The debate between Vice President Mike Pence and Democratic nominee Senator Kamala Harris took place on 7th October 2020 (C-SPAN, 2020). Although many voters do not base their decision on vice-presidential candidates, this election is unique because Trump has contracted COVID-19, and Biden is presenting himself as a transitional figure to the next generation of Democrats. This paper argues that during the debate, the opponents spent more time deflecting than answering the questions, which would have increased voter awareness.
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The manner in which the candidates answered questions was a reflection of the state of the campaign. Harris focused on criticizing Trump’s strategy on handling the coronavirus pandemic, while Pence attacked Biden-Harris as being on the extreme left of the Democratic Party, especially on economic issues. Pence argued that Biden’s promise to roll back the president’s 2017 tax cuts would lead to an increase in tax on Americans once he took the office (C-SPAN, 2020). However, this is a wrong assumption because it would require an act of Congress for the tax reduction to happen. Ultimately, Pence seemed more interested in criticizing the Biden-Harris campaign than in stating his position on pertinent issues.
Harris often avoided answering the questions directly and, instead, spent this time talking about Trump. She was determined to show that Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic had led to the poor economic position of the U.S. When questioned about the Breonna Taylor case, Harris reminded the audience about the moment during the presidential debate when Trump did not denounce white supremacists. This demonstrates her resolution to portray Trump’s negative side rather than focusing on pertinent issues.
The debate proved that the election still pivots around the coronavirus pandemic. From the beginning of the discussion, COVID-19 was the center stage. The audience was warned not to remove their masks and the candidates were separated by plexiglass shields. Also, it was the first topic discussed, with Harris immediately arguing that the Trump administration’s way of dealing with the issue was the worst failure of any American government in history. She argued that Trump covered up information after he had been briefed about it in January and that he did not suggest guidelines on how to combat the disease. Harris’s argument generally indicated that the current president was an ineffective leader who was unable to protect American citizens during a time of crisis.
Conversely, Pence stated that Trump had taken the threat seriously because he had banned travel to and from China in January. He added that the Biden-Harris ticket was copying Trump’s idea of testing and developing a vaccine, and he reiterated Trump’s pledge of inoculation being available by the end of the year. However, Harris stated that unless approved by medical professionals, she would not take a vaccine recommended by Trump. Ultimately, both candidates were using the pandemic as a campaign tool.
The candidates kept interrupting each other despite the moderator’s initial reminder to have a respectful exchange. When Pence reduced her allotted time, Harris resisted and stated that she would not allow a male opponent to intimidate her. Both of them frequently avoided answering questions, and the moderator often moved to fresh questions rather than ask follow-up queries (C-SPAN, 2020). They ignored the question of what they would do if the president became incapacitated. This was a critical issue considering Trump’s illness and the fact that both presidents are above 70 years. Both avoided the discussion on what states should do if the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, leaving each of them to write their abortion laws. Ultimately, these were lost opportunities in terms of allowing the audience to understand the candidates’ stance on critical issues.
In conclusion, the Harris-Pence debate might have been more informative if the candidates had spent more time answering the questions rather than deflecting. It showed a sharp contrast between the two parties’ agendas for healthcare and economic growth. In the end, their responses showed that they were more interested in maligning each other than giving concrete opinions which would help the voters to understand their policies.
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C-SPAN. (2020). Vice presidential debate between Mike Pence and Kamala Harris. [Video]. YouTube. Web.