The ‘Lucha Libre’ Presidential Debate

Sep 30, 2020
4:13 PM

President Donald Trump and Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden participate in the first presidential debate Tuesday, September 29, 2020, at Case Western University and Cleveland Clinic, in Cleveland. (Olivier Douliery/Pool via AP)

“Tonight’s debate failed to address the concerns of average Latino and American families. We need real plans for real problems. President Trump acted like he was in a verbal lucha libre [a professional wrestling match] instead of a presidential debate.”

That was the blunt assessment of Tuesday night’s debate in Cleveland between President Trump and his Democratic rival, former vice president Joe Biden, by Domingo Garcia, the president of the League of United Latin American Citizens.

Axios described the debate as “a hot mess of name-calling and rude interruptions, wildly out of control and incoherent,” while the New York Times ran this headline: “With cross talk, lies and mockery, Trump tramples decorum in debate with Biden.”

Frustrated by Trump’s belligerence and nonstop interruptions, Biden told debate moderator Chris Wallace of Fox News, “Well, it’s hard to get any word in with this clown. Excuse me, this person.” Later in the debate, he said to Trump: “Will you shut up, man?”

As to issues affecting the lives of average Latinos and most other Americans, the president insisted the economy is making a fast recovery, but his claims belie the facts. Almost half of the people who have lost their jobs during the pandemic remain unemployed, and the number of people who apply for unemployment benefits is still as high as it was at the peak of the Great Recession in 2009 and 2010. The national unemployment rate was 8.4 percent in August, more than double what it was at the start of the pandemic. Among Latinos, the unemployment rate was 10.5 percent in August, as compared to 7.3 percent for whites, this despite the fact that many Latinos are classified as “essential” or “frontline” workers who would be expected to keep working during the pandemic.

Biden has said the economic rebound will be far slower than Trump claims and a full recovery will only happen after a coordinated and direct response by the federal government. Trump, Biden says, has “no plan” for how to fix the economy or address the pandemic, which has now killed more than 206,000 people in the U.S., including more than 43,000 Latinos

“About six-in-ten Latinos (59%) in May said they live in households that have experienced job losses or pay cuts due to the coronavirus outbreak, with a far lower share of U.S. adults (43%) saying the same,” according to a study by Pew Research.

“You can’t fix the economy until you fix the COVID crisis,” said Biden. “And [Trump] has no intention of doing anything about making it better for you all at home in terms of your health and your safety.”

On health care, Trump repeatedly sidestepped the fact that his administration is suing to kill the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, which offers government subsidized health insurance to the public. A case that could end Obamacare is pending before the Supreme Court and will likely be heard soon after the election. If the Affordable Care Act is eliminated, 20 million Americans could lose health care coverage under the ACA, including millions of Latinos, and tens of millions more Americans may no longer be able to buy private health insurance because they have “pre-existing conditions.”

About 25 percent Latinos do not have health insurance, but before the passage of the ACA some 40 percent of Latinos were uninsured. Experts say millions of Americans, due to layoffs, have also lost their employer-provided health care coverage since the start of the pandemic. If elected, Biden has pledged to expand Obamacare and Medicaid, the latter of which provides free health insurance to the poor.

Asked by Wallace to describe his alternative to the Affordable Care Act, Trump did not respond except to claim erroneously, according to the Associated Press, that he had lowered prescription drug prices. AP reports the cost of medical prescriptions has actually risen nearly 4 percent since Trump took office.

On the issue of race relations, Trump refused during the debate to denounce white supremacy when pressed by Wallace. At one point, Trump said a white supremacist group called the Proud Boys should “Stand back and stand by,” then pivoted immediately to blaming leftists groups for being at least equally responsible for recent incidents of violence that have happened in and around recent street protests. Two weeks ago, FBI Director Christopher Wray warned of growing violence by white supremacist groups.

Both candidates focused their discussion of race on the treatment of Blacks in the U.S. There was no specific mention made of Latinos in general, including Afro-Latinos, or other communities of color during the debate.

On the November 3 election, Trump again repeated his flatly discredited claim that mail-in voting is rife with fraud.

LULAC’s CEO, Sindy Benavides, said, “As we head into the November 3 elections, it is unsettling that a standing president is falsely alleging voter fraud with mail in ballots.”

Tens of millions of Americans are expected to vote by mail this year because of fears that voting in person could expose them to COVID-19. About 32 million Latinos nationwide are eligible to vote in 2020, some four million more than in 2016. Voting officials across the country insist voting by mail is safe, though a recent poll by Latino Decisions and the NALEO Educational Fund found that nearly one-third of Latino voters say they do not trust voting by mail.

Benavides called Trump’s attempt to discredit mail-in voting and the upcoming election “a calculated attempt to dissuade participation in our electoral process. Our hope is that all who are eligible to register to vote, do so and turn out.”

The issue of immigration was not raised at all during the debate, even though nearly one-third of Latinos in the U.S. are immigrants and most undocumented immigrants nationwide are of Latin American origin.

Lincoln Project Partners With Latino Advocacy Groups

The conservative Lincoln Project has announced a collaboration with Mi Familia Vota, UnidosUS Action Fund, LULAC and Nuestro PAC. All are voting rights and voter turnout groups opposing Trump.

The announcement comes with the release of a new Spanish-language ad by the Lincoln Project, “Le creímos,” highlighting the disproportionate effect Trump’s mishandling of the COVID-19 crisis has had on the Latino community.

“The Hispanic community has repeatedly been on the receiving end of President Trump’s derision and scorn,” said Mike Madrid, co-founder of The Lincoln Project. “His latest egregious misstep is thinking he can buy the Hispanic vote by offering funding to Puerto Rico that is three years too late. He thinks Hispanics will forget what he’s done, but we are smarter than that.”


Subscribe free to the Vanguardia America newsletter here.