Updated: Nov 20, 2020
Are Mike Pence and Kamala Harris the future of politics in the United States?
By Seamus Bozeman & Luke Montalbano
Image via LA Times
A moment of historical proportions occurred on Wednesday, October 7th, when Kamala Harris became the first woman of color on a major party ticket or a debate stage. Whether it was Presidential or Vice-presidential problems, battling hate, racism, and sexism, she changed the face of American politics and set the stage for a massive ingress of women of color in politics. The vice-presidential debate on Wednesday night was quiet, the replies and rebuttals were well-thought-out, in contrast to the Presidential debate last week, which saw constant insults fly across the stage and a helpless moderator who had no power to stop the endless bickering. Both Pence and Harris maintained most of the agreements that each had to abide by, though each did interrupt and go over the allowed two minutes multiple times. Harris was blindsided continuously by the moderator, who seemed to have a little power over Pence, ultimately giving him more time to speak. The more time they were both given, the farther they maundered off-topic, dodging questions left and right, leaving many with more questions than answers about Harris’s and Pence’s stances on many issues; again, a clear winner was non-existent.
The plexiglass situation had been a thing of acrimony for multiple days leading up to the debate, but it had become more of a laughing stock of false security than a safeguard. It barely stood over four feet high, unlikely to protect either candidate from the feared COVID-19 aerosols, but instead acted as a metaphor for deep ideological, and political divides in the United States.
Each candidate drew displeasure from their respective oppositions, but Mike Pence’s possible pink eye and fly on his head lit a fire under the butts of meme creators that have, and will, continue to flood social media for the coming days with attacks. Also, the language of this debate was significantly more polite when compared to the Presidential debate not so long ago, and Pence went as far as to congratulate Harris on her nomination. But, this should be no excuse for the continued evil Pence has exhibited onstage and offstage.
The vice-presidential debate covered many of the same issues the Presidential debate covered, with the exception to the fact that a lot more defending went into this event, as they were frantically garnering last-minute undecided and swing votes that may still be out there 27 days out from election day.
The COVID-19 Pandemic
The Coronavirus Pandemic has devastated the United States in just about every way possible, from the millions that have lost their jobs, to the 210,000 who have lost their lives. The U.S. had several missed opportunities to control the virus. The Trump administration downplayed the severity of the virus and is pushing through an untested vaccine with ‘operation warp speed’ before the election. Vice President Pence spent most of the time allotted defending the atrocious response of the United States, blaming China for the Pandemic and boasting about the amount of PPE that has been manufactured in the U.S.
While China did poorly respond to the original outbreak, the United States could have followed the model responses of multiple wealthy European Countries, and possibly prevented thousands of deaths. Kamala Harris opened the debate calling the Trump response to the Coronavirus “the biggest failure in American History”. She then was touting Biden's plan of a “national strategy” with a mask mandate, an extensive contact tracing program, free COVID-19 tests, and a free vaccine once it is widely available. She also noted that she would not trust a Trump vaccine and would wait until the scientists said it was safe.
Pence also outed the thousands calling for transparency when it came to the President’s recent COVID-19 diagnostics, and talked about how there were many conflicting reports and a better outlook on his health than what was suspected, as Trump was given dexamethasone, a steroid commonly given to patients in the intensive care unit.
The economic effects of the long-lasting COVID-19 pandemic have devastated millions of jobs and sent the economy plummeting like a rock. With little help from states or congress, stimulus support for small businesses, and the people, have stalled with haunting effects, leaving millions with the question of if they will be able to pay their bills or even eat without the support of overwhelmed food banks in the next month.
The Trump Administration and Pence have taunted the stock market stabilization, which has allowed thousands to retain work but have failed to note the massive losses sustained by many who held stock prior to the pandemic. These losses have been especially damaging for those who held stock outside of the technology industry, notably in aerospace and manufacturing. Despite these losses, the stabilization has been successful in keeping unemployment below 10% but has, nonetheless, failed to aid those linked to small business ventures.
The Biden-Harris ticket sees the health of the economy off of the strength of the working class American and not the success of the stock market, seemingly a left-wing view attempting to counter a right-wing Republican policy. After Harris spoke about Trump's economic failure, Pence falsely claimed that Biden would raise taxes on all Americans, but Biden has said that it would only instate tax hikes on those with incomes above four hundred thousand dollars a year. An unlikely promise by Pence was that the next four years would bring the most “robust growth” that the U.S. has ever seen, and falsely claimed that Biden would ban fracking and lose thousands of more jobs in the energy production sector.
U.S. nationalism in the State Department has seen a spike under the Trump Administration with the United States taking a stronger stance towards avid “enemies of the state” such as China and Iran while also pressuring NATO allies to do the same and fall in line with the US foreign policy on both defense, trade, and espionage. This was clearly displayed in the US’s withdrawal from the Iran-Nuclear Deal, the renegotiation of NAFTA, subsequent creation of the USMCA and finally, the beginning of a trade war with allies and enemies alike, notable countries being China and Canada.
In the recent Vice-Presidential debate, VP Mike Pence had to defend this record and attempt to shed light on the positive efforts made by the administration during his tenure. This was especially important to do as, according to an AP-NORC poll in 2019, 35% of Americans approve of Trump’s foreign policy while 63% disapprove. This statistic is damaging towards the Trump campaign’s prospects, especially considering the Trump-Pence ticket has boasted their “America First” foreign policy.
The debate on foreign affairs began with scathing attacks carried out by Harris against the withdrawal from the Iran Nuclear Deal, noting that leaving the deal “has put us in a position where we are less safe because they are building up what might end up being a significant nuclear arsenal.” Despite this, VP Mike Pence did manage to turn the tables by noting that the sanctions subsequent to the withdrawal from the deal have stalled the Iranian economy. VP Pence then proceeded to discuss the Trump Administration’s efforts in the war against ISIS and criticized the Obama administration’s lack of swiftness in the attempt to save a young woman held captive by ISIS back in 2015. Pence then went on to state that the Trump Administration has not had the hesitation the Obama Administration did citing the killing of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani. Harris replied to this by speaking about consequences that Trump did not consider. Harris appeared to be weaker on this front and failed to refute the hesitation claims brought up by VP Pence.
VP Pence had the obvious high ground in this area and managed to control and counter the attacks upon him. His mention of the Obama administration undoubtedly stirred some poor memories, especially of those who were linked both directly and indirectly to the former President’s actions in the Middle East. Harris did seem to come off as slightly less well versed in the area but seemed to, nonetheless, hold her ground.
The Trump administration has said they have a comprehensive health plan but have yet to show any evidence of their work, which includes the last four years. The only thing that has happened is the president’s un-abating attempts to roll-back the Affordable Care Act, which is especially worrying when it covers 20 million Americans with pre-existing conditions during a pandemic. Neither Vice-presidential candidate answered the questions relating to the healthcare of the American people, but instead, they both started talking about each other’s stances on abortion. Leaving many with unanswered questions about the future no matter who takes office and leads the country.
The environment under the Trump Administration has been wrecked. Deals have been withdrawn, clean air and water have been compromised, and climate change's existence has been denied. Both candidates locked horns over the issue of climate change. Mike Pence defended the Trump Administrations' actions on the climate over the last four years, but their climate protection was mostly focused on rolling back Obama era regulations and withdrawing from the symbolic Paris Climate Agreement. On the other hand, Kamala Harris took attacks from Pence that she supported the progressive Green New Deal and the immediate abolition of fracking. Mr. Pence claimed the ban on fracking would destroy hundreds of thousands of American jobs. While true, the more centrist Biden climate plan would include the creation of thousands of jobs, while improving the climate and mount an economic recovery from the Coronavirus pandemic according to Seamus Bozeman of Voices of Gen Z. Also, Mike Pence made half acknowledgment of the climate crisis but didn’t claim it was an existential threat, like what has been proven by the rapidly increasing number of devastating extreme weather events in the U.S. and around the world.
Race and Police Violence
As the debate went on and more topics were covered, the most polarizing of the night was definitely each candidate's differing opinions on racial justice in the U.S. following national protests, and the recent murders by the police of George Floyd, and Breonna Taylor, and past police violence. Pence took a very pointed stance on law and order parroting Trump while Harris on the other hand condoned the riots and violence, but supported ongoing protests calling for systemic change within the policing and justice systems. Harris later went on to say the officers in the Breonna Taylor case were let off way too easily in the face of a broken justice system. And if Biden was elected, chokeholds would be banned, he would create a national registry for police who act outside of their powers, decriminalize weed, and close private prisons. As the former Attorney General of California, her credibility is well trusted. Mike Pence in a 360 from what Harris said, claimed systemic racism didn’t exist and called valid claims on police violence unbiased and not racist. Which is in contrast to the data which shows higher rates of people of color being pulled over, arrested, and fatally apprehended. Pence also called Harris’ lack of trust in the justice system and assumptions the jury got the evidence wrong, and was a poor assessment for a former prosecutor.
Appeal to Undecided Voters
A major part of this debate was the attempts to appeal to undecided voters by both candidates. The election, currently, is extremely tight with the possibility of either party being elected on November 3rd. Key states to an electoral victory such as North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Arizona currently are battleground states which will need every piece of each parties’ effort to secure. This debate was a major opportunity to do this, to reach out to those who are stuck in the middle and it was clear Vice Presidential nominee Kamala Harris recognized this more than Vice President Pence did.
During the debate, Kamala Harris was pressured to speak about the possibility of banning fracking across the United States of America — a contentious issue, especially in states such as Texas and Alaska who have been put off recently by the anti-fossil fuel rhetoric pushed by some of the Democratic members of congress. Kamala Harris successfully cemented a platform that appealed to undecided voters in these states by affirming the policy that fracking would not be banned but that a transition to renewable resources would commence in which no worker in the fossil fuel industry would be laid off. This undoubtedly was good news for many who originally were turned off on the prospect of voting Democrat for this reason alone.
VP Pence did not seem to have attempted any major effort to appeal to undecided voters but did solidify his policies towards that of his voter base perhaps ensuring a larger popular vote share in states such as Alabama, Florida, and possibly North Carolina. Pence also seemingly attempted to attract Libertarian voters when discussing COVID-19 which could aid in a boosted Republican popular vote in the states listed above. Despite this, Kamala Harris had the obvious upper hand in appeal to undecided voters, something that will be increasingly more important as November 3rd nears.
The Supreme Court
The responses about the Supreme Court by both candidates felt very weak, neither responded with answers that directly correlated with what was asked. There were accusations from Mike Pence that the democrats were planning to pack the courts, however there is no evidence of this from either Biden or Harris to support this claim. He also went on to say that he was unsure of Amy Coney Barrett’s stance on Roe V. Wade, but it has been made clear multiple times that she is a part of a devout Christian sect, and is also in connections with an anti-abortion group. Kamala Harris simply outed the Republicans for their blatant hypocrisy, for blocking a nominee during an election year back in 2016, going on to say that the American people should choose the replacement of Justice Ginsberg in the ongoing elections.
The Integrity of the Elections
The elections are in peril, from both international influence and threats to it from within the walls of the White House. Pence failed to commit to a transfer of power if the current president lost, and ensured that Trump would win, without evidence. Harris parroted Biden and urged Americans to “Vote” and said that it is within the power of the people to change the course of this country over the next four years. It can be argued that this election is one of the most consequential and that the U.S. cannot afford another four years of Trump, as the United States is on the precipice of total democratic failure according to many Democrat-leaning organizations.
Kamala Harris is a lot farther left-leaning than where Biden stands on many issues, but her current alignment with Biden is most likely a strategic move that could sway undecided voters, convincing those in swing states to sway the electoral college in Biden’s favor. If she’s running as the president, her climate deal, police reform, and many other views would be similar to that of Bernie Sanders, though, knowing the DNC and their very middle of the road political views, a nominee that progressive is unlikely. In an unlikely scenario, she could, in the future, become the interim president if Biden does get elected and gets incapacitated, which would allow for her progressive views to take center stage.
Mike Pence felt like a more coherent and respectable version of Trump, and it made it clearer that their policies were more damaging than what Trump got out during the first debate. Though to be honest, Pence would be a lot more competent president if Trump were to win, but become unfit to serve in the next four years, and Pence would most certainly make the United States a country with significant evangelical influence, a legitimate draining of the swamp and a small government.
Written by writers Seamus Bozeman & Luke Montalbano