The Vice Presidential Debate: A Return to (Somewhat) Normal
Candidates Mike Pence and Kamala Harris held reasonable, productive discussions and covered a myriad of issues in the debate
October 10, 2020
Vice presidential candidates Mike Pence and Kamala Harris took to the Kingsbury Hall stage at the University of Utah this Wednesday to participate in the first, and only, vice presidential debate of 2020. Following the controversial and chaotic first presidential debate, many Americans were concerned that the Vice Presidential debate would play out in a similar way. However, many viewers were pleasantly surprised to see a far more cordial discussion, despite a few contentious moments.
Throughout the debate, both Pence and Harris landed solid jabs against their opponents and effectively defended their presidential candidates. Additionally, both created a strong case for why their running mate should be elected and their opponent should not.
The debate started with a question about the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, where Senator Harris moved to attack the Trump Administration’s controversial response to the virus, calling it the, “greatest failure of any presidential administration in the history of our country.” Harris also brought attention to the news that the Trump administration knew about the virus as early as January. “They knew and they covered it up,” said Harris.
Pence countered by questioning Biden’s original stance on the China travel ban, asserting that Biden was originally opposed to it, and that President Trump’s action saved “hundreds of thousands of lives.” This was the first fiery moment in the impassioned debate, which went on to represent the opinionated and divided nature of the United States.
The discussion soon turned to the issue of American energy and the economy, with both sides defending their platforms while delegitimizing those of their opponents. Senator Harris brought focus on the Biden campaign’s commitment to the future through clean and renewable energy with an emphasis on stopping climate change. However, the Vice President attacked her position, claiming that the Biden administration would ban fracking and hurt fossil fuels, which would “crush American jobs.”
Concerning the military and foreign affairs, Pence repeatedly criticized the slow and indecisive choices made by the Obama Administration, of which Biden was Vice President. He accused Biden of wanting to submit to China and cited the case of murdered activist Kayla Mueller, claiming that if Trump had been president, she would likely be alive today.
Senator Harris notably attacked Trump’s words against the military, citing his statements of “what’s in it for them” and “suckers and losers” to question his right to lead the United States Military. She also questioned his integrity, saying “he doesn’t understand what it means to be honest.”
As the topic of discussion moved to racial injustice and the deaths of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, both sides were very opinionated on the issue, creating a vigorous exchange of words and opinions. Harris stated, “I believe strongly that first of all, we are never going to condone violence, but we always must fight for the values that we hold dear, including the fight to achieve our ideals.” Additionally, she called for a reform of American judicial systems, saying, “We need reform of our policing in America and our criminal justice system.”
Pence answered that he believes in the system and trusts the decision of the American jury, but also affirmed the need for justice for George Floyd. He used the rioting and looting following Floyd’s death to justify the need for order and peace as well, saying “We don’t need to choose between supporting law enforcement and supporting our African American neighbors.”
Despite the colorful disagreements between the two candidates on a variety of topics, the debate concluded on a hopeful note. The final question was from Utah eighth-grader Brecklynn Brown, who asked, “If our leaders can’t get along, how are the citizens supposed to get along?” In response, both candidates preached the value of unity: they insisted that cooperation and healing is possible despite the currently divided nature of our country. Vice President Pence highlighted the strength and resilience of the American people in his portion of the discussion: “We are always there for each other in times of need,” he said. Senator Harris took a similar stance, declaring, “We fight for each person’s voice.”
The first Vice Presidential debate was one of the contentious and spirited arguments, with both sides effectively arguing their stances on the many issues present in America today. However, it also served as a beacon of hope that compromise and unity – even in these trying times – is possible.