat people up later?

Biden’s other mention of “kids” was this: “Suburbs are by and large integrated. There’s many people today driving their kids to soccer practice and/or black and white and Hispanic in the same car as there have been any time in the past, what really is a threat to the suburbs and their safety is his failure to deal with COVID.” And again, though this statement is easy to agree with (my suburb is pretty diverse, COVID is bad in the suburbs, too) it’s not totally clear what Biden’s message is here about kids and family, other than the fact that he cares more than Trump. Nominally, this seems to be true, but considering Biden only said “kid” and “child” once each during the entire debate, it’s jarring and notable.

Probably the closest either candidate came to addressing issues parents face specifically was when Biden spoke to the idea that prior to the Affordable Care Act, pregnancy could be treated as a “pre-existing condition,” meaning that women would have to pay more money for basic doctors visits simply because they were pregnant. Currently, the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) says that insurance companies that treat pregnancy as a pre-existing condition are breaking the law. Biden pointed out in the debate that Amy Coney Barrett — Trump’s pick to replace Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the Supreme Court — has said that the Affordable Care Act is “unconstitutional.” Basically, this means, that Trump’s Supreme Court nominee wants pregnancy to once again, become a pre-existing condition, which specifically harms families. As Biden said: “Once again, a woman could pay more money because she has a pre-existing condition of pregnancy. They’re able to charge women more for the same exact procedure a man gets.”

So, if you’re interested in what the Presidential candidates actually said about families, and children, the honest answer is, they didn’t say much. But, if you’re thinking of having a kid, Joe Biden will probably save you a little bit of money on those hospital bills and neonatal visits. And those of us who already have kids, this debate made one thing very clear: We’re still on our own.