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SCHOW: At Debate, Trump Won By Not Losing The Base
Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden speaks before the launch of a train campaign tour at Cleveland Amtrak Station September 30, 2020 in Cleveland, Ohio.
Alex Wong/Getty Images

Tuesday night’s debate was a mostly pointless endeavor. People who already planned to vote for President Donald Trump will think he won the debate and will continue with their plans to vote for him. People who already planned to vote for Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden will think he won the debate and will continue with their plans to vote for him.

The debate was a mess. Trump talked over Biden. Biden talked over Trump. Everyone talked over debate moderator and Fox News anchor Chris Wallace. Both candidates have a similar debate style (for reference, go back and watch Biden’s vice-presidential debate against Paul Ryan in 2012): attack, insult, and make snarky faces while the other talks.

I write this as someone who repeatedly knocked Trump’s debate tactics in 2016 and who didn’t understand the president’s appeal to average voters back then. I always thought Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) won the Republican primary debates during the last election cycle — except the one where former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie demolished him — finding Trump’s style to be odious.

I say all this to preface what I observed last night. Trump didn’t “win” the debate like he “won” the first presidential debate against former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in 2016, or how Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) “won” the first presidential debate against President Barack Obama in 2012. But Trump won in a way that doesn’t seem to be getting a lot of play among the political classes Wednesday morning.

Trump didn’t say anything Tuesday night to upset his core base or even his most extreme supporters. Biden did.

Anti-Trump rioters are attacking cops and burning down buildings across America, particularly in Democrat-run cities. They are not Trump’s supporters, they are Biden’s. Black Lives Matter protesters and rioters have been calling to defund police departments. A professor was denied a job at Arizona State University after her tweet suggesting some cops are “good” led students to accuse her of numerous racial microaggressions. Despite “Law & Order: SVU” being a television show loved by liberals, it was condemned because it lionizes a “good cop.”

Yet at the debate, Biden declared: “The vast majority of police officers are good, decent, honorable men and women. They risk their lives every day to take care of us, but there are some bad apples. And when they occur, when they find them, they have to be sorted out. They have to be held accountable. They have to be held accountable.”

That’s not the sentiment of Black Lives Matter activists and the left-wing of the Democratic Party. Democratic congressional candidate Jamaal Bowman told The New York Times in August that he was concerned about “the continued conversation about it being a few bad apples as opposed to systemic racism in the system.”

Biden also went on to condemn the violence being carried out by left-wing activists (though he wouldn’t condemn the left-wing groups directly).

“And by the way, violence in response is never appropriate, never appropriate. Peaceful protest is, violence is never appropriate,” Biden said.

Yet Black Lives Matter activists have claimed that the violence is not really violence because it is in response to racial injustice. The Guardian published an op-ed asking, “If violence isn’t the way to end racism in America, then what is,” suggesting that sometimes violence is the only answer.

The riots continue. Crime is up in major cities. Business owners have seen their livelihoods destroyed in the name of social justice.

To be sure, Biden and Democrats didn’t forcefully condemn the violence until a poll showed support for Black Lives Matter dropped as more people saw the demonstrations as violent riots rather than peaceful protests — the media mantra all summer.

But Biden’s condemnation of the violence, as well as his stated support for police, will surely irk the most left-wing of his base. In addition, Biden said he does not support the radical Green New Deal proposed by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY). It wasn’t a true statement, since Biden’s own campaign website says: “Biden believes the Green New Deal is a crucial framework for meeting the climate challenges we face,” and says that its “two basic truths” are “at the core of his plan.” Biden’s running mate, Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), was an original co-sponsor of the Green New Deal.

While Biden disparaged violent rioters and the Green New Deal while praising cops, Trump did not say anything that would rankle his most radical supporters. In that single, narrow respect, Trump won the debate.

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