The Republican team was led by James O’Neal, chairman of Republicans Overseas in Luxembourg, supported by vice-chair William Abundes. The Democrat team was led by Natalie Bachiri, Democrats Abroad Luxembourg chair, and supported by long-term expat and Florida voter, Amanda Surbey.
In his welcome speech, US ambassador Randy Evans said, "Political debate isn’t something new to the US. It started with the Lincoln-Douglas debate in the 1800s. But the first televised debate was in 1960," between John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon, which led to the former's victory. The ambassador then did a coin toss using a US Kennedy half dollar to kick off the debates.
US economy, foreign policy and more
Among the most critical stakes for the Republican team during the Paperjam Club/Delano event was the issue of the domestic economy. James O’Neal, chair of Republicans Overseas Luxembourg, is convinced an election for Democratic presidential candidate Joseph Biden would drive the economy down. He cited three pillars of the current administration's economic plan--"cut taxes, deregulate the economy and renegotiate trade deals"--but is concerned that Biden would "raise taxes to the high heavens", adding: "[Luxembourg prime minister Xavier] Bettel said it would be poisonous to raise taxes in the economy... I wish candidate Biden would listen to the Luxembourg prime minister, because [Biden] wants to double capital gains... and control the economy with tax hikes [and] regulations."
Another topic on the agenda was foreign policy, where O’Neal lauded Trump’s renegotiating of trade deals in the interest of US citizens and his tough stance on countries like North Korea and Iran--“The Islamic State, the physical caliphate--gone!”
But for Democrats, “Donald Trump’s erratic policies and failure to uphold basic democratic principles have surrendered our position in the world,” said Bachiri. “In a Biden administration, Americans will lead by example and rally the world to meet our common challenges that no other nation can meet on its own.”
Voting rights also were fiercely debated. Surbey said that seeing queues of Americans lining up for hours on end to vote was both “uplifting” but equally “horrifying” and she called on new measures, citing the recent announcement of Goldman Sachs to give its employees a half-day off work to vote because, Surbey says, they see that “a Democratic sweep would make a faster economic recovery”.
Audience participation & quickfire round
Audience members chose immigration as the final topic for the Democrat team, while wanting to hear Republicans speak on gun control.
O’Neal defended the second amended right “that our US constitution grants law-abiding citizens to bear arms.” Plans by Democrats to heavily regulate gun sales were unconstitutional, he argued, saying it was a sign of a free democracy to allow its citizens to resist oppression and defend their property and lives.
“We’re not taking away anybody’s right to have a gun,” countered Bachiri, adding that legislation varied widely between states and that it should be regulated at federal level. “We have more shootings in America than anywhere else in the world,” she said. “There’s no reason why anybody should have a semi-automatic weapon.”
While the audience was polled, there was a quickfire round, the Republicans were asked questions on whether Donald Trump is a liar and whether his tweets harm the administration, while the Democrats had to answer on whether Biden is the best Democratic candidate and if VP candidate Kamala Harris is a diversity hire. But for those answers, you'll have to watch the replay.
Vote for yourself!
“The most important part of [the debate] process is to listen carefully, listen to what our respective debaters have to say, and at the end of the process form a decision and go vote,” Evans stated.