Vice Presidential Debate: A breath of fresh air

By Conor Kelly (TheLorian)

Senator Kamala Harris and Vice-President Mike Pence faced off in a more nuanced debate last Wednesday, Oct. 7, contrasting the two Vice-Presidential candidates with their Presidential counterparts. After the Presidential debate, the seemingly calm and orderly debate was a breath of fresh air for some, with some commentators viewing the debate as a benefit for Biden’s chances. Conversely, Pence, faced with the prospect of defending the administrations decision-making, managed to hold his own while also maintaining a civil demeanor that is seemingly absent from politics.

Beginning the debate, Senator Harris was asked about her thoughts on the administration’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. But more than that, Harris was asked what a Biden administration would have done to prevent such an emergency. In response, Harris took to criticizing the administration’s response, calling it the “greatest failure of any presidential administration in the history of our country,” and argued that, “You respect the American people when you tell them the truth.” Continuing on, Harris stated that a Biden administration would prioritize contact tracing, vaccine administration, and testing assistance. In response, Pence argued that Trump had banned travel from China, saving “hundreds of thousands of American lives.” Pence also took issue with the assertion that the current path America has taken towards COVID-19 was a “failure,” arguing that it did a disservice to the public.

As other commentators have noted, this is only part of the picture. The ban, enacted on Jan. 31, is a common line of defense for the administration’s response, was not as absolute as has been previously stated. While restrictions were put in place, it should be noted that the ‘ban’ was not uniform. Indeed, the restrictions allowed for some exceptions for American citizens and their families. In the month prior to the ban, three-hundred thousand people entered the country from China.

Harris was also questioned about her view on vaccines and whether or not she would take a COVID-19 vaccine. In response, Harris stated that her faith in science was strong, but that if the vaccine was created with the administration’s interference, she would not take it.

Pence was also questioned about an event in the Rose Garden celebrating the nomination of Judge Amy Comey Barrett, in which multiple people were infected. When asked, Pence argued that the event was outside, making it safe. While the initial event itself was outside, many, including the President and Judge Barrett, entered the White House proper.

 On the economy, Pence and Harris couldn’t be more different. Pence, defending Trump’s tax cuts, argued that they provided additional sources of income to the average American. Harris argued that the tax cuts were a benefit for the rich. Harris went further, arguing that the tax cuts needed to be repealed, which Pence argued would amount to a raise in taxes. While Harris argued that Biden would not tax anyone who made bellow four-hundred thousand dollars a year, she did not deny that removing the tax cuts could result in an uptick. By contrast, neither Pence nor the moderator addressed issues regarding the temporary nature of the tax cuts for lower tax brackets, as those making under two-hundred thousand dollars would see their tax cuts disappear after 2025. Overall, the economy was subsumed by talking points and COVID-19 became the main focus.

While in a normal debate, many more topics would draw attention, this was no ordinary debate. Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination to the Supreme Court came into the fray, with Harris pointing to the dangers of Barrett overturning the Affordable Care Act and other such liberal causes. Pence, by contrast, argued that Barrett would be an exemplary judge, and expressed hope that Barrett would not be attacked for her faith. Harris, upon raising concerns about Judge Barrett, argued that it was not the time for an appointment to the court, incorrectly citing Lincoln as an example. Eventually, Pence demanded an answer from Harris regarding court packing, which Harris evaded. It was reminiscent of the previous debate between Trump and Biden the week before.

For a year as unusual as this one, such a normal debate seems unusually relieving. Although very little was answered that wasn’t already known, the more nuanced back and forth served as a contrast to the nature of recent politics. One can only wonder where these two politicos will head next.

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Conor J. Kelly was the Opinion Editor for the Lorian and a prolific staff writer. He graduated from Loras College in April of 2021 and is now pursuing his master's in political science at the University of Illinois, Springfield. You can find his new work on The Progressive American newsletter.

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