Key Takeaways from the Vice Presidential Debate

By Alex Berkman

2020 is perhaps the most atypical year in U.S. history, so much so, that we have practically become indifferent to new surprises. The 2020 vice presidential debate was no different. Normally, the responsibility of the vice presidential candidates solely focuses on boosting the image of the person heading the ticket; subsequently, little weight tends to be put on the vice presidential debate. However, with Biden approaching his eighties and Trump, 74, recovering from COVID-19, it remains quite possible that either Senator Kamala Harris or current Vice President Mike Pence will one day serve as Commander in Chief. In light of this, there was great anticipation heading into the debate. In fact, nearly 60 million people tuned into the broadcast, the second largest turnout ever for the event.

Although neither Pence nor Harris made waves with their respective showings, the debate served to further reveal the political agendas for each administration. It was also a bit more … civilized than the presidential debate multiple weeks ago. Here are three key takeaways from the vice presidential debate between Vice President Pence and Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif).

COVID-19 is still very much alive

Whether it was intended or not, the pandemic took center stage during the debate. To start, spectators were advised to wear masks. The candidates sat at desks more than 12 feet apart and were separated by plexiglass shields. It was also the first topic discussed by the two candidates. Immediately, Harris jumped on the Democratic ticket’s central argument, calling the government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic “the greatest failure of any presidential administration in the history of our country.” Specifically, Harris noted the refusal of Trump’s administration to address the severity of the threat early on and issue a federal mandate on masks. To counter, Pence cited the preventative measures Trump’s administration took in late January, particularly the decision to restrict travel from China. Throughout the evening, COVID-19 was touched upon on numerous occasions, as it naturally should have been. 

Pence and Harris Dodge Questions

While Vice President Pence and Senator Harris remained fairly composed throughout, there was something we did not see during the last Presidential debate: a tendency to deflect important questions. Specifically, Harris refused to address adding justices to the Supreme Court in favor of re-emphasizing Trump’s “failed ” response to the pandemic. Meanwhile, Pence did not indicate the Trump administration’s view on Roe v. Wade; he also avoided questions regarding the transition of power if President Trump were to lose come November. From a political standpoint, sure, Pence and Harris were wise to keep their responses as vague as possible. However, consequently, it was the undecided voters, those who sought but failed to receive proper clarity, that were the real losers of the debate. And as you might expect, people were not happy. Byram Hills junior Jake Goldman, despite not being eligible to vote, viewed the entire debate. Jake was particularly frustrated that “neither Kamala Harris nor Mike Pence were able to deliver on the crucial questions that needed answers.”

The Fly! 

Finally, we can discuss the real star of the show. Midway through the event, a fly landed on Mike Pence’s white helmet of hair, and remained there for quite some time. The result? A total frenzy on social media, with “fly” trending on Twitter like never before. Personally, I thought it was hilarious. With that being said, some are concerned that the “fly” drew attention away from the most important event of the night, the actual debate. These individuals include Byram Hills student and President of the Politics Club Sebastian Vasquez. Sebastian aptly noted: “The fact that more attention was given to the fly than the actual political substance of the debate is a sad reflection on the American political landscape.” Of course, Sebastian makes a fair point. But maybe it was also good for Americans, Republican or Democrat, to take a break from 2020 and laugh, laugh at something so dumb and so silly. We all knew we needed it.