Debate Night: Why Are They Talking about the Same Topics?

POLITICS & POLICY

The topics addressed in the first presidential debate last month were as follows: the integrity of the election, race and violence in our cities, the economy, COVID-19, climate change, and the Trump and Biden record. During the second debate this evening, NBC News’ Kristen Welker will ask the candidates about COVID-19, American families, national security, leadership, climate change, and race in America. Three of the topics — COVID-19, climate change, and race — are repeats.

A second discussion of the coronavirus crisis is doubtlessly warranted, but do we really need follow-up discussions on climate change and race? A Pew Research poll from August showed that climate change was only the eleventh-most-pressing topic for voters; 42 percent of Americans indicated that it would be very important to their voting decision. Racial and ethnic inequality tied for eighth with immigration at 52 percent, and yet there will apparently be no discussion of the candidates’ divergent immigration policies. The economy came in at No. 1 with 79 percent, but a 15-minute exchange during the first debate will have to suffice for the voters. Violent crime, the fifth-most-important issue to voters, was touched on in the first debate but will be ignored in the last. Gun policy, a greater concern to voters than both climate change and race, will get the same treatment as immigration.

You may be wondering why the topics for the second debate are so similar to those of the first. It’s because they reflect the concerns and priorities of your average left-leaning journalist, not the average American voter.

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