Vice Presidential Debate Recap: The good, the dull and the fly


Matt Languedoc, Contributor

Compared to the strangeness of last Tuesday’s presidential debate, the vice presidential debate seemed fairly plain. Instead of two senile old men screaming at each other, Wednesday’s debate just had two well-spoken, candidates articulating points in a relatively civil manner. 

The presidential debate on Sept. 29 was such a train wreck that new rules had to be applied. During the VP debate, the crowd could only applaud at the beginning and end. Each candidate was given two minutes to answer questions and could not interrupt one another, although that didn’t stop the candidates from trying. 

Kamala Harris opened the debate by calling out President Trump’s failure to stop the spread of COVID-19. She claimed that Trump was informed about the virus as early as January, and did absolutely nothing. Harris would repeat this point throughout the entire debate. In regards to the coronavirus, Mike Pence scapegoated China for spreading the virus and claimed the Trump administration practiced “total transparency” with the American public. He also mentioned that a vaccine was in the works. 

Pence hardly answered any questions and constantly redirected the conversation. Whenever Pence spoke, every topic became about the economy. The conversation about climate change became an argument about American jobs. The topic of police murders became an indictment of looting as if the two were comparable. Every time it was Pence’s turn to speak, he would mention taxes at least once, especially on the topic of abortion rights. While Pence’s tactics were incredibly transparent, he speaks elegantly enough and uses the right amount of buzzwords to trick Republican supporters into thinking he’s intelligent. Like his boss, Pence also interrupted his opponent frequently. 

Harris made some strong cases against Trump (and even threw in a few zingers for good measure), but floundered on the subjects of police violence and climate change. Harris’s history of law enforcement, including her previous roles as District Attorney and Attorney General of California, has made her hesitant to tackle the issue of U.S policing. Many of the “reforms” she mentions, including banning chokeholds and requiring body cams, have not decreased the number of police murders. It’s understandable why Harris might be afraid to say the word “defund,” but she needs to challenge the systemic problems with U.S policing. 

The most shocking moment of the night was when Harris claimed Biden would “not eliminate fracking.” This came a week after Biden denied his support of the Green New Deal, despite Harris’s co-sponsorship of the bill. This will make the fight against climate change a lot more challenging. Natural gas caused by fracking creates an influx of greenhouse gases, while fracking itself damages the land and pollutes drinking water. Biden has promised a $2 trillion climate plan as president, but it’s difficult to discern how effective this plan will be, or how much it will incorporate the Green New Deal.

In conclusion, it was difficult to tell whether Harris or Pence won the debate. Harris made stronger points than Pence, but Pence had enough America-First rhetoric to hype up Republican support. In the end, debates are never about making good arguments. They’re about presentation. How a candidate appears on stage matters more than what they actually say. 

This brings us full circle to the fly on Pence’s face, which has somehow overshadowed the entire debate and inspired a massive wave of fly memes on social media platforms. Honestly, the fly memes themselves will likely have a shorter lifespan than the fly itself. However, the fly reveals two significant aspects of the debate: Viewers’ attention span was so limited that they became enraptured by a dumb fly, and literally nothing about Pence’s speech and presentation mattered because viewers were too distracted by the fly on his face. When election day arrives, hardly anyone will remember Harris’ remarks on fracking or Pence’s incessant interruptions. Much like Jeff Goldblum in the 1986 film, Pence and the fly will become inseparable. The fly will cement Pence’s legacy in the same way that falling down a flight of stairs cemented Gerald Ford’s legacy. It may be funny, but don’t let it become a distraction.


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