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“Vice” Presidential Debate 2020 – Round Two: All Aboard the Crazy Train

Democratic Vice-Presidential nominee Sen Kamala Harris and Vice-President Mike Pence speaking 
at the Vice-Presidential Debate on October 7th, 2020 (Screenshot via PBS NewsHour on YouTube)

Last night was the one and only Vice-Presidential debate for the 2020 election. In one corner, we have Vice-President Mike Pence. In the other corner, is the Democratic Vice-Presidential nominee Sen Kamala Harris (CA). Obviously, by now, we all know the players on the stage. Never has the stark face of politics been so represented by two political figures. This debate follows a disastrous Presidential debate, where more civility could be found at an All-You-Can-Eat buffet at the Red Lobster (mmm #CheddarBiscuits). Mike Pence had the unenviable task of placing a rational face on the Trump administration. (He’d have an easier time of setting his head on fire and putting it out with a bag of hammers.)

Let the highlight reel begin: The night began with sharp jabs regarding the Trump administration’s “response” to the coronavirus pandemic. Harris reminded Americans about the lackluster effort by the administration to plan for the pandemic including the outright refusal to acknowledge the actual threat the country was facing. Culminating in Harris stating:

“The American people have witnessed what is the greatest failure of any Presidential administration in the history of our country.” 

Kind of hard to argue with a historic body count of 210,000+ Americans, countless jobs lost, and an American economy in shambles. 

Did I also mention Mike Pence is head of the Coronavirus Task Force? HE HAD ONE JOB! Not one to be swayed by the truth, facts, or death, Pence defended the administration’s response and said the President’s moves in the early days of the pandemic saved lives.

Moderator Susan Page of USA Today speaking at the Vice-Presidential Debate
on October 7th, 2020 (Screenshot via PBS NewsHour on YouTube)

“When you say what the American people have done over these last eight months hasn’t worked, that’s a great disservice to the sacrifices the American people have made,” the Vice-President said—deflecting from the fact that Harris was referring to the administration, not the American people. “The reality is, Dr. Fauci said everything that he told the President in the Oval Office, the President told the American people.” At this point, Pence continued touting the administration’s transparency and forward-thinking regarding the pandemic. Lies require commitment–and Pence never strayed from the party line. 

Another point addressed is the issue of Justice for Breonna Taylor; both Pence and Harris were asked to address whether they believe justice was served in the case. Please note: None of the three officers involved in the shooting were charged directly. Nor was Taylor’s murder mentioned to the grand jury.

“I don’t believe so,” Harris said. Maintaining that as a former prosecutor she believes that policing in the U.S. and the criminal justice system should be reformed. Announcing plans to end chokeholds, eliminate private prisons, and create a national registry for police officers who break the law.

The Vice-President offered the trite obfuscating platitude the African-American community has come to despise: “our heart breaks for the loss of any American life.” Pence then said he trusts the criminal justice system and condemned violence and looting in some cities. As for the notion there is systemic racism in the criminal justice system? Pence called it a “great insult to the men and women who serve in law enforcement.” I suppose it might be better if we ask the 1,005 people* who have been senselessly shot and killed by police in the past year. How do they feel about it? Well, we could ask if they weren’t dead. But like the Trump/Pence administration, let’s ignore the racial disparities and move on.

Democratic Vice-Presidential nominee Sen Kamala Harris and Vice-President Mike Pence speaking 
at the Vice-Presidential Debate on October 7th, 2020 (Screenshot via PBS NewsHour on YouTube)

With a fairly civil debate on the books—a far cry from last week’s spectacle of democratic fail—this debate was a battle of personalities. Whereas Vice-President Mike Pence sought to maintain the Trump company line, he did not advance the administrations’ flag any further than the President did. Pence’s parroting of the campaign’s rhetoric sounded more like the product of memorization and conditioning vs. actual engagement (and I’m not one who ascribes to the idea Mike Pence is a Race Bannon clone-bot). Pence’s responses were tepid and standard, with much deflection or outright refusal to address issues. His tactics made Harris seem more focused. One odd choice the Vice-President leaned into heavily was ignoring a recent question to answer a past question. His favorite quote appeared to be some variation of “I will answer that but let me go back to a previous point.” A tactic he employed when asked about climate change, racial justice, abortion rights, the President’s lack of transparency, or COVID-19. You’d think he was trying to win Wimbledon the way he kept volleying away real issues. Mike Pence held the line for the President so tightly he went so far as to accuse Harris of being a liar. Maybe he’s going for the Bizarro approach.

Senator Harris had a different struggle. Using the gifted debate skills she’s known for, she parried a maelstrom of passive-aggressive misogyny, interruptions, and mansplaining about her own legal career. Senator Harris took the lead to push the Democratic agenda, making it a referendum on the current administration’s lies, incompetence, and failures. At the same time, she launched a shot across the bow of the Grand Ole Party by noting she is the first African-American and first Indian-American woman running for the Vice-President’s office. Maybe it’s just me but
the Venus Rosewater Dish would look good on her desk. It’d be a good look for America too.

Democratic Vice-Presidential nominee Sen Kamala Harris and Vice-President Mike Pence speaking 
at the Vice-Presidential Debate on October 7th, 2020 (Screenshot via PBS NewsHour on YouTube)

The only defense Mike Pence gave of the President not being racist and/or antisemitic amounted to: Some of the President’s favorite kids and grandkids
are Jewish.

Kamala Harris had to check a man with no law enforcement experience, who attempted to mansplain how The Law works. He tried. He failed.

Mike Pence having the audacity to falsely complain about falsehoods being spread by the Biden campaign and dodging questions like it was field day at middle school and “questions” were the big red ball.

Kamala Harris using U.S. History to shut down Mike Pence on his defense of a rushed Supreme Court justice nominee.

Watching a man who is unaccustomed to women (who remain unimpressed by his status) deploy a full 85 out of the 100 passive-aggressive facial expressions from the misogyny handbook.

Kamala Harris, with the dignity of a kindergarten teacher with full tenure, repeatedly reminded Mike Pence it’s not okay to interrupt her during her time. She kept reclaiming it in a way that would make Auntie Maxine applaud. Senator Harris said, “I’m speaking…” but it’s for damn sure she meant, ‘He interrupted me. I’m gonna finish!’

That fly will now be appearing in Cardi-B’s W.A.P. visual album and will be presenting with MTV and BET movie awards for Biggest Badass Star.

*WAPO Police Shooting Database


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