By: Emily Mao – School News Editor
On Wednesday night, Senator Kamala Harris and Vice President Mike Pence faced off at Kingsbury Hall in Salt Lake City. After last week’s highly contentious presidential debate and the fast spread of COVID-19 through the White House, this debate was long awaited. Both candidates spoke in accordance with the debate guidelines and there was little cross talk throughout the debate: a stark difference from last week’s performance. Yet, what did not change was the lack of answers for the American people.
In accordance with social distancing guidelines, the candidates were seated twelve feet apart with plexiglass barriers. All attendees were also wearing masks.
The first topic covered COVID-19 and the country’s recovery. Sen. Harris started off by strongly criticizing Trump, calling his response to the pandemic “the greatest failure of a presidential administration.” She argued throughout the segment that the Trump administration knew about the threat of the virus on January 28, yet did not tell the public. Pence argued that Trump’s strong reaction to the virus by banning travel from China bought precious time and saved hundreds of thousands of lives. When asked about how he expected the American people to follow guidelines when the White House hasn’t been doing so, he responded that he trusts the American people to make the best decision about their own health.
Although the debate was far more civil, Sen. Harris was quick to shut down any interruptions from Pence by saying, “Mr. Vice President, I’m speaking.” Especially during their discussion about Biden’s tax plans, Harris clarified that their tax plan would not raise taxes for those who make less than $400,000 and that Biden was not planning on banning fracking. Pence disagreed, stating that Biden wanted to abolish fossil fuels and fracking, which would diminish American jobs and manufacturing.
What was most obvious from the debate was the stark contrast in policy differences between the two candidates. When asked about whether he believed that man made climate change has made natural disasters more extreme, Pence responded by saying that the air, land, and water are cleaner than ever and that the National Oceanic Administration reported no more hurricanes than there were 100 years ago. Harris on the other hand warned, “climate change is an existential threat” and that Joe Biden would rejoin the Paris Climate Accord with pride.
In terms of America’s tense relationship with China, Pence continued the narrative that China is to blame for the coronavirus, while Kamala pointed out that America lost the trade war with China, losing thousands of manufacturing jobs in the process. She also blamed Trump’s isolationist foreign policy strategy, destroying America’s respect on the world stage, with leaders holding President Xi Jin Ping in higher esteem than Trump.
It was no surprise that they also differed on their opinions on the recent supreme court nominee Judge Amy Coney Barrett. Harris repeatedly emphasized that the American people should have a say in who fills the supreme court seat 27 days from the election. Pence, although evetually stating that he is pro-life, pointed out the unfair attacks on Amy Coney Barrett’s Christian faith and calling for a fair and unbiased approval process.
However, both candidates dodged many questions, and they often returned to their own talking points. When asked about the “Biden Plan” for climate change and how it differed from the Green New Deal, Harris merely said that new jobs will be created through renewable energy and that Joe Biden believed in science while Trump did not. When asked about whether she would pack the courts if Judge Barrett were approved, Harris did not answer, and Pence was not shy in pointing that out. On the topic of the Affordable Care Act, Pence was asked about Trump’s plan for protecting Americans with preexisting conditions if the ACA were repealed. Instead, he directed the conversation to Biden’s attempt to increase funding to planned parenthood.
The debate also hit on the important topic of race, especially regarding the outcome of the Breonna Taylor case. Harris said that justice was not done for Breonna Taylor, stating that “bad cops are bad for good cops,” and that the country needed police reform. Pence disagreed, saying that he trusts our justice system. He argued that saying America is systemically racist “is an insult to the men and women who serve in law enforcement.” He also attacked Harris’s record as the Attorney General of California, criticizing the disproportionate incarceration rate of minorities in California under her jurisdiction.
During this tense moment, a fly landed on Pence’s head during this segment for several minutes, becoming an immediate meme and talking point for social media. Standing out against his bright white hair, viewers couldn’t help but be distracted by that little fly.
Both Harris and Pence reemphasized what Biden and Trump respectively said during last week’s debate, with Harris urging Americans to vote by all means and Pence saying that they will prevent mail in voting because it results in voter fraud. Neither candidates answered what they would do if Trump refused to commit to a peaceful transferal of power. The debate ended on a more positive note, with each candidate praising the ability of American people to come together despite ideological differences. With the election only twenty seven days away, we will have to wait and see the effect the debate might have on the polls.