By Allan Wall, October 8, 2020
The two candidates for vice-president, incumbent Mike Pence and U.S. Senator Kamala Harris, met in Salt Lake City for a debate bearing the banners for their respective running mates, Donald Trump and Joe Biden.
Of course, this is the age of COVID-19, so the seated candidates were separated by two (!) transparent plexiglass shields (wouldn’t one have been sufficient?) plus a socially distancing, mask-wearing audience.
The moderator was Susan Page of USA Today who was not wearing a mask. I watched the debate with my wife, our two college sons, a friend of my sons, and my dad.
The topics, chosen by the moderator, included COVID-19, the economy, trade deals, China, Russia, Iran, NATO, climate change, the Green New Deal, fracking, the Supreme Court, abortion, race, the election itself, and a naïve question from an 8th-grader. Also a fly spent some time on Pence’s head and attracted some attention.
The arguments were about what you would have expected. Pence often continued speaking after being cut off, but the figures released after the debate showed that the two candidates spoke for almost equal amounts of time, with Pence only speaking a few seconds more than Harris.
COVID-19 was the first topic out of the starting gate, and Harris called the Trump Administration’s handling of it, “the greatest failure of any presidential administration in the history of our country.” Really?
They both defended their running mates on the economy, but remember that the economy was doing quite well before the coronavirus crash. The latter indicates that in the future we need a way to fight a pandemic without shutting down so much of the economy which is not good for public health, either.
The race relations topic was kicked off with a question about the Breonna Taylor case in Louisville. Harris decried “systemic racism” (a concept nobody ever really explains), defended the “peaceful protests,” and brought up those elusive “white supremacists” the media keeps bringing up.
Pence condemned the looting and pillaging.
Pence is pro-life, while Harris defended the right to an abortion.
On the Amy Coney Barrett nomination, Harris doesn’t want a confirmation process until after the election, and she refused to say whether or not a Biden-Harris administration would “pack the court” by adding liberal-leaning justices.
On the climate change topic, Harris denied that a Biden Administration would shut down fracking, while Pence defended the Trump Administration’s environmental record which actually is a good one.
But there was one very important topic that was nearly totally ignored. The moderator, in fact, asked no questions about it.
That topic was immigration.
I counted five brief references by candidates to immigration, all mentioned in passing.
- Harris mentioned that her late mother had been an immigrant.
- Pence mentioned (positively) Trump’s shutting down of air travel from China
to impede the spread of COVID-19, which originated in China. Pence pointed out that Biden opposed that measure.
- Pence mentioned the China travel suspension again.
- Harris said Trump called Mexicans “rapists and criminals.” (Trump, announcing his candidacy in 2015, was talking about illegal alien criminals.)
- Harris (negatively) referred to President Trump’s so-called “Muslim travel ban.”
Five references in passing, and no questions about immigration from the moderator.
But immigration is a major issue facing the nation, and the topic should be discussed.
Even with the absence of immigration questions, a candidate could have worked the topic into the debate and discussed it longer. After all, immigration impacts many issues. The economy, for example. Why bring more immigrants into the U.S. during a pandemic with Americans out of work?
And, as author Paul Sperry pointed out in a tweet, “Pence failed to bring up the fact that both Biden and Kamala have pledged to give universal government-run health care to illegal aliens and make taxpaying citizens pay for it. Millions of independent voters watching would have been shocked to hear that.”
In the next scheduled Trump vs. Biden debate, it would be good to see more attention paid to this vital subject.