Students react to the vice presidential debate


Vice President Mike Pence vs US Senator Kamala Harris (Photo Courtesy of Getty Images)

On Oct. 7, 2020, Vice President Mike Pence and U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif. participated in the first vice presidential debate. According to AXIOS news, nearly 58 million people watched the debate between Harris and Pence according to Nielsen ratings, making it the second most-watched vice presidential debate in television history.

The debate became the first major political event since President Donald Trump’s outbreak of COVID-19. The last breakthrough and most-watched vice presidential debate were in 2008 between Democratic vice presidential candidate Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del., and Republican candidate Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin. Yet Pence vs. Harris, this debate is more crucial because it featured two candidates that could be asked to step in for their bosses if elected, during these dark times if anything would occur to either Biden or Trump.

This debate was more notable for its return to civility. The first presidential debate between President Donald Trump and Former Vice President Joe Biden was chaotic. The vice presidential debate received better reviews in early poll numbers, according to journalist David Nather. According to AXIOS poll numbers, the dominant reaction was a relief, with 36% of the respondents, republicans, and democrats 25% were excited, did not generate a lot of anger, only 15% for both parties, but 46%, nearly half of independents were disappointed.

Amber Juarez, a Cal-State Fullerton, student said, “I think this debate was better than the presidential debate because there was no yelling. Kamala Harris gave her answers, whereas Pence wouldn’t answer. He started talking about something else. For example, when he was asked about the Trump administration’s healthcare plan, he didn’t say the plan. He started talking about Obamacare.

Juarez added, “I feel the moderator gave Pence more time to talk if he went over. She wouldn’t stop him, but when Harris went over the time, she would interrupt her. Also, I think it was very empowering when Harris said, “I’m speaking” when Pence interrupted her. Pence was rude when he kept telling Harris to answer his question when he wasn’t even answering the moderator’s questions.”

Kamala Harris’s performance was well viewed as the moderator asked Pence to let her speak during the debate and spoke to the audiences at home. Harris attacked Pence for all the false promises President Donald Trump has committed and how Pence failed in his role and position to handle the federal response to the coronavirus outbreak.

Harris attacked Pence and the Trump Administration, saying they knew how serious and deadly COVID-19 was since Jan. 28, 2020, and failed to inform the American people sooner. While Harris attacked, Pence defended his administration and President Donald Trump.

Harris said, “Well, the American people have witnessed what the greatest failure of any presidential administration in the history of our country is. And here are the facts—two hundred ten thousand dead people in our country in just the last several months. Over 7 million people have contracted this disease.”

Harris added, “One in five businesses closed. We’re looking at frontline workers who have been treated like sacrificial workers. We are looking at over 30 million people who had to file for unemployment in the last several months. And here’s the thing, on Jan. 28, the vice president and the president were informed about the nature of this pandemic.”

Mike Pence’s performance was also well viewed, yet many viewers say Harris had the upper hand in the debate. Pence was civil, did represent himself to defend the attacks Harris claimed and continued to defend his position.

Pence responded with an automatic defend and attack to Biden, “I want the American people to know that from the very first day, President Donald Trump has put the health of Americans first. Before there were more than five cases in the United States, all people who had returned from China, President Donald Trump did what no other American president had ever done. And that was he suspended all travel from China, the second-largest economy in the world.Now, Senator Joe Biden opposed that decision. He said it was xenophobic and hysterical, but I can tell you, having led the White House Coronavirus Task Force, that that decision alone by President Trump bought us invaluable time to stand up the greatest national mobilization since World War II. And I believe it’s saved hundreds of thousands of American lives. Because with that time, we were able to reinvent testing.”

Pence continued, “More than 115 million tests have been done to date. We were able to see to the delivery of billions of supplies, so our doctors and nurses had the resources and support they needed. And we began, really before the month of February, it was hard to develop a vaccine and to develop medicines and therapeutics that have been saving lives all along the way.”

Melissa Espinosa, a DACA student from Cal-State Fullerton, said, “I thought it was better than the other one. I was watching on the New York Times app for the fact check, and I thought that Pence tried his best to tell a version of the truth. He won’t answer but had a response. As for Senator Harris, I think she was good at claiming her time. I believe that she wants people to know that she’s a strong woman that wouldn’t be just a political prop. But overall, I felt like I always feel frustrated. I can’t vote, but I stay engaged and hope that those who can actually do it.”

College students who did not watch the full debate but know about both candidates’ beliefs, what they stand for, and who they have had their own opinions about each candidate.

College of the Desert student Eliu Benavides Jr., a communications major, said, “Although I have not entirely kept up with all of the information regarding the vice presidential debate, I feel as though Kamala Harris would be an exceptionally amazing Vice President.Not only is her run for candidacy attracting a younger crowd of voters as well as ethnic minorities, but it appears that her run is possibly encouraging younger people to register for voting. Her position in office would most definitely be very beneficial in the ongoing fight for racial equality that our country is facing, and she would overall be an amazing role model for Americans everywhere.”

An English major said Francesca Chio said, “Kamala Harris seems like she’s headed towards the right direction. She is for gay rights and is said to have a better plan for the pandemic. The fact that she is a woman makes it extremely hard for her voice to be heard, but she’s taking a stand in a respectful and professional way. She does not let men disrespect her or talk over her, which I definitely give her credit for.
Mike Pence has not done his job as a vice president. He has handled the pandemic poorly and the increasing unemployment poorly. There has been no progress in radical justice, and I believe he talks in circles. Especially when an interviewer asks a very good question. Just like the President, he doesn’t care for the American people. I prefer Kamala Harris.”

The debate was 90 minutes long, and as both candidates expressed their answers to the questions, there were many interruptions. It continued with both candidates going back and forth on what was an injustice, civilly attacking each other, defending their parties and positions, and both did not respect the time limit. They went over the time limit while Susan Page, the moderator from USA Today, tried to move ahead to the next questions.

Page addressed questions about COVID-19, how will both administrations handle COVID-19, direct questions to Mike Pence the safety guidelines of the virus not being handled better, about the future access of a possible vaccine coming soon, presidential disability on both parties, the health of the current president, how will both administrations respond to help the economy and for people to have jobs, what to do about climate change, The Green New Deal, and American Agricultural goods with China and the fundamental relationship with China.

Page also asked about: Obamacare, the definition of the role of American leadership in 2020, Roe vs. Wade and the Affordable Care Act, the racial issues in American and the Breonna Taylor case, White supremacy, and lastly, the final question was written from an 8th grader and a Utah debate finalist student named Brecklyn Brown.

Brown’s question was, “when I watch the news, all I see are two candidate parties, trying to tear each other down. If our leaders can’t get along, how are the citizens supposed to get along?”

Mike pence answered the final question saying that no matter the differences between two people who have different beliefs and ideals, we come together as Americans after debatable discussions. He gave an example from Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Antonin Scalia’s relationship for many years.

A liberalist and a conservative at the end of the day were very close friends. Pence said, “Here in America, we can disagree we can debate vigorously as Senator Harris and I have on the stage tonight. But when the debate is over, we come together as Americans.”

Harris answered the final question addressing how the Joe Biden administration cares for people and why Biden is running. He wants to stop the hate and division we have seen from Democrats and Republicans since Trump took over.

Harris ended, “Joe Biden has a history of lifting people and fighting for their dignity. You mean you have to know Joe’s story to know that Joe has known pain, he has known to suffer, and he has known love. And so, Brecklyn, when you think about the future, I do believe the future is bright.

And it will be because of your leadership, and it will be because we fight for each person’s voice through their vote. And we get engaged in this election because you have the ability through your work, and through, eventually, your vote. To determine the future of our country, and what its leadership looks like.”

Election day is only one month away, and Nov. 3, 2020, will determine who will take office and what our future will hold in years to come.