pence/Harris debate

Vice President Mike Pence and Sen. Kamala Harris faced off in the vice presidential debate in Salt Lake City on October 7, 2020.

University of Georgia student Bushra Huque’s jaw dropped when Sen. Kamala Harris responded to Vice President Mike Pence’s interruptions with “I am speaking.

“It was kind of awesome,” Huque said.

Following Wednesday’s vice presidential debate, UGA students spoke to The Red & Black about the importance of the vice presidential candidates, who are running with the two oldest candidates to ever potentially take office, and Harris’ position as a woman of color on the debate stage.

Making history

Harris is the first Black woman and first Indian woman to be a vice presidential nominee on a major party ticket. She is also the second Black woman to be elected to the U.S. Senate.

For Huque, a sophomore real estate major from Woodstock who identifies as South Asian, it’s nice to see Harris, a woman of color, taking on such a big position. 

Huque said Harris definitely won the debate since Pence didn’t answer a lot of the questions. She said she thought it was impolite when Pence interrupted Harris when it was her time to speak. Being a woman of color on the debate stage, Huque said, makes Harris susceptible to being interrupted by Pence, a white male who’s in the position of power she’s vying for.

“It made me feel like he definitely thought he could just interrupt her anytime he wanted. I thought she handled it all well,” Huque said. 

Kyleigh Marshall, a junior biology major from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, said she related to Harris as a woman who has been interrupted by men.

“I can’t speak for her as a woman of color, but I can relate to her as a woman being talked over, feeling like you need to dial back in order to earn your place, whereas men always had a place in politics,” Marshall said. 

Marshall, like Huque, thinks Harris won the debate. Marshall said Harris sounded like she did her research, talked about the future and gave examples of how the Biden administration would change policies; however, she was disappointed that Harris said the administration wouldn’t ban fracking

Compared to the presidential debate, Marshall said the vice presidential debate was much more calm and professional. She thinks it was a better representation of how people should conduct themselves if they’re running for political office.

Part of the reason for this calmness, Marshall said, was the pressure on Harris to prove herself as a woman of color running for office.

“As a woman, Kamala has to prove herself, and go against the angry Black woman stereotype,” Marshall said. “So in instances where Pence is allowed to get angry, she can’t because she knows that there will be claims about her, about her personality, and ad hominem fallacy attacks rather than her actual policy.” 

Keeping the future in mind

When asked who she thought won the debate, Zoe Maher, a senior political science major from Zebulon, had to think about it.

“Well I think this is a hard question, um, the fly on Mike Pence’s head [won],” she said in response.

Maher settled on Harris as the winner, but said it was harder to decide since the debate was a lot more standard than the previous presidential debate. 

“It wasn’t quite as fun to watch. Which is good, they’re supposed to be a little boring and not like, crazy,” Maher said.

Maher said she didn’t think the debate would change people’s minds, but it may have been influential for Republican-leaning moderates who agree with President Donald Trump’s messages but don’t like the way he delivers them. She said since Pence is a more traditional politician, hearing him speak might make Republican-leaning moderates more comfortable voting for Trump.

Though she said she doesn’t think the vice presidential candidates are all that important, Maher said for this election, since both Trump and former Vice President Biden are older candidates, it matters who the vice president will be — Trump is 74 years old and Biden is 77 years old. Considering the pandemic and the candidates’ ages, Maher said there is a chance that either candidate may die in office. 

Lucas Cantuaria, a sophomore chemistry major from Atlanta, shares Maher’s concern about the ages of Trump and Biden. He said the vice presidential candidates are important since they may have to take over for either of the presidential candidates.

“I think that we got to watch the vice presidential debates, you know, kind of expecting that one of these people might one day lead the country in the next four years,” Cantuaria said. 

Cantuaria said he thought this debate had a “failure on both ends.” He said neither respected the time, and the debate was filled with lies and a lack of respect for the moderator.

Harris did a good job of standing her ground against Pence’s interruptions, Cantuaria said. He also said Pence did a good job of pressuring Harris to give an answer about how she and Biden would handle the courts, after Trump recently nominated Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court. Cantuaria said he thought Harris had good points, but he wished she would have answered more questions.

Despite this, Cantuaria said this debate didn’t affect his plans to vote Democrat. He said he doesn’t think the debate will change anyone’s mind on the candidates.

“I think at this point, people already know who they’re going to vote for, and I don’t think there’s that many people left who are really going to change their mind at this point. I think we’re just kind of watching everything for the entertainment value or we’re just watching to get angry,” Cantuaria said.

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