Issues & Insights

Final Debate: A Career Politician Vs. A Commonsense Businessman

Throughout the final presidential debate between Joe Biden and President Donald Trump, a common theme played out again and again: the D.C. insider v. the D.C. outsider.

Of course, the D.C. insider was played by Joe Biden, who has been in politics for almost five decades. On the flip side, Trump accurately portrayed himself as the D.C. outsider, the anti-politician, who was sent to the nation’s capital to clean up the mess that career politicians have created.

It was a smart strategy by Trump, considering that one of the main reasons he won the 2016 election was because he refused to play the D.C. establishment’s go-along-to-get-along game. 

Like it or not, there is a Mr. Smith Goes to Washington aspect of the Trump presidency. And this was put on parade throughout the debate.

For instance, when the topic of criminal justice reform came up, the contrast between the career politician and the action-oriented businessman was on full display.

Biden: “We should fundamentally change the system and that’s what I’m going to do.”

Trump: “But why didn’t he do it four years ago? Why didn’t you do that four years ago? Even less than that. Why didn’t you when you vice president? You keep talking about all these things you’re going to do, and you’re going to do this, but you were there just a short time ago and you guys did nothing.”

Biden: “They should not be going to jail for a drug or an alcohol problem, they should be going into treatment. That’s what we’ve been trying to do, that’s what I’m going to get done …”

Trump: “But, why didn’t he get it done? See, it’s all talk, no action with these politicians, why didn’t he get it? ‘That’s what I’m going to do when I become president.’ You were vice president along with Obama as your president, your leader, for eight years, why didn’t you get it done? You had eight years to get it done, now you’re saying you’re going to get it done because you’re all talk and no action, Joe.”

Similar exchanges took place throughout the night, covering many issues. Over and over, Biden made promises that he would do this and that to solve the problems that have been festering for years.

Yet, whenever Biden pledged that he has the solution to whatever ails the nation, Trump asked him why he didn’t do it during his 47 years in political office. 

It is a legitimate question. We ought to hold politicians to account. Yet, for almost five decades, Biden has been unable or unwilling to solve the fundamental problems that plague the nation.

In fact, as Trump argued during the debate, many of these problems have been created by lifelong politicians such as Joe Biden. For decades, the D.C. establishment, of which Biden is a key figure, has allowed the middle class to wither on the vine.

The D.C. establishment is responsible for outsourcing America’s manufacturing jobs to China. They are also responsible for the endless foreign wars that have left so much of our nation’s blood and treasure on battlefields a world away. The list of the D.C. establishment’s misjudgments is too long to keep track of anymore.

The incompetence of the Beltway establishment is the main reason Trump was elected four years ago. And in less than four years, one can make a case that the commonsense businessman has achieved more than Biden has in his entire career.

Toward the end of the 90-minute debate, the president said something that should resonate with any voter who is tired of the D.C. status quo. 

“You know Joe, I ran because of you. I ran because of Barack Obama, because you did a poor job. If I thought you did a good job, I would’ve never run. I would’ve never run. I ran because of you. I’m looking at you now, you’re a politician, I ran because of you,” President Trump said.

In less than two weeks, we shall see if the American people re-elect the no-nonsense businessman outsider or choose to replace him with the lifelong politician who is heavy on the rhetoric but quite light on what matters most — results.

Chris Talgo ( is an editor at The Heartland Institute.

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