The TV duel between Trump and Biden is still in the bones of the Americans, when Vice President Pence and his challenger Harris meet for debate. And that is completely different from the meeting of the candidates.
It is still possible for US politicians to debate each other without total chaos – this is the first message sent from the Vice-Presidential Debate on Wednesday night local time. After the screaming spectacle the week before last between US President Trump and his challenger Biden, Republican Vice President Mike Pence and the Democratic candidate for office, Senator Kamala Harris, met. Compared to the meeting between the bosses, it was downright relaxing, but by no means boring. At least in phases a discussion arose and arguments could be heard.
It was a bit of a paradox that this Vice-Presidential debate received more attention than it has ever been before, but this election is much different than it used to be. There is the stark polarization of the political camps, which creates anger and determination on both sides. But above all, two old men apply for the office. Biden would be 78 years old in January 2021, Trump “only” 74 – and therefore older than any other president was when he took office. If the first man in the state fails, the vice president has to step in – as happened, for example, after the murder of John F. Kennedy in 1963.
The duel was also exciting because two people were discussing here who could hardly be more different. On the one hand, Kamala Harris, black, daughter of an Indian mother and a Jamaican father, both immigrants, who made careers as law enforcement officers in California and is now a senator. On the other hand, Mike Pence, Trump’s loyal second husband, who is considered arch-conservative and who is said to never be alone in a room with a woman. So many opposites at once: woman versus man, black versus white, urban west coast versus rural Midwest and of course: Democrat versus republican.
Pence had the harder job
Since there is only one vice-presidential debate, presenter Susan Page from the newspaper “USA Today” had to go through as many topics as possible in the 90 minutes – it began, as expected, with the corona crisis. Harris was pounding the wrongdoings. “We are experiencing the greatest failure of government in our country’s history,” she said. Trump and Pence learned in January how dangerous the virus is, but did not react. Instead, they downplayed the dangers, the president even said it was nothing but a pipe dream (“hoax”).
Seven million people infected with corona in the United States, more than 210,000 deaths and a virus that continues to spread are actually not a particularly good record. Especially since other countries got the pandemic much better under control. Add to that the infection of Trump himself and the White House outbreak – Pence had the harder job on this issue. Like Trump, he argued that entry from China had been banned right at the beginning of the pandemic, which Biden had criticized as xenophobic and hysterical. This is how one saved millions of lives.
“Mr. Vice President? I’m talking now”
Corona was of course not the only topic, there was a lot to discuss: foreign policy, climate change, and the appointment of judges were just a few. In terms of business, Pence pointed out that regulations had been abolished and tax breaks created for everyone. He accused Harris and Biden of wanting to raise taxes. “Only for everyone who earns more than 400,000 dollars,” countered the Democrat, who also refused to want to ban the controversial gas drilling (“fracking”) or even fossil fuels – an issue that, for example, in the embattled state of Pennsylvania, is crucial for many people could be. When asked about the protests following the death of George Floyd, Harris, as expected, sided with the protesters but condemned violence. Pence was particularly critical of this, saying it was an insult to call the US as a whole racist.