graphic by Martha Cabot
Last night, Vice President Mike Pence and Senator Kamala Harris met at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City to debate for the first and only time until Election Day. This debate was considerably more civil than last week’s, and yet it was hostile, if not wholly delusive. The Vice Presidential candidates certainly played the part of amiable politicians, but their facial expressions and talking points were a tell-all for the folks at home.
Neither candidate spoke transparently. Attacks frequently came from both ends. There is no doubt Vice President Pence interrupted Harris and moderator, Susan Page (from USA Today), at least twice as often as Harris did. The Vice President, in particular, deflected many of Page’s essential questions whenever he saw fit. When Harris attacks Pence and the Trump administration for their “failure” to respond effectively to the COVID-19 crisis, Pence went so far as to deflect this point by misleading the audience — suggesting that Harris puts this failure on the American people. We see you, Mike.
In purposefully avoiding these questions, Pence avoids some amount of scrutiny from the public. We are left in the dark on how our own Vice President feels on major issues— he would prefer to use his time to tear down Biden and Harris and discuss inconsequential “what-ifs.”
Senator Kamala Harris was civil, sure, but after watching her interrogate Brett Kavanaugh in 2018 and crush Joe Biden earlier this year at the Democratic Nominee debates many of us expected more of that tenacity in last night’s debate. Perhaps Harris was simply trying to remain respectful of the debate guidelines and agreements, but when combined with her repeated attacks on Trump, her behavior rendered her nearly as deceptive as Pence.
When asked about their running mates’ age and future, the candidates skirted around the question. This was a common theme; both Harris and Pence picked and chose which questions they felt comfortable answering– maybe a favorable debate tactic for some, but impossibly frustrating for everyday U.S. citizens looking for a clear and direct response.
Between Harris and Pence, we are left with so many questions. Does Harris support packing the Supreme Court? How closely related to the Green New Deal is Biden and Harris’ climate action plan? If Biden wins the election, what can we expect in regards to handling the COVID-19 pandemic? Will justice for Breonna Taylor and the countless Black people murdered by police be served under a Biden administration? Mike Pence said himself that he trusts our justice system as is.
I am not confident that the American public has a better understanding about our V.P. candidates than we had going into the night. As usual, the Vice President regarded the President with high praise and answered the questions that suited him. Meanwhile, Senator Kamala Harris boosted Joe Biden as the only man who could help America. Both candidates repeated the same things we’ve heard before. Neither candidate divulged their entire plans if elected, but it became clear that Biden and Harris are willing to be enormously more transparent about their pasts and the future of America than Trump and Pence have been in the last four years.
For what it’s worth, Page was able to keep some amount of civility at last night’s debate. She asked her questions, and yet we woke up the next day with even more questions. In many ways, the Vice Presidential debate was little better than last week’s mess. The President deflected by regularly speaking over Biden and moderator, Chris Wallace (FOX News) in the first Presidential debate. This week the deflection continued as the Vice Presidential candidates— notably Pence— avoided critical questions entirely.
We should encourage moderators to call out the constant side-steps. A debate is hardly of substance if the guiding questions are not answered, and others are answered with false statements. Nonetheless, this shows American people more about these candidates’ characters than anything else. Both Pence and Harris are very much politicians, intentionally vague and evasive. The most substantive thing we could hang onto was a lingering fly that seemed to say: “for real?”
NOTE: Although this article discusses both sides of the debate and calls out both sides for missteps and cagey performances, it is imperative I make it clear, as Editor-in-Chief, that OutWrite fully endorses Democratic Nominee Vice President Joseph R. Biden and Senator Kamala Harris for the 2020 General Election.