Last updated on October 18, 2020
By Mason Pirkey and Ethan Kim
On October 7th, 2020, the first and only Vice Presidential debate took place in Salt Lake City. Democratic Senator Kamala Harris clashed with Republican Vice President Mike Pence in a ninety-minute debate, touching on topics such as Coronavirus, economy, environment, race, and the Supreme Court Justice nominees.
Several of our writers stated their opinion on the matter, some disagreed on the winner, however, everyone believed the debate was a refreshing alternative to last week’s presidential debate.
Editor-at-large Noah Chun echoed this point, “I thought it was an impressive departure from the absolute mockery of American democracy that had happened a week before courtesy of Donald Trump and I think that both candidates were well-spoken and made good points.”
Various writers believed that Senator Harris was the clear winner of the debate. Local News Reporter and Political Contributor Kylie Sears said, “I thought Kamala was much more mature. According to numerous reports, Pence told 18 lies while Harris only had one misleading statement. The thing is you can’t win with lies.”
Sports Contributor Adam Driscoll said, “Kamala Harris won because she was more direct in laying out what Biden planned. She also asserted what she believes in and made her point come across to the American people.”
Managing Editor Edwin Tieu disagreed when he stated, “Like Harris, I think he (Pence) strengthened the support from his voter base, but Pence made the president look better which in my opinion, is better than strengthening the support of your voter base.”
Without a doubt, Pence won because he was a stronger debater with a more convincing case for a Trump presidency. Throughout the debate, he seemed meticulous, calm, deliberate, and collected. While he did go over his time limit, it does not compare to his running mate’s loud interruptions.
First, Pence attributed the ability to restore a struggling economy with Trump’s policies, citing the flourishing economy during Trump’s first three years as evidence. His argument pointing out Harris and Biden’s alternating position on fracking and the Green New Deal showed the weakness and uncertainty of their economic policies, at least regarding the environment.
According to the Washington Post, “Biden says he would restore the top individual tax rate from 37 to 39.6 percent, raise the corporate tax rate from 21 to 28 percent, set minimum corporate taxes for domestic and foreign income, boost the tax on capital gains by labeling it as ordinary income and reintroduce limits on itemized deductions. Biden would also make wages above $400,000 subject to the 12.4 percent Social Security payroll tax, which is split between employees and employers.”
Harris pointed out a Biden Administration would only impose a tax increase on people making over $400,000, implying that the middle and working-class would not be affected by the increase in taxes. Yet, she neglected to point out the fact that an increase in corporate taxes would inevitably hurt people making less than $400,000.
If and when a Biden administration raises the corporate tax rate by 7%, then economic theory suggests that corporations would increase the price of goods and/or decrease the wages of employees to meet their new tax burden, which hurts the consumer and middle-class workers.
Supreme Court Justice Nominees
Pence’s best moment was when he pressed Harris on packing the Supreme Court. Like Biden, Harris refused to answer the question. Pence asked her if a Biden Administration would pack the Supreme Court with liberal Justices if the Republican Senate Majority confirms Judge Barrett to the Supreme Court.
Harris responded, “And so Joe and I are very clear: the American people are voting right now. And it should be their decision about who will serve on this most important body for a lifetime.”
Pence rebutted with, “People are voting right now. They’d like to know if you and Joe Biden are gonna pack the Supreme Court of you don’t get your way in this nomination.”
Pence continued to press her for a clear stance on the matter. In the final remark of the issue, Harris stated, “And do you know that of the 50 people who President Trump appointed to the Court of Appeals for lifetime appointments, not one is Black? This is what they’ve been doing. You want to talk about packing a court? Let’s have that discussion.”
The answer did not once address the topic or question; instead, she focused on the race of the Trump-appointed Court of Appeals Judges to answer Pence’s question on packing the Supreme Court. Once again, the refusal by both Harris and Biden to answer question showcases a fear of losing the progressive vote if they say they would not and a synonymous fear of losing the moderate vote if they say they would pack the Supreme Court.
After the SCOTUS topic, came the issue of race and law enforcement. Pence landed a defining punch, “It is remarkable that Senator Tim Scott tried to pass a police reform bill, brought together a group of Republicans and Democrats – Senator Harris, you got up and walked out of the room. And then you filibustered Senator Tim Scott’s bill on the Senate floor that would have provided new accountability, new resources.”
Harris proceeded to refute his claim by addressing her record as California’s Attorney General, and not addressing any of the claims Pence said. She then proceeded to attack Trump over when he, “took the debate stage in front of 70 million Americans and refused to condemn white supremacists.”
In which the Vice President accurately stated, “Senator Harris conveniently omitted, after the President made comments about people on either side of the debate over monuments, he condemned the KKK, neo-Nazis and white supremacists and has done so repeatedly.”
He then made an argument mirroring Representative Gabbard’s argument back in the 2019 Democratic Primary debates, “When you were DA in San Francisco, when you held that office, African Americans were 19 times more likely to be prosecuted for minor drug offenses than whites and Hispanics. When you were Attorney General of California, you increased the disproportionate incarceration of Blacks in California. You did nothing on criminal justice reform in California. You didn’t lift a finger to pass the first step back on Capitol Hill.”
Harris then proceeded to not address or refute a single claim Pence made on her record or on the fact Trump has repeatedly condemned white supremacists.
Climate Change and COVID-19
Granted, during some moments of the debate, Pence appeared weak; he flopped on his response to the question of whether or not climate change is an existential threat and his response to questions addressing the White House’s handling of the pandemic.
Especially after nearly twenty White House Staff tested positive for the disease, including the President and his wife, Pence proved it was difficult to defend the President’s response to the pandemic. Also, Harris repeatedly brought up more than 200,000 people have died from this pandemic and implied it could have been avoided if Trump endorsed mask-wearing months before he did.
On the issue of climate change, Pence also had a difficult time talking about climate change since the Trump administration has not proposed any policies to combat climate change and failed to even acknowledge its existence.
Biggest Takeaway From the Debate
Overall, Pence won because he was able to present facts that debunked the claims by Senator Harris and provided a somewhat logical case for a Trump presidency, especially for law enforcement officers and religious people. In reality, this debate proved Pence represents what Republicans want to see in Trump: calm, collected, poise, and outrageous-tweets-free.
In the end, this debate will most likely not have a significant impact on the results of the election, considering most of the audience watch it for the political theatre, but could serve as a potential platform for a future Harris or Pence presidential candidacy.