After-Action Report: The Final Presidential Debate

What do you need to know about the key issues at last night’s debate?

Health Care

Health care has been a key divisive issue in the 2020 election, and this debate was no exception.

In explaining the health care debate in the United States, Brookings Institute writes that “issues in health care policy fall into two broad categories: those related to health care coverage and those related to the underlying cost of health care.”

  • In a survey conducted by the Bipartisan Policy Center earlier this year, 56% of voters selected healthcare as one of the most important issues in their 2020 vote choice. Of voters surveyed, the majority said that they were more concerned about high out-of-pocket costs for health care than about insurance coverage itself.
  • A study conducted by Johns Hopkins University found that the United States spends significantly more on healthcare than any other developed country in the world, and these high prices frequently trickle down to patients in the form of exorbitant hospital bills.
  • These high prices are attributable to existing norms and regulations surrounding billing and pricing for hospitals, doctors, and pharmaceutical companies.
  • The CDC estimates that more than 90% of Americans currently have health insurance; the majority have health insurance through an employer or spouse’s employer, while about 34% have coverage through Medicare or Medicaid. 5% buy coverage on the private market, and about 9% (30.4 million Americans) have no health care coverage whatsoever.

There are a number of viable ways to tackle the issue of high health care costs in the United States. Policies which increase deductibles would decrease the demand for low-value health care services, although they would also shift more expense to patients. Another approach is to increase competition in the healthcare market by regulating consolidation and removing barriers to price competition for health care providers; this approach would increase access to quality low-cost healthcare for patients but shift the burden of expense to providers.

  • Generally, the Left supports a larger role of government in health care while the Right wants to see a smaller role of government.
  • Some Democrats advocate for a single-payer healthcare system (similar to Medicare) for all Americans. Single-payer healthcare would lower the cost and increase the access to health care for all citizens; however, it would increase government spending substantially.
  • Other Democrats, including Joe Biden, advocate for allowing employer health benefits to remain in effect, while introducing a public option alongside existing private insurance plans.
  • Republicans have sought to decrease regulation of private insurance companies and seeks to pare down the Affordable Care Act passed by President Obama in order to put more emphasis on private companies.
At the debate:
  • Biden said that he would add a public option to the Affordable Care Act, calling it “Bidencare,” and increase access to low-cost prescription drugs and elder care, and said that Trump planned to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
  • Trump continued to criticize the Affordable Care Act, and said that he had a plan to lower prescription and health care costs. He called Biden’s plan “socialized medicine.”
  • Biden said that Trump’s plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act would cause millions of Americans to lose access to health care due to pre-existing conditions; Trump denied this claim.

The Economy

Divisive issues in the economy boil down to a few key issues – employment, taxes, and minimum wage. All three issues have been exacerbated during the pandemic.

  • In general, the Left supports government spending and caters its economic policies to low- and middle-income Americans while the Right seeks tax cuts to promote businesses.
  • Democrats believe that government spending is the best way to create jobs, while Republicans argue that tax breaks are most effective.
  • Democrats believe that it is important to raise the minimum wage and provide tax breaks to lower-income families; Republicans believe that the best way to stimulate the economy is to give businesses incentives to spend in the free market via tax breaks and lower minimum wages.
  • President Trump also blamed Nancy Pelosi for failing to compromise on a COVID-19 relief bill for Americans.
At the debate:
  • Biden pushed his economy and infrastructure plan, which includes $2 trillion investment in infrastructure and clean energy; Trump proposed a smaller plan which focused on 5G technology.
  • Biden harshly criticized Donald Trump, who lost 4.7 million jobs throughout his term. Biden claimed that his “Buy American” plan would add 5 million jobs to the US economy. The Right criticized this plan, saying he clearly has a poor understanding of economics.
  • Trump criticized Biden’s tax plan, which plans to raise taxes on Americans with more than $400,000 in annual income. Biden criticized Trump for seeking to cut taxes for the rich.
  • The candidates also clashed in minimum wage. Biden seeks to raise the minimum wage to $15 across the country; Trump and the Right say this would hurt small businesses. Trump opposes the minimum wage increase; Biden and the Left say that this shows Trump does not care about middle-class Americans.



Race has been a prominent issue in the 2020 Presidential debate since the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and others have sparked protests across the country.

  • Historically, the Democratic Party has secured the Black vote; the Left advocates for more welfare and public benefit plans which benefit low-income Americans, which are a disproportionately minority population.
  • The Right generally leans towards less government oversight and welfare programming.
  • The Far-left groups lean in favor of defunding police and abolishing police presence, viewing them as a danger to People of Color in America. The Right advocates for police to maintain law and order.
At the debate:
  • Debate moderator Kristen Welker asked both candidates to speak directly to Black families about how they should address issues of racism and police violence with their children. Biden said that America needs to do more to address institutional racism.
  • After failing to denounce white supremacy in the last presidential debate, Donald Trump stated last night that he was the “least racist person in the room,” and the best American president for Black Americans since Abraham Lincoln. Biden said that Trump was “one of the most racist presidents we’ve had in modern history.”
  • Trump blasted Biden for his support of a 1990s crime bill which disproportionately incarcerated Black men, and alleged that Biden had called Black Americans “super predators.” President Trump also pointed out that Black unemployment is the lowest it has ever been in American history under his administration.

Where does this leave us?

With less than two weeks until election day, last night’s debate contained few bombshells likely to seriously sway the outcome for voters. Still, calls to action prevailed.

reporting from the left side of the aisle

  • Generally regards the entire ordeal as painful, and implores voters not to re-elect President Trump. The Washington Post shared a statement from Steven Colbert which compared watching the debate to “dental surgery.
  • Frames the debate as a clear victory for Democrats. CNN writes that the debate did little to sway the national polls in regard to either presidential candidate, but maintains that Biden clearly won the debate.
  • Points out that neither candidate is perfect. The Daily Beast points out that Trump tripped up Joe Biden on a few questions, but Biden still prevailed.



  • Points out that this debate was much better than the previous debate. National Review reports that it was a “better debate for everyone,” while Fox News said that the President “learned his lesson” from the last event.
  • Frames Trump as the winner of the debate. The Daily Wire said that Biden was “dark and fearful” throughout the ordeal. Fox News Opinion said that Trump “did not deliver a knock-out blow, but he won on points.”
  • Harps on Biden’s remarks about the oil industry. The Blaze reports that it could deal a devastating blow to his campaign.



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© Evelyn Torsher, 2020