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Opinion: Kamala Harris dominates the vice presidential debate against all odds

People watch the debate at outdoor seating at Pedone’s Pizza in Hermosa Beach. (Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

The vice presidential debate on Wednesday night was more conventional than what Americans have seen lately from Trump and his campaign. There was no name-calling or yelling on the debate stage, and that alone was a refreshing change for Americans watching at home.

Vice President Mike Pence dutifully defended President Trump’s ineptitude at dealing with the pandemic as well as his refusal last week to condemn white supremacy.

“I want the American people to know that from the very first day President Donald Trump has put the health of America first,” Pence said at the Wednesday debate.

Question after question, he returned incessantly to fracking, taxing, and the Green New Deal, stating and restating that “On day one, Joe Biden’s going to raise your taxes.”

Senator Kamala Harris responded, “He will not raise taxes on anybody who makes less than $400,000 a year.” She stated also that Biden would not ban fracking or put the Green New Deal into action. 

Although the debate was fairly normal, this does not mean that both parties were civil. Mr. Pence repeatedly interrupted the senator and spoke over his time. 

“Mr. Vice President, I’m speaking,” Harris said, as can be seen in this CBS news clip. Upon interruptions from both Pence and Page, Harris said “I’m speaking” six times throughout the debate. 

Debate moderator, Susan Page of USA Today, seemed completely inept at enforcing the rules of the debate. “Thank you, Mr. Vice President,” Page repeated as Pence continued to speak. In fact, Harris explicitly asked Page for equal time on multiple occasions. “He attacked my record. I would like an opportunity to respond.” Page granted her thirty seconds, “because we’re running out of time”.

Unlikeable” is a term that women in politics know all too well. Harris was deemed the term immediately after the debate by many right-wing watchers. Media Matters compiled a list of verified tweets in which the senator is called “vile”, an “absolute b––”, “childish”, and worse. As reported by NPR, President Trump called her “a monster” after the debate.

As an African American and Asian woman, Harris was careful in how she reacted to Pence’s incessant interruptions and misleading claims. She refrained from using an accusatory tone, spoke calmly, and never raised her voice. She smiled as she told Page that she “would like equal time.”

All the while, Harris never failed to react and defend her campaign directly. She made sure not to let herself be spoken over. The poise, calm, and strength she portrayed did not falter. All in all, Senator Kamala Harris succeeded at the debate despite the challenges she faced as an African and Asian American female candidate running against a campaign with a reputation for misogyny and racism. Harris put on a skilled performance and demonstrated that she would be a capable and strong vice president. 

The vice presidential debate transcript can be read on USA Today.

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