2020 Vice Presidential Debate
By Mia Caridi
The VP Debate was an important moment in history. Vice President Mike Pence and Senator Kamala Harris, the first Black woman on the ticket in a presidential race, faced off on October 7, 2020, allowing Americans to question who they truly want to lead them. The final question Americans had to ask was whether they wanted a Trump-Pence or a Biden-Harris administration? At the time of the publication of this article, four days after the election, the counting continues and the result is not yet known.
What role might the debate have played in the decisions people made? More than the off-the-rails presidential debate, the Vice-Presidential debate offered a clearer sense of the candidates' positions on the issues. The debate was split into six topics/discussions: COVID-19, jobs and the economy, healthcare, climate change and the environment, policing in America, and Voting.
COVID-19 has been a dilemma for the world and people want answers. In this section, Senator Kamala Harris was asked what would a Biden Administration do in January and February that a Trump administration wouldn’t do?
Senator Harris responded first by accusing the current presidential administration of failing its country and being responsible for over 200,000 deaths, the millions unemployed, and more. She stated that Joe Biden has a plan: a strategy for contact tracing, for testing, for the administration of a vaccine, and for making sure that it will be free for all.
Specifics were not given as to how Biden would initiate this plan and what exactly it would require of the American people and governmental officials. But Harris reassured the viewers that Joe Biden has a plan that will work. Following Senator Harris’s response, Vice President Mike Pence was questioned as to why the U.S. death toll as a percentage of our population is higher than that of almost every other wealthy country.
Vice President Pence responded by revealing that President Trump has always prioritized the health, safety, and well-being of our nation. He claimed that President Trump did what no other president had done before to benefit the American people when he suspended travel from China, the second largest economy in the world.
Vice President Pence also stated that the Joe Biden plan to deal with the coronavirus looked very similar to the Trump plan, that it looked almost like plagiarism.
Vice President Pence disclosed that Trump bought America time by suspending travel to areas such as China, which allowed time for them to improve testing and create a plan.
The details of the plan were not stipulated, yet Vice President Pence tried to level out the playing field by defending the high percentage of deaths in America and claiming that the Trump administration is doing as much as it can to help the people.
Jobs and the Economy/Healthcare
Moderator Susan Page asked Vice President Pence if Americans should be braced for an economic comeback that’s going to take not months, but a year or more.
Vice President Pence responded saying that despite inheriting America at its slowest economic recovery since the Great Depression, President Trump cut taxes, secured four trillion dollars from the Congress of the United States to give direct payment to families, saved 50 million jobs through the Paycheck Protection Program, etc. Vice President Pence also promised that if his ticket were elected, 2021 would be the biggest economic year in the history of the country.
Senator Harris combated this statement by saying that Biden will not raise taxes on anybody who makes less than $400,000 a year. Senator Harris added that Biden will not end fracking, despite the controversy about whether Joe Biden made that claim or not. The senator also claimed that the Trump-Pence administration “wants to take credit when they rode the coattails of Joe Biden’s success for the economy that they had at the beginning of their term.” Senator Harris also claimed that the Trump-Pence administration is trying to get rid of the Affordable Care Act and take away accessible health care.
Vice President Pence retaliated by claiming Obamacare was a disaster and that he and President Trump have a plan to improve health care and protect preexisting conditions for every American. Pence also said that on multiple occasions Joe Biden and Senator Harris said they would ban fracking. Vice President Pence ended by promising that a Trump-Pence administration will keep America growing, and that the V-shape recovery that’s underway right now will continue with four more years of President Donald Trump.
The claims made by the opposing sides must be considered. America is a part of a global economy, and coronavirus, unemployment, the economy, and healthcare play vital roles in the everyday lives of Americans.
Climate Change and the Environment
Once again, Vice President Pence began by responding to the question posed by the moderator: “Do you believe as the scientific community has concluded, that man-made climate change has made wildfires bigger, hotter, and more deadly and have made hurricanes wetter, slower and more damaging?”
Vice President Pence stated that the land and air are cleaner than at any time ever recorded. He also claimed that our water is among the cleanest in the world and that President Trump had recently signed the Outdoors Act which was the largest investment in the public lands and parks in 100 years. He added that the Green New Deal, which Joe Biden and Kamala Harris would endorse, would increase energy costs for American families and crush American jobs.
Pence also asserted that through American innovation, we are being steered toward a stronger and better environment, and that work has to be made on forest (fire) management and that there are no more hurricanes today than there were 100 years ago.
Following Pence’s response, Harris was questioned about the stance of a Biden-Harris administration on the Green New Deal. Kamala consistently stated that Joe Biden will not ban fracking, and that he will not increase taxes for anyone who makes less than $400,000 a year. Harris also claimed that part of the new jobs that will be created by Biden will be about clean and renewable energy.
Policing in America
The fatal case of Breonna Taylor was the first issue raised in this section of the debate. Harris stated that she does not believe justice was done in the case of Breonna Taylor and that she believes the family deserves justice, that her life was taken tragically and violently, similar to George Floyd’s, which sparked protests led by the Black Lives Matter movement. Harris promised to ban choke holds and carotid holes and maintained that criminal justice will be reformed.
Moderator Page posed the same question to Vice President Pence: was justice done? Pence said that his the administration's hearts break for the loss of any innocent American life and that the family of Breonna Taylor has the administration's sympathy.
Pence stated that he trusts our justice system, but there is no excuse for what happened to George Floyd and that justice will be served. Pence added that there was no excuse for the rioting and looting that followed that destroyed people’s livelihoods. Pence ended by saying that he and President Trump support law enforcement, improving public safety, and supporting our African-American neighbors and all our minorities.
Harris and Pence sparred on this issue bringing up racism, white-supremacy, etc. Pence opposed Harris’s statements by saying that Trump has condemned the KKK, neo-Nazis, and white supremacists repeatedly.
In the final section of the debate, Harris was asked, “If your ticket wins and President Trump refuses to accept a peaceful transfer of power, what steps would you and Vice President Biden then take? What would happen next?”
Harris responded by urging people to vote. She maintained that Joe Biden has a deep-seated commitment to fight for our democracy and to fight for the integrity of it.
Moderator Page asked Pence the same question. Pence responded by saying he believes they will win the election and that the movement of Americans has only grown stronger in the last four years.
Pence also claimed that Trump and his campaign were spied on by the FBI when Biden was still Vice President, and that Harris’s colleagues in the Congress tried to impeach the president of the United States over a phone call.
In the last question of the debate, the moderator read a quote from Brecklynn Brown’s essay: "When I watch the news, all I see is arguing between Democrats and Republicans. When I watch the news, all I see is citizen fighting against citizen. When I watch the news, all I see are two candidates from opposing parties trying to tear each other down. If our leaders can’t get along, how are the citizens supposed to get along? "How is your presidency going to unite and heal our country?"
In response, Senator Harris explained what spurred Joe Biden to run for president: “Joe has a longstanding reputation of working across the aisle and working in a bipartisan way. And that's what he's going to do as president. Joe Biden has a history of lifting people up and fighting for their dignity. You have to know Joe’s story to know that Joe has known pain. He has known suffering. And he has known love.”
Pence replied, “Here in America, we can disagree we can debate vigorously, as Senator Harris and I have on this stage tonight, but when the debate is over, we come together as Americans. That is what people do in big cities and small towns across this country. I want to encourage you. I want to tell you that we will work every day to have a government as good as its people. The American people each and every day love a good debate. We love a good argument, but we always come together, and we are always there for one another in times of need and we have especially learned that through the difficulties of this year.”
The debate ended on this note of love and unity. We, as Americans, can only hope that the rhetoric will ring true once the counting is done and the results are in.