Illustration of Sen. Kamala Harris and Vice President Mike Pence
Illustration by Maya Winshell

Despite help from fly, Pence plunges as Harris soars

The vice Presidential debate on Oct. 7 was a stark contrast from the presidential debate the prior week. Vice President Mike Pence and California Sen. Kamala Harris discussed and criticized one another’s campaign platforms. Although the debate was perceived as more dignified than the Sept. 29 presidential debate, racism and misogyny were very much present. After watching an hour and a half of this event, I felt Harris won by exceeding margins. 

To start, Harris answered most of the questions posed while Pence struggled to answer his own. There were times when Harris failed to answer, particularly when pressed on her campaign’s stance on the Green New Deal and fracking, but overall, she clearly explained how the Joe Biden/Harris ticket would approach the numerous problems grappling the nation. When asked how the Biden administration would approach climate change, she explained how Biden would invest $1.7 trillion in clean energy over the next 10 years. When Pence was asked the same question, he wanted to continue criticizing Biden’s tax plan. I do not know what was more infuriating: the fact that Pence cannot answer a question when asked, or that he states “the climate is changing” without tying the rise in CO2 levels to human activity. Harris’s answers offered more clarity, and subsequently, provided more comfort about how the Biden administration would tackle dire crises like climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Debate moderator Susan Page had to tell Pence his time was up far more than Harris. Even though fact-checkers confirmed Pence and Harris were given equal time to speak, it still felt Pence had more because he refused to end his statements when the time came. Harris offered clear and concise answers to her questions and did not interrupt Pence’s responses. The same cannot be said for the vice president, who failed to answer many questions within two minutes and interrupted Harris so much that the moderator had to remind Pence of the rules his campaign had agreed to so that he may attend the debate. These errors punctured Pence’s “gentlemanly” disposition and revealed the vile, disrespectful man that lies beneath. 

The misogyny Harris experienced on that stage is what women face every day in the workspace. While Pence condescendingly praised the senator for all her accomplishments and bared his teeth, Harris also showed her teeth, but through a strained smile. If the Democratic Party nominee called out Pence’s condescension and inappropriate behavior, Harris would risk coming across as domineering, aggressive and unwomanly, which conservatives would have associated with the “angry black woman” stereotype. This misogyny and racism resembles what Michelle Obama experienced throughout the Obama administration. Knowing the endless discrimination the first lady faced, it is understandable why Harris would want to monitor her behavior on the debate stage. Nevertheless, the gendered and racial double standards Harris faced that night are something women running for political office and across the nation have dealt with far too much in this “woke” era. 

Last week’s debate clearly demonstrated Harris’s commanding presence as well as the frightening reality that is Pence’s temperament. I find the vice president to be incredibly dangerous because his calm, collected disposition makes his distribution of lies far more believable than President Donald Trump’s erratic behavior. Pence blatantly lied when he said Breonna Taylor had received proper justice, despite her killers not being charged with murder. He blatantly lied when he said that the hearts inside the Trump administration “(break) for any American innocent life … But (that he) trusts our justice system, a grand jury that reviews the evidence.” I know that almost every word Pence said that night was untrue. You might know that almost everything he said that night was untrue. But undecided and ignorant voters do not, and that is what frightens me most. 

The vice presidential debate revealed many things: that politics is more divided than ever before, that racism and misogyny are still very much present in the political field, that a fly can make national news and that politicians can mask falsehoods as truths with ease. I know many LC students rightfully dislike Harris, given her controversial prosecutorial record. I do not think Harris is the perfect candidate, but when in U.S. history has there ever been one? Why should Harris suddenly be criticized for not meeting that standard when previous vice presidential candidates have not been held to it? We should criticize Harris’s past, and hold her accountable in remedying those mistakes, but first, we need to elect her so the accountability is even more warranted. Biden and Harris are not perfect candidates, but they are far better than the goons we currently have in the White House. Vote for the Biden/Harris ticket if not for yourself, and your future, then for the millions of Americans whose lives have diminished under this current administration.

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