As the 2020 election season builds to a climax, we here at Next Generation Politics want to provide our readers with up to the minute analysis on the political landscape alongside our usual stock of high-quality articles. In doing so, we hope to give our readership a point of view from those who don’t usually get represented by the talking heads on cable news: teens. Here is our first of these pieces, featuring opinions fresh off the Vice Presidential Debate from our editorial team:
A Debate in Disarray (Stephen Dames)
After a Presidential Debate last week that made me want to take up drinking as my full-time career, the Vice Presidential Debate this week seemed–in comparison–to be a relatively informative affair, with both candidates clear on their messages, and on their policies. Although personally I view the Trump/Pence ticket as abhorrent and as a legitimate danger to continued human existence on this planet, it must be said that Vice President Pence knows how to sell his dangerous and ill-advised agenda quite effectively. Instead of being focused on any clash in the debate–or on the moderator’s prepared questions–Pence decided the best strategy would be to focus his efforts on harping on his pre-prepared messages and policy proposals. While lacking in facts and substance, this strategy appears to have been effective in redeeming the Trump campaign for the more traditional conservative voters.
However, Pence was met with a strong debate opponent in the brilliantly focused Senator Kamala Harris. A fierce debater, Harris met Pence blow for blow, and although she was limited in the amount she could really go after him for his factual inconsistencies and despicable policies–due in part to the systemic racism he refuses to acknowledge–she showed great poise and had many great answers. For a person of leftist political inclination like myself, however, it is mighty angering that when faced with the question of whether the Biden ticket would end the horrible process of fracking, Harris didn’t flinch in saying that they wouldn’t. For those who don’t know, fracking has the following negative effects on the environment: (1) it contaminates drinking water; (2) it disproportionately contributes to climate change; (3) it exposes people to toxic chemicals; (4) it causes earthquakes and landslides. An argument usually used to defend the stance that Harris took on fracking is that it “appeals” to voters the Biden/Harris ticket needs if they want to win in the fall. However, according to the most recent polling data, fracking is deeply unpopular among both Democrats and Independents–especially in swing states. If the Biden/Harris administration truly believes that climate change is an “existential threat” then they need to ban fracking, and embrace the Green New Deal which, although you wouldn’t believe it if you watched cable news, is supported by 63% of voters.
Overall, it is clear that if you want an administration to not actively burn our world to the ground, you need to vote for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. Though they are not the perfect ticket, their policies would help everyday Americans in a variety of concrete ways, while Donald Trump and Mike Pence would continue their record of harming American families, the climate, and the working class. We need Joe Biden and Kamala Harris in the White House–this debate has made it clearer than ever.
Civility at the Cost of Productivity (Inica Kotasthane)
Let’s be honest. There was a lot less fighting and a lot more discussing tonight– but was it worth it? I’m not one for political catfights, but I think it’s necessary to draw a line between having two politicians smacking each other in the face with half-baked insults versus actually having sincere dialogue about policy.
The bar from Trump and Biden’s debate was set low–six feet underground to be exact–and expectations were accordingly subterranean for tonight. However, is having this pathetic of a benchmark for every debate showing any true leadership from either party at all? Forcing the American people to accept crumbs of logic and sanity from Harris and Pence is no better than forcing them to watch two borderline-senile old men battle it out for who was least racist. America can do better than this. American should do better than this. But the amount of praise this debate has garnered has only proven that this country is losing the sense of hope it needs so desperately in order to bring a more optimistic future to fruition.
Pence had an easy act to follow after his running mate essentially threw a 90 minute temper tantrum on stage last week. Simply not interrupting Harris and avoiding any touchy personal subjects (like dead sons) would automatically catapult him into the ‘respectful’ category, which he just barely squeezed into tonight. Despite the often patronizing tone he took on throughout the debate, it’s obvious that Pence prioritized the dialing back of any hard hitting stances, instead focusing on smooth talking his way out of difficult questions. Does the Trump administration believe in climate change? I guess we’ll never know based on Pence’s sidestepping tonight.
However, this does not mean that anyone was able to get a grasp on the administration’s policies and if/how they plan on adapting for a theoretical four more years. Aside from vague comments about an improving economy and rhetorically useless reiterations about how Biden will “ban fracking,” Pence stayed mostly silent on the actions he and Trump have taken since 2016 and since the beginning of the Coronavirus pandemic. The comparably passive stance he took relative to Trump may have won him some brownie points in regards of dignity and the ability to respect the rules of debate (though he was still on thin ice throughout, consistently rolling over the time limits and answering questions past their relevancy), but unfortunately this cost him a lot in terms of what the American people need to hear: his administration’s stances on the issues, as well as his own responses to the moderator’s questions.
Please note that my criticism of Pence does not, by any means, let Harris off the hook. Although she presented a desirably assertive attitude and was visibly more aggressive than Biden, Harris was unable to reply to the genuine concerns of the audience and found herself ping ponging between contradictions and callouts. Both Biden and Harris greatly disappointed with the question of whether they were going to pack the court or not, undoubtedly knocking them down a few pegs for credibility, as well as exposing a worrying sense of hypocrisy within their plan. Harris only dug herself further into a hole with her response to the question of fracking, and her continuous denial of the Green New Deal was by no means a turn on for the settling left. Overall, though, her performance was satisfactory, despite the few failures to address needed questions.
Tonight’s debate, placid and, well, boring as it was, may have helped redeem the democratic process and debates as a whole, but they were unable to cover up the devastating foundational flaws in our current political system as well as how the American public is being forced to push their expectations for this year’s candidates lower and lower. Competency shouldn’t come second to candidacy, but it seems that’s how the chips have fallen for the upcoming election.
The Results of Misinformation and Fact Checks (Simran Saini)
During the Vice Presidential Debate tonight, both Harris and Pence took countless jabs at one another for stating falsehoods; however, at the end of the debate, the American public still seemed uncertain as to the actual details of each candidate’s record and platform. With the great number of statistics and bold claims that both vice presidential candidates spewed out, it became increasingly overwhelming for Americans to understand in real-time who was telling the truth and where all of these facts were coming from. The VP candidates seemed to take note of this as well, with Pence implying that Harris was making up her own facts, and Harris denouncing Pence for misinformation on her stance on fracking. While fact checks are generally published during these debates by various news sources, it can be frustrating to have to search these up for every point of discussion, especially during a fast-paced debate where topics of discussion alternate rapidly. Without being able to verify who is correct on each point of argument, the productivity of a debate is undoubtedly lessened, and a great deal of room is left for the public to make their own inferences on validity based on their personal beliefs or biases. And even if misinformation is presented during a debate and is subsequently fact-checked by media sources, a question arises as to whether it will be enough. Should there be a responsibility to monitor and protect the American public from misinformation before it spreads?
Just a few subjects that were fact-checked in tonight’s debate to prove inaccuracy were whether or not Trump condemned white supremacist violence in the previous debate, what Harris has or hasn’t done for criminal justice reform in California, the presence of Russian interference in the elections, and court packing. As Kamala Harris and Mike Pence sparred with one another and attempted to put facts against facts to prove each of their points, the productivity of the debate unquestionably went downhill, as these back-and-forths did not aid the public in pinpointing which pieces of evidence were misleading and which were factual. In political debates especially, I believe that there is a conception that throwing out a statistic or number is an indisputable claim, which is an approach Pence seemed to take in tonight’s debate. It can be argued, however, that these statistics become increasingly difficult to verify, since a burden is given to the other candidate of trying to dispute a numerical assertion when they have no conception of where it originated from.
Despite the frustrating accusations that came from both sides on the validity of statements, tonight’s debate was certainly a more civil, democratic representation of our country than the prior, and it offered points of clarity as to what each party would carry out if elected into the White House, especially during the crucial time of a pandemic.
–The NGP Editorial Board