Vying for Vice President: Discussing the First 2020 Vice Presidential Debate

Courtesy of harperbazzar

Courtesy of harperbazzar

Cydney Macon and Seemani Dash

A much calmer debate was held October 7, with Senator Kamala Harris and Vice President Mike Pence.  Held in an almost vacant University of Utah, the debate was moderated by Susan Page of USA Today.  Due to the coronavirus and recent cases in the White House, both candidates sat twelve feet apart with a plexiglass set between the two. Americans across the country sat in anticipation again for the debate, this time in hopes for a civil one. 

As mentioned before, the debate was much more civil, however, both candidates were called out on dodging questions and stretching the truth.

The main topics discussed were the pandemic, economy, climate change and the Supreme Court.

On the topic of the pandemic, Harris spoke about how President Trump has been the “greatest failure of any presidential administration in the history of our country;” a comment similar to Biden at the Presidential debate regarding Trump as, “The worst president America’s ever had.” With several statistics, accusations, plans for tests, contact tracing and more, Harris described the leadership the Biden campaign would take effectively.  Pence responded that Trump was proactive; he suspended travel to China when there were only five cases.  He also said that Biden opposed the suspension and called it “xenophobic” and “hysterical.”  However, according to CNN,  Biden’s accusation was not about the travel ban. In fact, it was about the President himself.

Pence was addressed about the “super spreader” event that infected 34 known White House staffers with COVID along with Trump and how the administration is leading by example to fellow Americans.  The event in question was held for incoming Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett that was held in the Rose Garden. Pence replied,” President Trump and I have great confidence in the American people and their ability to take that information and put it into practice….and it was an outdoor event, which all of our scientists regularly and routinely advise.”  However, according to a MSNBC article, although the event was outdoors, 150 people attended; most were without a mask and were not socially distant.  Pence then turned the debate onto Biden and Harris mandating the virus, government takeover of health and the Green New Deal, avoiding most of the original question. 

In regards to government health, Biden and Harris do not plan to have a government takeover of health.  According to the Biden-Harris website, Biden’s plan is to “build on the Affordable Care Act by giving Americans more choice, reducing health care costs, and making our health care system less complex to navigate.”

Harris argued that the American people have, “had to sacrifice far too much because of the incompetence of this administration” during COVID.

They segued into economy, namely, the approach from each campaign. Harris discussed how their plans were based on the “health and strength of the American worker” in comparison to Trump’s inclination towards the rich.  Pence responded with an accusation-heavy segment of Biden’s plan to raise taxes and spend two trillion on a Green New Deal. 

On the topic of climate change, Pence was asked if he believed climate change was a threat.  He commented that, “…the climate is changing. President Trump has made it clear that we’re going to continue to listen to the science.  [Biden and Harris would] impose the Green New Deal, which would crush American energy.” The controversy behind the Green New Deal is the amount of funding it would take from the economy already ridden with high unemployment, coronavirus struggles and other issues. He tied the improvement in air quality (which can be credited to many other solutions) to a “strong, free market economy.” 

Earlier in the debate Harris dodged the question of whether the Biden-Harris campaign will be including this controversial Green New Deal.  It’s notable that the Green New Deal is found on the Biden-Harris website as “a crucial framework for meeting the climate challenges we face.” She instead described the “infrastructure” Biden created to support clean, renewable energy and roads. Biden himself described he was not implementing the Green New Deal during his debate with Trump. According to NBC News, Biden’s environmental plan does borrow heavily from ideas of the deal with the more controversial ideas omitted, but the $100 trillion figure Trump accused is incorrect. It is clear that climate change laws are a priority for the Biden-Harris campaign, but the high price of the bill is still questionable of its worth.

The candidates then went back-and-forth on the topic of jobs, the economic recession, the “trade war” and current relationship with China over COVID-19 and more. Both made veiled accusations while arguing their stances, but neither fully answered the questions directly. 

The topic of Amy Coney Barrett came up as Pence was questioned by Page for striking down the Affordable Care Act and the threat to Roe v. Wade. He answered with his belief in her as a “brilliant woman” who faces criticism for her more religious-based opinions over conservative and pro-life views. Another issue debated heavily by Harris over the Supreme Court was Trump’s attacks on the Affordable Care Act, namely, his attempt to repeal it. Pence responded with how tumultuous Obamacare was, but dodged answering how the Trump administration planned to provide Medicare for those with pre-existing conditions (something at risk without the Affordable Care Act.)

Pence asked Harris if she would ”pack” the court with more Democratic judges if Barrett is confirmed to serve. Harris never gave a straight answer. As of October 13, Biden has since said he’s, “Not a fan” of packing the Supreme Court. Harris turned the question around on him, mentioning a lack of diversity in those appointed by Trump.

On a shorter discussion of racial injustice, Harris supported Biden’s ideas of reforming the police system to prevent unnecessary, unjust deaths due to systemic racism. Pence responded with his heartbreak for the loss of innocent human lives and his belief in how “justice will be served.” He condemned the violence behind looting and rioting, saying “ there’s no excuse.” Harris then discussed the time Trump appeared to avert condemning Neo-Nazi white supremacist groups, saying in the Presidential debate “when pressed, stand back, stand by,” where Pence described how Trump had Jewish family members and “respects and cherishes all of the American people.”

The debate boiled down to two drastically different argumentative strategies: Pence remained calm but identified the Biden-Harris campaign as extreme while Harris pointed out a lack of empathy and the discrepancies in the achievements of the Trump-Pence campaign. 

With the Vice Presidential debate, we saw a much more civilized discussion between candidates of two widely different platforms, but both repeatedly dodged questions and voiced their grievances with one another. The Biden-Harris campaign appears to push for more government funding overall for healthcare, climate change laws, racial injustice and more while the Trump-Pence campaign advertises for economy and “freedom of the people.” We have two crucial choices here, and it’s up to voters to discern the campaign they support more.