What parents need to know from Joe Biden’s town hall
Joe Biden/Facebook.

It was supposed to be another debate, but Joe Biden stood alone on a stage in Philadelphia tonight, talking to the American people on ABC as his opponent, President Donald Trump, did the same on NBC.

If you were watching NBC (or didn't watch either of the candidates because you were busy getting children fed and to bed) don't worry, we were watching for you.

Biden took the stage just hours after the campaign announced that Kamala Harris' communications director and a member of the campaign's flight crew had tested positive for COVID-19. Biden and Harris both tested negative before tonight's event, which was held under strict health and safety measures to prevent any potential spreading of COVID-19.

Here's what you need to know about Vice President Biden's town hall:

Joe Biden on the pandemic 

With a small group of Pennsylvania voters in attendance—a mix of Democrats, Republicans and undecided voters—the first set of questions addressed the coronavirus pandemic, and the lack of coordinated federal action.

Asked what "following the science" means to him in terms of policy measures that could help contain the pandemic, Biden argued that the President was informed early on about what scientists said about the virus, but consistently played down its seriousness.

Biden, who said he meets several times per week with members of the scientific community for debriefings, said that he had created detailed plans for reopening schools and businesses that he published in a series of op-eds earlier this year.

"He missed enormous opportunities," Biden said, referring to President Trump's response to the pandemic, and to the lack of progress on testing and tracing nationwide. "It is a Presidential responsibility to lead, and he didn't do that," Biden says. "He kept worrying about the stock market."

Questioned about how he would contain the pandemic without crushing the economy, Biden said, "You can open businesses and schools if you provide them with the guidance that they need, and with the money that they need to do it."

Biden's response highlighted the importance of aid for schools during the pandemic. "We need more teachers in our schools to be able to open smaller pods. We need ventilation improvements. And we need them now."

Asked by a 2016 Trump voter if he would take a vaccine if it became available, Biden said, "If the body of scientists say that this is what is ready to be done, I would encourage people to take it." But Biden pointed out a lack of transparency within the current administration about a realistic timeline for a vaccine, and the lack of planning around vaccine distribution.

"There should be a plan for when we get the vaccine, how will we distribute it," Biden said.

Asked if he would mandate the vaccine, he said it would depend on the efficacy of the vaccine and how distributable it was, stating that he would work with local and state governments on encouraging and enforcing widespread vaccination.

Joe Biden on taxes 

Asked about extending tax cuts for the middle class—and whether tax cuts in a pandemic would be wise—Biden didn't explicitly say he would extend tax relief, but confirmed his plan not to raise taxes on anyone making under $400,000.

Under Biden's plan for the economy, corporations and taxpayers making over $400,000 per year would be taxed at a slightly higher rate, creating billions in tax revenue without needing to raise taxes for the middle class.

Joe Biden on racial equality

Asked by a young Black student what he would say to Black voters under the age of 30 who are conflicted about voting because they are reluctant to participate in a system that they feel doesn't represent or reflect them, Biden's response focused more on policy changes than addressing systemic racism or progressive reforms in the criminal justice system.

Biden's priorities included a range of policies from expanding health care to creating economic supports to funding educational programs, focusing on putting the African American community in a position to create wealth (seriously, he said "it's about accumulating wealth" like five or six times).

Among the policies Biden listed: Supporting public health programs that address mental health and addiction, funding early education programs, funding and supporting HBCUs in order to create career opportunities, support for first-time home buyers, support for Small Business Associations to create opportunities for Black entrepreneurs.

"Have you heard what you need to hear?" moderator George Stephanopolous asked the young voter.

"I think so," was the response—although the young man's expression was a bit dubious.

When asked about the 1994 crime bill he supported that resulted in disproportionate impacts on African Americans, Biden said, "We have to change the system," expressing his support for community policing, as opposed to "swarming in armored Humvees."

"Most cops don't like bad cops," Biden pointed out, but are reluctant to report systematic problems within departments. Biden pledged to create a task force composed of leaders in the BIPOC community along with law enforcement to address racial discrimination in law enforcement.

Joe Biden on the environment

Asked if he would ban fracking, and what environmentally sustainable energy sources he supports, Biden was clear that he is not in favor of banning fracking, but proposes regulation to make sure it's done within certain guidelines.

Biden set himself in contrast to the "Green New Deal" championed by Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and others, instead proposing investing in technologies to create and distribute energy more efficiently, support agricultural innovations to reduce the environmental impact of industrialized farming, and stop subsidizing oil companies in favor of investing in sustainable energy.

Joe Biden on trans rights 

When a mother asked Biden what he would do to protect her transgender child and protect LGBTQ rights, the former vice president told her: "I will flat-out just change the law. Eliminate those executive orders, number one."

Biden discussed how trans women of color are especially at risk in the United States and how a high number of trans women have been killed just this year. Biden says trans rights are important to his family, noting that his late son Beau helped protect trans people through legislation.

A stark contrast to the Trump town hall 

The contrast between Joe Biden's conversation with ABC's George Stephanopoulos and President Trump's conversation with NBC's Savannah Guthrie was stark.

While Trump and Guthrie sparred on one feed, Biden and Stephanopoulos conversed on the other. The tone was gentler, kinder and less divisive. And that was no accident.

Joe Biden was as calm as the President was combative, telling the American people: "If I'm elected president, you will not hear me race-baiting, you will not hear me dividing, you'll hear me try to unify and unify with—bring people together."

[Editor's note: Motherly is committed to covering all relevant presidential candidate plans as we approach the 2020 election. We are making efforts to get information from all candidates. Motherly does not endorse any political party or candidate. We stand with and for mothers and advocate for solutions that will reduce maternal stress and benefit women, families and the country.]

<p> Siobhan Adcock is the Experts Editor at Motherly and the author of two novels about motherhood, <a href="https://www.siobhanadcock.com/" target="_blank">The Completionist</a> and <a href="https://www.siobhanadcock.com/the-barter" target="_blank">The Barter</a>. Her writing has also appeared in Romper, Bustle, Ms., McSweeney's, Slate, Salon, The Daily Beast, The Chicago Review of Books and elsewhere. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and daughter. </p>