Senator Kamala Harris and Vice President Mike Pence squared off onstage at the University of Utah on Wednesday evening to discuss the pandemic, the economy, and racial justice.
The 90-minute event was filled with a strange energy that emitted mainly from Pence, who sat stiffly throughout the night as he bit into Joe Biden’s plans for the nation. Harris held her own over the course of the debate and respectfully stuck to many of the time constraints. Pence, overspoke, mansplained, and defended Donald Trump rather than answering questions prompted by Susan Page, the moderator.
Below we’re sharing the most important moments that happened last night during the vice -presidential debate.
Trump’s Handling of the COVID-19 Pandemic
Harris began the evening by declaring: “The American people have witnessed what is the greatest failure of any presidential administration in the history of our country.” This was her way of digging deep right as the debate began since COVID-19 was the first topic. She took things a step further when she added the Trump administration was largely responsible for over 210,000 deaths and seven million cases in the United States and over 30 million Americans filing for unemployment. This was a remarkably strong case for why Trump shouldn’t be re-elected.
In defense of his administration, Pence responded by stating this was a “very challenging time” for the nation. He also touched on Trump’s early actions which included suspending travel from China, reportedly where the coronavirus originated. He didn’t stop here, he went on to say the Democratic plan for COVID-19 looked plagiarized.
Let’s not forget, Trump and the First Lady Melania recently tested positive for the virus. He is reportedly recovering.
During the economic segment, Pence spewed out a bunch of facts and appeared to be comfortable doing so. “The American economy — the American comeback is on the ballot,” Pence declared when asked about the future of the nation’s economy. When he stated that in its first three years the Trump administration “saw 500,000 manufacturing jobs created,” this was untrue. According to Fact Check, he ignored the jobs lost during the pandemic and as of September 164,000 manufacturing jobs have been lost.
Pence also said Joe Biden “is going to raise your taxes” in an attempt to bury the Biden-Harris campaign. But Harris firmly responded Biden’s plan will not increase taxes for those making under $400,000 a year. Additionally, when asked about climate change, Pence shifted and brought up the economy again.
Pence’s Constant Interruptions
The gendered dynamics that played out on the stage were hard to ignore. The optics were clear: Kamala, an assertive Black woman battling against Pence, a white man who came across as condescending.
Harris had to remain calm, cool, and collected even if the evening didn’t call for that. When she spoke up for herself during specific moments of the debate, she calmly stated, “I’m speaking. Mr. Vice President I’m speaking.” This set the tone for her and Harris was successful at staking her claim without coming across as aggressive. It was a remarkable feat as Black women in the workplace battle with this same notion throughout their careers. Pence on the other hand constantly kept speaking past the two-minute time limits and constantly interrupted Page, the moderator. Despite the interruptions, CNN reports both Pence and Harris had almost equal time.
The Issue of the Courts
Following the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a moment that shook American politics on both sides, there’s been a question of how the Democratic Party will recover. Pence asked Harris whether she and Biden would endorse expanding the Supreme Court if Trump’s nominee for the vacancy was seated, Judge Amy Coney Barrett. Harris pivoted and didn’t answer this question.
When she ignored the question, Pence said, “You gave a non-answer. Joe Biden gave a non-answer. The straight answer is, they are going to pack the Supreme Court if they somehow win this election.” This segment also led her to bring up the Affordable Care Act, a topic that was familiar for her. During the debate, Pence shared that he felt the act which also referred to as Obamacare was a disaster.
The Candidates Clashing Over Racial Justice
By the time racial justice became the topic of discussion, Harris had already touched on her past as district attorney and attorney general in California. Her presence onstage was also a monumental moment for Black women throughout the nation as she’s the first woman of color on a major party ticket.
On this Pence congratulated her by saying her nomination was “historic.” But, he also managed to take a few digs at Harris when he noted that she prosecuted more Blacks than whites in California when she held the same leadership roles she brought up. This was unsurprising as it’s become a qualm many millennials have with Harris, in fact, it was turned into a meme.
When speaking on Breonna Taylor’s death in Louisville and if justice had been served, Harris said, “I don’t believe so.” While Pence declared, “I trust our justice system.” Here, the differences between the two vice-presidential candidates rang loudly.
In comparison to last week’s presidential debate, Wednesday’s was civil. Both candidates sneered silently at the other when points were brought up that they didn’t agree with. Harris’ composure was a high point as she remained graceful amid the untruthful claims Pence shared for most of the debate. To be clear, Harris also dodged numerous questions thrown her way.
Harris presented exactly what she brought to the Democratic Party as Pence critiqued Biden for most of the evening, but the debate was still uninspiring and dry. Overall, if there could be a winner declared last night, our guess would be that Harris walked away the winner. Honestly, the fly that landed on Pence’s head was the most exciting part of the evening.