A Recap of the First Vice Presidential Debate

Written by Skyler Shipp (News Writer)

You’ve probably heard about the fly that landed on Mike Pence’s head during this debate, but there was so much more to the vice presidential debate that makes it especially important. After the chaos of the first debate, and with the uncertainty surrounding future debates, this debate is an important window into the policy positions of each vice presidential candidate and the plans that their administration has in store.

The first topic was the COVID-19 response, in which Harris attacked the Trump administration’s response that has left over 210,000 dead and over 7 million infected and touted Joe Biden’s national plan for testing, contact racing and for vaccine distribution. Meanwhile Pence defended the Trump administration’s response saying that millions more would have died if not for the Trump administration, even going so far as to say, “under President Trump’s leadership, Operation Warp Speed, we believe, will have literally 10s of millions of doses of a vaccine before the end of this year.” However, he still failed to answer the initial question of why the U.S. death toll, as a percentage of our population, is higher than that of almost every other wealthy country. Pence also talked about the rose garden event saying that many people at the event were tested for Coronavirus.

Another notable moment came when discussing the vaccine itself, Harris notably said “If the public health professionals, if Dr. Fauci, if the doctors tell us that we should take it, I’ll be the first in line to take it. Absolutely. But if Donald Trump tells us that we should take it, I’m not taking it.” Pence responded by saying that she was undermining public health by saying that, and he continued to assure a vaccine by the end of the year. As Moderator Page tried to move on to the topic of the vice presidency, Pence continually tried to backtrack to the previous question, discussing the Obama administration’s handling of the Swine Flu.

One of the major topics for the debate was obviously Trump’s tax returns, which  showed that he only paid $750 in federal taxes and owed a significant amount of money. Harris brought up the importance of this owed money saying, “…it’d be really good to know who the President of the United States, the Commander in Chief, owes money to because the American people have a right to know what is influencing the president’s decisions.” Pence responded by assuring that Trump has “paid 10s of millions of dollars in taxes, payroll taxes, property taxes. He’s created 10s of thousands of American jobs. The president said those public reports are not accurate.” But Pence continued to move into the issue of the economy even though the moderator tried to stop him, a recurring theme for this debate.

On the issue of the economy, Harris brought up Biden’s plan to modernize infrastructure and improve education. “If you come from a family that makes less than $125,000, you’ll go to a public university for free. And across the board, we’ll make sure that if you have student loan debt it’s cut by $10,000.” said Harris, while comparing her plan to the 2017 tax cuts supported by the Trump administration. Pence countered “secured $4 trillion from the Congress of the United States to give direct payments to families, saved 50 million jobs through the paycheck protection program.” The economy is one of the most important issues, and in this debate we see two very different views, Pence assuring that tax cuts and deregulation will help the economy rebound and Harris continuing to attack the tax cuts and the Trump administration’s response to the economic crisis.

When discussing climate we heard many of the same arguments that we are used to. Pence touted the Trump administration’s record and defended the decision to leave the Paris Climate Accord, which he claimed was harmful to American businesses. Kamala discussed Biden’s plan to bring carbon emissions to zero by 2050.

One of the major topics that was discussed was the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court. The big question as of now is whether the Trump administration should be able to nominate a justice so close to the election. Pence argued that the Trump administration has every right to appoint a new justice before the election. However, Kamala Harris thinks that it is unfair to add a justice until the election is decided, citing Abraham Lincoln waiting until the election to appoint a justice. In reality, she was “mistaken about Lincoln’s motivations in this regard.” Pence continually asserted that Harris and Biden planned to pack the court, while Harris didn’t give a conclusive yes or no answer. 

There are many more topics covered in this debate, and I encourage everyone to watch it. Especially now that we have two older presidential candidates (Trump is 74, and Biden is 77), the position of vice president is more important than ever. When asked about the presidential debate, SLV student, Joe Rosenquist said, “I think that overall Kamala performed better than Pence. She trailed off-topic and went over her time not nearly as often as Pence did. However I wouldn’t go as far to say that she won the debate. There weren’t any clear winners in my opinion.” Another important aspect of this debate is how productive it was, with Joe saying “It was better than the presidential debate for sure, but as far as communicating their administration’s plans and trying to sway voters, this debate didn’t seem to do either. They were largely on the attack and oftentimes couldn’t defend themselves. Neither side seemed to be really convincing.”

This vice presidential debate really shows the effect of polarizing politics. There was very little agreement between the candidates at all. The only thing that the candidates seem to agree on is the fact that China is a threat, but their ways of handling it are so different so even that hardly even counts. The real deciders of who won this debate will be the American people. This year, the vote for vice president will be a very important one, as they may help sway the president’s opinions, and are next in line for the job. 

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