The first US presidential debate between incumbent Donald Trump and his Democratic Party challenger, Joe Biden, kicks off today at 11am AEST.

It’ll be the first chance in this campaign for the pair to directly swat at each other on a range of policy issues. More importantly, it will serve as some light entertainment to distract the nation from its inexorable decline.

Here’s what to look out for, as a distant Australian observer.

Coronavirus

Obviously.

America has sustained over 200,000 deaths due to coronavirus, and the US Government’s response has been chaotic. Much of that lies on Trump, who knowingly downplayed its severity, championed an unproven miracle cure, and then chastised Democratic state leaders for attempting to implement lockdowns. It is an inarguable fact that the guy does not give a shit, and many thousands have died as a result; he even threw a campaign rally which turned into a verified coronavirus cluster event.

But merely pointing out the death toll might not be enough for Biden, who will need to outline his plans for a radical reformation of America’s privatised healthcare system and pharmaceutical industries at the debate.

Wait, shit. Never mind. Moving on.

Racial inequality

George Floyd. Jacob Blake. Kyle Rittenhouse. The presidential debate will focus on racial inequality, policing, and America’s incomplete history of bigoted violence.

The US economy

Pretty straight-forward, but those two will duke it out over their plans to dig the US out of its current hole.

The Supreme Court

I’ll keep this quick: two weeks back, US Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died, leaving a hole which needs filling in America’s highest and most influential judicial body. Ginsburg was seen as a champion of feminism and left-leaning causes. Her loss was seen as a devastating blow; not only are supporters mourning her, they’re fearful for what comes next.

The sitting president chooses a new Supreme Court nominee, but needs the Senate to vote them in to seal the deal.

The last time a Supreme Court justice died during an election year was 2016, when President Barack Obama was in the White House. Obama put a candidate forward, but the Republican-led Senate essentially ran out the clock, saying it was improper for a new justice to be selected so close to the election. As a result, Trump popped his guy into the Supreme Court in 2017.

Do the Republicans plan to follow their own precedent and wait for the election to run its course? Fuck no. Watch for what Biden has to say about all of that at the presidential debate.

The election itself

Yep, even this will be up for debate. Trump is waging a war against so-called election fraud and has issued some pretty chilling comments about… Just, not even leaving office if he’s voted out.

Expect that to be a point of discussion.

Each candidate’s respective records

Again, not sure I can explain it any clearer than that. In addition, there are a few wildcards which I feel might come up, too:

Tax

A recent New York Times exposé revealed that Trump paid just US$750 in federal income tax in 2016 and 2017, and used enormous losses to minimise his bill. Yes, that’s a standard rich person manoeuvre, but you can expect Biden to have a pop at Trump over it.

The climate

Dunno if you’ve noticed, but it’s getting hotter. Same goes for pockets of the US west coast, which have sustained record-breaking bushfires in recent weeks. Scenes from those regions mirror our most recent bushfire catastrophes.

But there’s basically no point in addressing Trump’s record on minimising or mitigating the risks of climate change. As above, the guy does not care, nor does he have the capacity to do so.

Biden, at least, has pinned his campaign on the idea of the USA hitting net-zero emissions by 2050. Experts say we have about nine years to halve greenhouse emissions before shit gets really hectic, and it feels likely that Biden would bring that up. Viewers at home might care, even as the words ricochet off his perfect and powerful brain.

Fact-checking

Expect a litany of lies, mistruths, fibs, exaggerations, misdirections and straight-up bullshittery. There will hardly be any point unpacking it all – add it to the pile! – but there will likely be some attempts, regardless.

Weird shit

Self-explanatory. Strap in, folks.

Image: Drew Angerer / Tasos Katopodis / Getty Images