On the evening of Wednesday, October 7th, the first Vice-Presidential debate of the 2020 presidential election season took place. Located at Kingsbury Hall on the University of Utah campus, Vice President Mike Pence and California State Senator Kamala Harris engaged in the first of three debates ahead of the Nov. 3rd election. Moderated by Susan Page of USA Today, this session provided American voters insight into each candidate’s leadership.
Here’s a recap of the first Vice-Presidential debate:
The COVID-19 Pandemic
The first question posed to the contenders revolved around the COVID-19 pandemic. Moderator Page asked Senator Harris how the Biden administration would have handled the pandemic differently compared to the Trump administration. Senator Harris responded by calling the Trump administration’s COVID-19 response “the greatest failure our country has seen.” She added how the administration had advanced knowledge of the virus and its lethality, but did not relay such information to the public. Harris further mentioned that the Biden administration will have a national contact tracing strategy established to succor the pandemic.
In response, Pence said that President Trump prioritized the health of Americans since day one with the travel suspension to China. He further mentioned that Biden was against the China travel ban, calling it “xenophobic” and “hysterical.” When moderator Page posed a question regarding a vaccine, Senator Harris admitted that she would be the “first in line” to take a vaccine advised by medical professionals, but not if the vaccine is suggested by President Trump.
Transparency, Taxes, And The Economy
The conversation followed into Trump’s COVID-19 diagnosis. Senator Harris believes that Americans have a right to transparency when it comes to elected officials. Continuing, Senator Harris said that transparency is needed across the board, noting Trump’s tax filing and suspicious stay at Walter Reed for treatment of the virus. Pence voiced that the transparency that the American people have received from the Trump administration will continue.
As the conversation transitioned into the economy, Pence uttered that Biden will immediately raise taxes when entering office. He also said that the Biden administration wants to bury the economy under a Green New Deal. However, Harris rebutted that Biden’s campaign will not raise taxes on those who make less than 400,000 a year. Harris further mentioned that Biden will repeal the tax bill “on day 1” and use the money to invest in the American people. Interestingly, Pence claimed that the Obama administration oversaw the slowest economic recovery since the Great Depression. According to PolitiFact, he was right in terms of GDP growth, but when it comes to unemployment, the 2001 recovery was worse.
Next, Vice-President Pence proclaimed that he is proud of his administration’s record on conservation and the environment. Pence acknowledged Trump’s claim that improper forest management led to wildfires on the West Coast. According to PolitiFact, such claims are overly simplistic and false. Pence further stated, “there are no more hurricanes today than there were 100 years ago, but many climate alarmists use hurricanes and fires to try and sell the Green New Deal.”
When granted the chance to speak, Senator Harris claimed that the Trump administration continuously demonstrates a pattern of not believing in science. Senator Harris exclaimed, “let’s talk about who is prepared to lead our country over the course of the next four years on what is an existential threat to us as human beings. Joe is about saying, ‘we’re going to invest in renewable energy,’ it’s going to be about the creation of millions of jobs, we will achieve zero emissions by 2050, carbon neutral by 2035. Joe has a plan.”
Race Relations And Power
During the topic of race, both speakers sparred over race relations as the nation reels from countless high-profile police killings of Black people, inspiring widespread civil rights protests. Senator Harris even accused Trump of a “pattern” of racism, citing his ban on several Muslim populated countries, labeling Mexicans as rapists and criminals, and his controversial statement that there were “fine people on both sides” at a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville in 2017. When mentioning Breonna Taylor, Harris said, “her life was taken, unjustifiable, tragically and violently,” to which she touched on George Floyd’s death and its aftermath.
In return, Vice President Pence spoke about supporting law enforcement and questioned both Biden and Harris’ stance on systematic racism. He added, “our heart breaks for any American innocent life…but I trust our justice system – a grand jury that reviews the evidence.” Pence further stated, “this presumption that you hear from Joe Biden and Kamala Harris that America is systemically racist, and as Joe Biden said, he believes that law enforcement has an implicit bias against minorities, it’s a great insult to the men and women who serve in law enforcement.”
The second Presidential debate of the 2020 election season is next. It will be hosted at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts in Miami on October 15th. If you have not already, please click here to check your voter registration status and here to register to vote.
[Editor’s note: Images sourced from Giphy.]