Let the chaos fly away: Vice presidential debate recognized as more ‘civil,’ ‘professional’ according to students


Photo credit: Vaughan Anoa'i

Senator Kamala Harris speaking during the BBC News coverage of the vice presidential debate. The debate took place at the University of Utah on Oct. 7, 2020.

By Thea Leimone and Vaughan Anoa'i

The first presidential debate between Republican nominee Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden which took place on September 29, garnered 73 million viewers and was described as “chaotic” and “off-the-rails” by news sources and viewers. Eight days after the presidential debate, the first and only vice presidential debate took place between current Vice President Mike Pence, and Senator Kamala Harris.

Recognizing the strengths of both candidates, junior Samantha Momtazee said she felt this televised debate was more “refreshing” in comparison to the first presidential debate.

“It is definitely refreshing compared to the presidential debate,” Momtazee said. “I think both of them are well spoken for politicians in America at the moment. I think Senator Harris is a very powerful speaker, but I also think Vice President Pence has a little bit more logical consistency.”

The first presidential debate was notable for how the candidates disregarded the speaking time limits and made personal attacks towards one another. Senior Billi Newmyer described the vice presidential debate as more “civil.”

“I think it was not about personal attacks because they’re not the candidates running for president,” Newmyer said. “It’s about their platforms and their strategies, which I thought was a lot more useful and informative for voters who don’t know who they want to vote for.”

Biden’s running-mate, Harris, a former district attorney and California senator is the first Black and South-Asian American woman to be nominated as the vice presidential candidate. If elected, she would be the first female to serve in office as vice president.

I think Harris played strategy in this debate,” sophomore and political columnist Charlotte Tragos said. “There was kind of a hope before this fact that she would tear him apart in a way that Biden really didn’t do to Trump. But it was smarter in the end for her to play strategy and to be calmer towards him.”

Echoing Tragos’ statement, senior Maggie O’Leary said she felt Harris was “more professional” and if there were to be a winner of the debate, it would be Harris.

“[Harris] didn’t interrupt as much. She remained more professional,” O’Leary said. “I think, looking at some of the fact checking, it was more fact checking of Vice President Mike Pence than it was of Harris.”

Although she recognized some inconsistencies within Harris’ policies, Momtazee said she found Harris ultimately more “persuasive” and “convincing” during the debate.

“Do I think she’s qualified for vice president? No. But do I think she is a powerful public speaker? Yeah, absolutely,” Momtazee said. “I think she’s very convincing and has a lot of strategies in her back pocket that are just frankly better than how Mike Pence carries himself.”

Pence, the current vice president, is the head of the Coronavirus task force, which was criticized for the over 200,000 COVID-19 deaths in the United States. Tragos labeled Pence’s handling of the coronavirus task force “weak.”

“I think obviously, the coronavirus is a weak point in the Trump pence campaign strategy, and it’s a weak point in their reputation,” Newmyer said. “And I think [Harris] did a great job at at pointing that out.”

While Harris pointed out a weak point in Pence’s recent actions as vice president, Pence brought up inconsistencies between claims and information on the website of the Biden/Harris campaign, regarding their stance on climate change and fracking.

“I think that was a good political strategy, because fracking maintains a lot of jobs in Pennsylvania, which is a battleground state,” Newmyer said. “So he really like looked through it from a from a political standpoint, and then tried to attack Kamala, which I think is probably a weaker part on their campaign.”

Tragos felt that during the debate, fact-checking was important since Pence repeated a lot of misinformation, which she described as “disgusting, horrific and dangerous.” She noted the challenges that come with being a female in the political world.

“It’s kind of a tightrope that as a woman, she has to walk because if she is too strong and too smart, she’ll be labeled as crazy and not capable for holding a position of power in office,” Tragos said, “And she walked the tightrope, I think, very well.”