The Vice Presidential Debate came in the midst of a two-week news cycle that contained two years’ worth of news. President Trump had coronavirus, potentially contracted at Amy Coney Barrett’s Supreme Court nomination event, after downplaying the virus for months and leaving 210,000 Americans to die and denying a new round of economic stimulus. With these events swirling, Senator Kamala Harris and Vice President Mike Pence took the stage with a plexiglass barrier between them--a visual reminder that COVID-19 spreads across party, state, and economic lines.
Given the exhaustion of the news cycle and the stakes of this election, it was easy to forget how historic the VP debate was for women, particularly women of color. Harris is the first woman of color to be nominated and join a national party’s ticket. To be sure, it took too long to get here, but we’re here now, and in the midst of all that is bad and hard right now, it’s important to pause and acknowledge that this is historic. Furthermore, let’s all just acknowledge that we couldn’t wait to see Harris pull out some of her perfectly crafted zingers against Pence. And she delivered.
More importantly than zingers (as gratifying as those were), Harris delivered on policy, empathy, and humanity--all the things the US so desperately needs at this moment--while deftly walking the tightrope demanded of Black women on a national stage. On health care, Harris pointed out that the Trump-Pence administration continues to try and gut the Affordable Care Act (ACA), something that will become easier with the all-but-certain confirmation of Coney Barrett, in the midst of a pandemic. Harris said, “If you love someone who has a pre-existing condition, they’re coming for you. If you are under the age of 26 on your parents’ coverage, they’re coming for you.” This response gets to the heart of the most popular parts of the ACA across the political spectrum. It also speaks to long-term concerns about health care even when COVID is a thing of the past.
On COVID-19 and the administration’s abysmal response, Harris laid out the bare facts and how much early the administration could have acted along with the Biden-Harris plan that will almost certainly still be desperately needed come January’s inauguration. On criminal justice, Harris said the Biden-Harris administration would ban chokeholds, require a registry for law enforcement officers who break the law, and decriminalize marijuana. On climate change, she described it as an “existential threat” and laid out a goal to achieve zero emissions by 2050. In short, on every single issue, Harris spoke clearly about policies, goals, and ideas that would begin to move America forward to be the country our citizens need and deserve.
Not much was said about this debate between its relative normalcy in terms of decorum, and Trump’s deranged Fox News interview the next day that managed to capture the news cycle--an interview where Trump once again dehumanized Black women by calling Harris a monster. But the fact remains the debate mattered. It mattered because it laid bare that another four years of a Trump-Pence administration is simply untenable. Harris showed herself to be, yet again, despite all racism and sexism, incredibly capable and ready for this job. She deserves our support and our vote.
In just over three weeks, we will say no to Trump and Pence’s bigotry, greed, racism, sexism, homophobia, disregard for truth and science, and immorality. We will vote for Biden and Harris’ empathy, regard for science, and respect for all Americans. It won’t be perfect or meet every goal, but it will be a step. If you don’t have a plan to vote, make one today. Check on your family and friends and make sure they have a plan to vote. For every meme of Harris saying “I’m speaking” you share, make sure that person is prepared to vote too. We can do this. We can win. Let’s get to work!