The highly anticipated first presidential debate was a fiasco, thus setting higher expectations for the vice-presidential debate. The moderator, Susan Page, clearly laid out the rules, requesting for a civil discussion and respectful exchange between both candidates. Page made it clear that a normal predictable debate is what Americans deserved. Although not as captivating as the presidential debate, the vice-presidential debate still lacked substance. The candidates evaded the moderator’s questions, focusing on the same talking points that have been heard countless times over the last several months. Despite 59 percent of people claiming Senator Kamala Harris won Wednesday night’s debate, there was no definite winner.
Considering the first presidential debate was derailed, Vice President Pence had the weight of the Republican party on his shoulders after President Trump failed to condemn white supremacists, telling them to “Stand back and stand by.” Along with this hostile and vexing comment, no substantial policy issues were answered because of the countless interruptions and arguments. With the most recent chaos, the Trump Administration needed redemption and Pence needed to distinctly articulate the plan regarding the abundance of unaddressed issues such as the COVID-19 response, unemployment and civil unrest.
Even with what was at stake, Pence failed to answer the moderator’s questions. He consistently ignored the rules, talking over both the moderator and Senator Harris. He would revisit the previous question– despite the moderator’s declaration to move to the next question– and he never answered the standing question. Pence’s continuous efforts to address the previous question revealed that he did not want to answer the question because he did not have a meaningful, coherent response that would garner support or explain the administration failures.
For Harris, based on Biden’s performance in the presidential debate, she also needed to clarify key policy positions regarding the economy, supreme court appointments, and healthcare. For Harris, she had to navigate the balance between stereotypes that plague black female leaders. When confident, black women are labeled loud, angry and aggressive, a stereotype Harris had to circumvent, appealing to a broader audience of independents, undecided voters – a vice president for all Americans.
Harris was repetitive in her responses, missing opportunities to fact-check Pence on critical issues in this 2020 election. Harris’ response to the first topic, COVID-19, was strong and effective when she admonished the Trump administration’s response to the virus stating that they have “forfeited their right to reelection because of this.” She further supported her argument by identifying that the Trump administration knew about this virus’ devastating effects in January. Despite this valuable information, 10 months later, the administration still has no plan.
While giving an accurate and powerful response, Harris missed the opportunity to raise the issue that the White House is a hotspot for COVID-19, in which, ironically, Pence is the White House Coronavirus task force lead. Instead of bringing up critical pieces of information and fact-checking Pence, Harris either smiled, laughed or gave Pence a raised eyebrow suggesting her disdain for his responses.
Both candidates creatively weaved in their talking points, thus not directly addressing the moderator’s questions. While Pence dodged the majority of the questions, strategically interjecting rehearsed major talking points, Harris also found herself sidestepping questions, veering from straightforward answers. Pence outright avoided the question about the Trump administration’s lawsuit to remove pre-existing protections under the Affordable Care Act. Harris avoided Pence’s question about “packing” the Supreme Court concerning Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s judicial confirmation. Harris became aggravated when Pence was happy to mention her criminal justice reform record, her Achilles heel. Harris neglects to address the damage these status-quo policies inflicted on disadvantaged communities. Both avoided the question regarding the age of the presidential candidates.
The vice presidential debate was organized, allowing the American people to judge each candidates’ ability to respond quickly spewing the same rhetoric as their Presidential running mates. Unfortunately, neither candidate won the debate because they provided no answers or gave ambiguous responses to the moderator’s questions. Harris was influential in her direct statements about the failure of the Trump administration’s response to COVID-19, and Pence was effective in discussing tax policy and incorporating American stories. Both candidates were charismatic and carried strength in one-liners and staged moments, but overall, the debate was a calmer iteration of the presidential debate. The American people lost rhetoric and substance about the top concerning policies.
If a winner must be decided, it was the immovable fly on Pence’s head.