The VP Debate: A New Meaning
By: Elizabeth Buerkle
On Friday, October 2nd at 1am, U.S. President Donald Trump tested positive for COVID-19. With the diagnosis came a slew of concerns ranging from the health of those in the Biden campaign who had recently come in contact with him at the debate, to how the campaign trail would be impacted, but one of the biggest realizations that came with it was President Trump’s mortality. Being 74, his age already put him in a position of high risk for COVID, and the eerie possibility that his life could be taken places a new importance on those next in line, the candidates for the Vice Presidency. The same goes for Democratic candidate Joe Biden, as being 78 puts him at risk of a plethora of complications that come with old age along with Donald Trump. Either candidate would become the oldest President elected to office; It is no surprise one of the questions during the debate was about procedures regarding presidential disability and the possibility of power needing to be shifted. Neither candidate gave a direct answer as to whether such procedures have been discussed. Even more importance was placed on the VP debate once the Commission on Presidential Debates announced the Presidential Debate schedules for October 15th would be cancelled, as President Trump refused to participate in it virtually, leaving only 3 debates to represent each campaign instead of the intended 4.
The Vice Presidential Debate took place on October 7th between Kamala Harris for the Biden campaign and Mike Pence for Trump, and had a grant total of 57 million viewers across eighteen networks not including those that streamed it digitally, surpassing the 37 million from 2016 and the 51 million from 2012, and deeming it the second most watched VP debate in American history.
One of the biggest highlights that have arisen from the event include Kamala Harris repeatedly saying “Mr. Vice President, I’m speaking.” in response to Pence’s interruptions, making women everywhere spread the quote as an example of what they have dealt with in their own environments against men. He interrupted her a total of 7 times during the debate, her doing the same against him only 3 times. He also went overtime by 4 and a half minutes while Kamala went over by only 2 and one third. Many criticisms were thrown at the moderator Susan Page on social media for being worse than Chris Wallace in managing the candidates, the phrase “Thank you Mr. Vice President” being repeated over and over, leaving Senator Harris to fight for equal time. One of the reasonings for her lack of aggression to equate her time is likely because in order for women to be taken seriously in professional settings, they must be very cordial and “nice”, as reflected in a study regarding women in the workplace. She was criticized by Frank Kuntz, a prominent Republican political consultant, as having “condescending reactions.” Aside from formalities being violated there were also instances of misinformation being spread, for example Harris claiming 300k jobs were lost to the China trade war tariffs when in reality 146k jobs were gained, or Pence claiming the U.S. has cut more CO2 emissions than any country within the Paris Climate Accord, when in reality the U.S. only reduced emissions by 2.9%, while Germany has reduced its emissions by 8%. Those along with a plethora of other statements deemed misleading by fact-checking sources peppered the debate.
Polls from CNN and ABC News both deemed Kamala Harris to be the winner of the debate, but there is still a continuing discourse. However, there is one uniting factor within this debate, and it was the monumental attention the fly that landed on Pence’s head got after the fact.
*All arguments made and viewpoints expressed within Youth In Politics and its nominal entities do not necessarily reflect the views of the writers or the organization as a whole.
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