The Vice Presidential Debate 2020 was a welcome return to debating normality from the insults and shouting of the Presidential debate between Trump and Biden in the previous week. Both Mike Pence and Kamala Harris were respectful towards each other and kept the debate focused on policy, where many key differences between them were explored. I thought both candidates were actually better than their respective presidential running mates, making them worthy successors to Trump or Biden should either have to unexpectedly step down at any point in their presidential term if elected. This debate had plenty of policy to digest, which I have broken down below:
Pence attempted to defend the Trump Administration’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, though Harris was very critical of the fact that currently over 210,000 Americans have died from the virus that over 7 million Americans have thus far contracted. She believes the Trump Administration was too lax in its attitude and response to the pandemic.
Pence rebutted these allegations by asserting that Trump had “put the health of America first” by suspending travel from China early in the pandemic and claimed that developmental work on medical products to combat the coronavirus was started in the beginning stages of the pandemic as well. Pence claims there will be “tens of millions of doses of a vaccine” before the end of 2020.
Pence believes a Biden Administration would overspend, overtax and overregulate, which he argues would cause job losses. Harris clarified that Biden “will not raise taxes on anybody who makes less than $400,000 a year” and that spending will be focused to improve America’s infrastructure and to invest in “clean energy and renewable energy.” Harris also confirmed that Biden “will not end fracking.”
Pence is sceptical on the causes of climate change, and claims the US’s “air and land are cleaner than any time ever recorded” and that its “water is among the cleanest in the world.” Pence does not believe multilateral global action is needed on climate change (Paris Agreement), claiming the US “has reduced CO2 [emissions] more than the countries that are still in the Paris Climate Accord” and that the US has “done it through innovation… through natural gas and fracking.”
Harris acknowledges the damage climate change is doing to the world, and commits that Biden will listen to the science on it, calling climate change an “existential threat to us as human beings.” Harris committed a Biden Administration towards the US achieving “net-zero [carbon] emissions by 2050” and for the US to be “carbon-neutral by 2035.”
US’s Relationship with China
Pence blames China for the global outbreak of the coronavirus and claims China and the WHO (World Health Organisation) “did not play straight with the American people” in regards to providing information on the coronavirus. Pence claims China had “been taking advantage of America for decades” and that Trump has been “standing up to China” since he became President. Harris disputes this, claiming the Trump Administration’s “perspective and approach to China has resulted in the loss of American lives, American jobs and America’s standing [on the world stage].”
American Leadership in 2020
Pence claims Trump has built strong relations with Israel during his presidency, citing Trump’s order to move “the American embassy to Jerusalem, the capital of the state of Israel.” Pence also claims Trump has managed to get NATO to contribute more to common defence “than ever before” and that Trump was successful in defeating ISIS in the Middle East.
Harris however disputed Trump’s record, claiming he has “betrayed our friends and embraced dictators around the world” when he took “the word of Vladimir Putin over the word of the American intelligence community” on Russia’s alleged interference in US political affairs. Harris also claims that Trump has made the world less safe when he “walked away from agreements” such as the Iran nuclear deal, in taking a unilateral, isolationist approach to US foreign policy.
Pence confirmed his trust in the American justice system and believes that law enforcement is not implicitly biased against minorities. Pence said there is “no excuse” for “rioting and looting”, and that he “will always stand with law enforcement and we’ll do what we’ve done [the Trump Administration’s response to riots].” Pence also believes media coverage is unfair towards the Trump Administration’s handling of race relations in the US, claiming that the Trump Administration has repeatedly condemned far-right extremism.
Harris disagreed, claiming Trump is reluctant on condemning far-right extremism and that his Administration is biased against minorities, citing previous comments Trump made on Mexicans. Harris would like to see reform of policing in the US and of the US criminal justice system, committing to ban certain manoeuvres used by law enforcement and to create “a national registry for police officers who break the law.”
Michael Palmer holds a degree in Politics from Ulster University and is interested in political ideology, the politics of popular culture and wrote a dissertation on unionism/loyalism.