Vice Presidential Debate 2020

By Emily Dewey

Were you busy the night of the debate? The long-anticipated Vice President Debate took place on Wednesday, October 8th.  Kamala Harris- Joe Biden’s VP nomination, and Mike Pence, Donald Trump’s VP, discussed important matters in attempt to sway the American citizens to their running mates’ side. It is important to note again that the campaigns and candidates have not been informed of the topic of the questions.

Segment One: COVID- 19

This segment began one of the most influential topics of this debate season, COVID-19. The moderator of the night, Susan Page, posed the question “The Coronavirus is not under control. What would a Biden administration do in January and February that a Trump administration wouldn’t?” Senator Kamala Harris starts out with some common facts about the virus and then claims that the Trump Administration knew about the lethality of the virus and did nothing. Harris reiterates the COVID plan that was established at last week’s presidential debate (See Presidential Debate Article).

The question that was posed to Vice President Pence was related directly to the actions he has taken during his term. “You had the Coronavirus task force. Why is the U.S. death toll as a percentage of our population higher than that of almost every other wealthy country”? He follows by exclaiming that President Trump has put the health of America first. He conveys this point by emphasizing Trump’s suspending all travel to and from China due to the “multitude” of cases coming from the country. In addition, he explains what his task force has done for COVID- 19 so far, which can be explored by simply researching this task force online.

Another question was posed to Vice President Pence, “How can you expect the American citizens to follow the administrations safety guidelines to protect themselves from COVID when you at the White House have not been doing so?”. He responds with a basic answer- that the event was outside and many were tested beforehand; he states this is what the scientists have advised. Susan Page asks “Most of the people who can be vaccinated need to be vaccinated, but half of Americans now say they wouldn’t take the vaccine if released. If the Trump administration approves a vaccine before or after the election, should Americans take it, and would you take it?” Kamala Harris responds a very surprising but predictable answer- that if the doctors tell us to take it, she will be the first in line; but if Trump tells us to take it, then she is not taking it.

Segment Two: The Role of the Vice President

This segment is all over the board with content but was initially about the role of the Vice President. Although questions were asked to the candidates about plans because of Trump’s Covid diagnosis, the question that concerns the American public is “In recent days, President Trump’s doctors have given misleading answers or refused to answer basic questions about his health. Is this information voters deserve to know?”. First is VP Pence, starting with the statement that the transparency of the doctors of Trump will continue and the American people have the right to know what is being said to them.

Senator Harris responds with a certain “Absolutely” and relates this to Biden being incredibly transparent in contrast to the President- both in terms of health records and taxes. She quickly uses this sentence to switch the conversation to Trump’s taxes. Harris loops this back to Joe Biden, saying that he puts everything on the line to be honest and forthright.

Segment Three- The Economy

“Would raising taxes put the economy and recovery at risk?”. This is the important topic for this section as Senator Kamala Harris responds that Joe Biden believes you measure the health and strength of America’s economy based on the health and strength of the American worker. On the other hand, she relays the message that Donald Trump measures the strength of the economy based on how rich people are doing. She concludes this answer by saying that the next president needs to invest in the people of our country as opposed to passing a tax bill that benefits American corporations that are going offshore to do their businesses. In an effort to appeal to young voters, she states that it is Biden- Harris administration goal to ensure that 2- year community college is free, 4-year universities are free if your household brings in under 120,000 a year, and that all student loan debt will be cut by 10,000.

Mike Pence’s question is quite straightforward- “Should Americans be braced for an economic comeback that is going to take a year or more?” Pence insures us that when he and Trump took office, they took the slowest economic recovery since the Great Depression and turned it into the booming economy that we encompass today. He conveys that President Trump cut taxes across the board, which in turn increased the average household income by 4 thousand dollars. Switching back to her fact about the Trump administration, Harris claims that Trump has in fact reigned over a recession that is being compared to the Great Depression. When concluding, she throws in that Joe Biden and Barack Obama are responsible for the Affordable Care Act. In one sentence, Vice President Mike Pence responds with “Obama Care was a disaster”.

Segment Four- Climate Change

The much debated and controversial topic of climate change is next on the plate. The question is do you believe, as the scientific community has concluded, that man-made climate change has made wildfires bigger, hotter, and deadlier and has made hurricanes wetter, slower, and more damaging? Vice President Pence claims that air and land are cleaner than anytime ever reported and water is among the cleanest in the world. “What exactly would be the stance of a Biden administration toward the Green New Deal?” Senator Harris iterates that the Biden- Harris administration would invest in renewable energy, create millions of jobs, have net emissions by 2050, and make sure there are zero carbon emissions by 2035. While concluding her thoughts, Harris stresses that their administration will immediately re-enter the Climate Accord with Paris. Due to Senator Harris’ wording of calling the climate crisis an existential threat, the next question posed to Mike Pence is “Do you believe that climate change poses an existential threat?” He replies with the fact that the climate is changing, and the claim that his administration will always follow science.

 

Segment Five- Foreign Alliances with China

This segment is pretty short, with each candidate cutting straight to the point with little to no debate. The first question goes to Mike Pence, “Vice President Pence, how would you describe our fundamental relationship with China, competitors, adversaries, enemies?” Instead of answering the original question, Pence goes back to voting records and NAFTA. With regard to China, he explains that China is to blame for the Coronavirus and says President Trump has been standing up to China, while Joe Biden is letting them take advantage of the U.S. When the same question was posed to Kamala Harris, she comments that the Trump administration’s approach and perspective on China has led to loss of lives, American jobs, and America’s standing. She adds by saying Trump has a weird obsession with getting rid of every accomplishment that was achieved by the Obama- Biden administration. She connects this to the Coronavirus by stating Trump pulled out the disease response team that was in China that could’ve prevented the virus. A fact Harris stated is from the Pew Research center (of who did an analysis of our allied countries). The results concluded that most of them held a higher respect for the communist leader of China than they did for President Trump.

Next, Susan Page stated and asked, “What’s your definition of the role of American leadership in 2020”. Harris responds with a lesson about history and modern policy. She explains that foreign policy might sound complicated, but it is merely relationships- keeping your word, standing with who stood with you, and know who your adversaries are. Additionally, she claims that Trump has betrayed our friends and supported the dictators. She exemplifies this by relating it to the 2016 elections. As a part of the intelligence committee, she has information that they have told the senate that Russia interfered with the election and is planning the same thing in 2020. It is stated that because of Trump’s unilateral approach, he pulled us out of the Iran Nuclear deal and has made us less safe. Vice President Pence does not respond directly on this topic.

Segment Six- The Supreme Court

“Vice President Pence, you are the former Governor of Indiana. If Roe v. Wade is overturned, what would you want Indiana to do? Would you want your home state to ban all abortions”? In regard to the Supreme Court of the United States, he wants Barrett to become a judge. He then states that Harris has previously attacked someone for being apart of the Catholic Knights of Columbus due to their pro-life values. Later on, exclaims that he is pro-life and will not apologize for it.

Senator Harris is asked the same question, just in terms of California instead of Indiana. She starts by ensuring that her and Biden are people of faith- with Joe Biden being a practicing Catholic. She starts with the Supreme Court- her opinion being due to 4 million people already voting, let the American people fill the seat in the White House, and then filling the seat in the Supreme Court. She then directs her attention back to the possible overturning of Roe V. Wade, revealing that she is pro-choice and declaring it should be the women’s decision…not the decision of the President and Vice President.

Segment Seven- Racial Justice

The next subject is racial justice, specifically with the Breonna Taylor case. The question posed was simple- “Senator Harris, in the case of Breonna Taylor, was justice done?” She responds with she doesn’t believe so and describes her life being taken as unjustifiably, tragically, and violently. She claims to never condone violence, but we must always fight for the values we hold dear. She follows with a powerful statement- “Bad cops are bad for good cops”. She concludes by revealing we need reform of policing in America and the criminal justice system. Biden and Harris plan to do this by immediately banning choke holds, requiring national registry for police officers who break the law, on criminal justice reform, and getting rid of private prisons and cash bails.

With Pence answering the same question, he gives the family of Breonna Taylor his condolences and sympathy, but says he trust our justice system and the Grand Jury. He then states that although there is no excuse for George Floyd’s death, there is also no excuse for the rioting and looting that followed. He follows by quoting “This presumption that you hear consistently from Joe Biden and Kamala Harris that America is systemically racist and as Joe Biden said that he believes law enforcement has an implicit bias against minorities is a great insult to the men and women who serve in law enforcement”. Senator Harris is fired up in her response, stating “I will not sit here and be lectured by the Vice President about what it means to enforce the laws of this country. I am the only one who has personally prosecuted everything from child sexual assault to homicide. I am the only one on this stage who has prosecuted the big banks for taking advantage of America’s homeowners. I am the only one on this stage who prosecuted for profit colleges for taking advantage of our veterans. And the reality of this is we are talking about an election in 27 days where last week the President of the United States took a debate stage in front of 70 million Americans and refused to condemn a white supremacist”.

Segment Eight: The Election Itself

The last question is about the election and integrity- “If your ticket wins, and President Trump refuses to accept a peaceful transfer of power, what steps would you and Biden take, and what would happen next?”. Harris starts by stating she is very confident in their campaign due to the broad coalition of folks that will vote. She urges the Americans to please vote, come up with a plan, and vote early. She concludes with mentioning that Trump openly attempted to suppress the vote in the election last week.

Vice President Pence answers this question with the presumption that he thinks the Trump administration is going to win this election. He believes this because he is securing votes by rebuilding the military, reviving the economy, appointing conservatives to the courts at every level, and standing with men and women of law enforcement. He ends with saying that universal mail in voting creates a massive opportunity for voters’ fraud.

This signaled the end of the debate, with closing remarks and the Senator and Vice President’s significant other coming on stage. Unlike the Presidential debate last week, this debate was loaded with important statistics and valuable information. One thing to note is when the husband of Kamala Harris walked on stage- he was wearing a mask; while Mike Pence’s wife was not. No matter where you’re at on the political spectrum, this should give you an inside look on the policies and procedures of both leading candidates.

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