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‘It’s going to be dramatic’: American Christians in the UK give their take ahead of the US presidential debate

by Tola Mbakwe
Photo Credits:Gage Skidmore / CC BY-SA /  Gage Skidmore from Peoria, AZ, United States of America / CC BY-SA - Banner image
Photo Credits:Gage Skidmore / CC BY-SA / Gage Skidmore from Peoria, AZ, United States of America / CC BY-SA

Two American Christians living in the UK share their thoughts on the upcoming US presidential debate. 

US President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden will go head to head on Tuesday night in Cleveland, Ohio, battling it out on topics including the economy, racial injustice and the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Greg Swenson, a Christian and spokesperson for Republican Overseas, told Premier television debates don't usually sway voters' opinions but he expects for it to be quite a show. 

"Historically, these debates don't really do much, they don't move the needle typically," he said. 

"However, this is not a normal election. We can expect some unusual results. There could be some drama tonight. I don't overestimate the effect on the election or on the outcome. But I could be surprised. 

"I hope that the President takes the opportunity to not necessarily get in a fight with Biden, although he relishes in that, it's one of his sort of unfiltered characteristics, but more importantly, I hope he's just able to deliver some information that the mainstream media has chosen to ignore. I think that would help the president."

Meanwhile, Rev Jennifer Mills-Knutsen from the American International Church, said the debate could go either way, but she hopes there's great focus on the coronavirus pandemic. 

"They've [presidential TV debates] evolved and what tends to come out is who gets the most memorable soundbite that's played over and over again, or who gets in the best jab at their opponent or even who makes the worst gaffe of the night," she said. 

"I feel like the US right now is in a very wounded place. And like the rest of the world, we're dealing with the coronavirus outbreak, I live here in London, obviously, and I'm watching my fellow folks back at home really struggling with what to do and how to be safe. 

"This is first and foremost a crisis about our health and about keeping people safe and surviving the virus, but secondarily, it's also a huge crisis about the economy, as jobs are getting lost. In the US people's health care is tied to their employment. So as people are laid off of work, they also lose their health care in the middle of a pandemic."

Swenson believes the pandemic is a topic that Mr Trump will most likely fumble and hopes he doesn't dwell on it. 

"The President doesn't poll well there because his messaging was so inconsistent at the beginning of the crisis. But what I would highlight, if I were the president, is what he's actually accomplished with the Covid crisis, not what the press says he did, or what the press says he said. I think that what he's actually done is quite consistent with Biden's so-called plan on handling. So that's going to be a little delicate, because that's not where he polls well."

Fox News host Chris Wallace will be moderating the hour long debate and has chosen the following six topics to be addressed: the records of President Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden; the Supreme Court; Covid-19; the economy; race and violence; the integrity of the election. 

Although Mr Trump's taxes aren't on the list, it's likely the subject will come up after it was revealed he paid just $750 dollars (£578) in federal income tax the year he ran for office. 

Hours before they take part in their first US presidential debate, Biden pointed out that nurses and teachers pay at least 10 times more.

However, Swenson isn't worried and doesn't think Mr Trump should be either. 

"I might have agreed with some of his critics that said releasing the tax returns five years ago would have just been better just to get it over with. But the reality is, Americans don't care about the candidates taxes, they care about their own taxes, they care about their incomes."

Rev Mills-Knutsen said despite what people think about each candidate, pastors have the responsibility to care for people in times of division. 

"It's a difficult time to be a pastor the world over right now, as we're caring for people in times of incredible upheaval and disruption," she said. 

"The US is not the only country that is having these debates and concerns, and certainly not the only one wrestling with this virus, all of us in the ministry right now are trying to figure out how to do things new in a new environment, but also how to deal with the deep divisions in our society."

Tuesday's debate is the first of three for the election. The next one is scheduled for 15th October. 

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