2020 Vice Presidential Debate

The vice presidential debate was less than a week ago. The four most important issues to voters in 2020 are the economy, health care, Supreme Court appointments and COVID-19. Keeping the voters in mind, as I so often do, those are the four subjects I’ll be covering in this column. Let's break it down now, y’all

The economy 

Senator Kamala Harris was pressed about the Biden plan that will raise taxes. She came out swinging, saying: “On the issue of the economy, I don’t think there could be a more fundamental difference between Donald Trump and Joe Biden.” She went on to accuse President Trump of having a “the rich get richer-esque” view on the economy, claiming his tax plan has only benefited the top one percent. Harris says on day one, Biden will get rid of Trump’s tax plan and invest that money in infrastructure, clean energy, innovation and education. 

Pence was asked about the Trump administration’s handling of the current recovery of the economy. He immediately targeted the Obama administration, saying when Biden was vice president, they tried to “tax and spend, and regulate, and bail our way back to a growing economy.” He then went on to quickly rebut Harris’ claim that the Trump tax plan has only helped the rich, claiming the average household income for a house of four has increased over $4,000. Pence’s final shot at Harris on the economy was a statement that frightens Republicans everywhere: “They want to raise your taxes.”

Health care

On the topic of health care, things never cut too deep. Harris attacked the Trump administration’s attempt to get rid of the Affordable Care Act in the middle of a pandemic. She specifically hammered the administration, saying, “There will be no more protections if they win for people with pre-existing conditions.”

The moderator challenged Pence on the president’s statements that he will protect people with pre-existing conditions without saying how he plans to do so. Pence never gave a precise answer. Instead, he highlighted his pro-life beliefs and went after Harris and Biden for supporting federal funding of Planned Parenthood. 

It was disappointing not to learn anything substantive about either campaigns’ health care plan since each candidate spent this part of the debate critiquing each other, rather than giving us their running mates’ plans. 

Supreme Court appointments

The idea of Roe v. Wade being overturned was on the hot seat. Harris used this as a staple of her argument as to why the appointment should be held off, implying that Barrett could be the deciding vote in turning over the landmark decision. Pence, rightfully so, said, “I would never presume on how Judge Amy Coney Barrett would rule on the Supreme Court.” 

Pence posed a question to Harris that the Biden campaign has been dodging: “Are you and Joe Biden going to pack the court?” Just like her boss, she did not give the American people an answer. Pence lost his typical “cool like a cucumber” stature for a moment, stating, “I just want the record to reflect, she never answered the question.” Ouch. 

COVID-19

I know, I’m tired of talking about it, too — but it is an important topic, and we saw that on the debate stage.

Harris didn't hold back on the subject, saying, “The American people have witnessed what is the greatest failure of any presidential administration in the history of our country.” She went on to list facts about death rates and the economic effects from the pandemic. Most notably, she attacked Pence and Trump for their knowledge of how threatening the virus is weeks before informing the American public. She also discussed the Biden-Harris plan for a COVID-19 response, which includes free vaccines and increased contact tracing. 

Pence mainly stuck with the talking points that if it weren't for President Trump’s leadership and shutting down international travel when he did, we would have seen many more deaths. 

The subject of COVID-19 was clearly Harris’ best performance of the night as she had Pence on the defensive.

Overall, I was pleased with the way the debate went. There were no vulgarities or crude attacks. It was presidential — shocking, I know! The American people got what they deserved, which was a civil debate where we (mostly) learned about the policy platforms of each campaign. 

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention it, but we all know who the real star of the show was.

Sam Somogye is a political science senior and columnist for The Battalion. His column is typically published online every other Monday when not in the Thursday newspaper.

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