Plexiglass is not the only divide as Pence, Harris face off during debate


Vice President Mike Pence and Democratic vice-presidential nominee Kamala Harris take to the debate stage almost a week after President Donald Trump announced he tested positive for COVID-19.

Jacob Tubbs

Editor’s note: A previous version of this articles incorrectly stated Harris discussed reforms including the legalization of marijuana, the story now reads Harris discussed reforms including the decriminalization of marijuana. The Daily regrets this error.


The first and only vice-presidential debate between Vice President Mike Pence and Democratic vice-presidential nominee Kamala Harris was Wednesday night in Salt Lake City, Utah. With a plexiglass divider and the ability to sit, both Pence and Harris answered an array of questions.

Moderated by USA Today’s Susan Page, the topics the debate touched on included the pandemic, the role of the vice president, the economy, racial reform, the Supreme Court and climate change.

The first question Page presented was about the ongoing pandemic. Both criticized their counterparts’ response to the deadly virus.

“The American people have witnessed what is the greatest failure of any presidential administration in the history of our country,” Harris said. “They were informed that it is lethal in consequence, that it is airborne, that it will affect young people and that it will be contracted because it is airborne. They knew what was happening and they didn’t tell you.”

Pence rubutted by saying the Trump administration’s response to COVID-19 was historically positive.

“President Donald Trump did what no other American president had ever done, and that was he suspended all travel from China, the second largest economy in the world,” Pence said. “I can tell you, having led the coronavirus task force bought invaluable time to stand up to the greatest national mobilization since World War II.”

Mack Shelley, chair and professor of political science, said Pence brought a clearer vision to the Trump strategy.

“I think Pence was tasked with getting Trump’s points across without the manic episode,” Shelley said. “If that was his mission, you could argue that the mission was accomplished.”

As the night proceeded, the state of the economy was brought to limelight. Harris said under her and Biden’s plan, the financial burden college placed on families would be reduced. 

“For folks who want to go to a two-year community college, it will be free,” Harris said. “If you come from a family that makes less than $125,000, you will go to a public university for free. And across the board, we’re going to make sure that if you have student loan debt, it is cut by $10,000.”

The last question about policy was concerned with the case of Breonna Taylor and the condition of the criminal justice system. 

“Bad cops are bad for good cops,” Harris said. “We need reform of policing in America and the criminal justice system.”

Harris also spoke on some of her future reforms to the system, which included the decriminalization of marijuana. 

“We will decriminalize marijuana and expunge the records of those who have been convicted of marijuana,” Harris said.

Pence took the other side of the argument and showed support for the current system. 

“I trust our justice system,” Pence said. “Under President Trump’s leadership, we will always stand with law enforcement and will do what we have done from day one, and that is improve the lives of African Americans.”

Pence added a jab at Harris as he brought Harris’ record as California attorney general to attention.

“When you were attorney general of California, you increased the disproportionate prosecution of Blacks,” Pence said. 

Harris stood up her record and saw it as favorable.

“Having served as the attorney general of the state of California, the work that I did is a model of what our nation needs to do,” Harris said.

The closing question of the night did not come from Page herself but instead an eighth grade student from Utah. The question was as follows:

“When I watch the news, all I see is arguing between Democrats and Republicans. When I watch the news, all I see is citizens fighting against citizens. When I watch the news, all I see are two candidates from opposing parties trying to tear each other down. If our leaders can’t get along, how are the citizens supposed to get along?”

Both candidates admired the young student’s participation in government as well as gave a bright preview to America — under their administration of course. 

“In America, we believe in a free and open exchange of debate,” Pence said. “It’s literally why we’ve created the freest and most prosperous nation in the history of the world. Don’t assume what you’re seeing on your local news networks is synonymous with the American people.” 

Harris also saw an appealing future.

“[Biden] has a long-standing record of working across the aisle and working in a bipartisan way,” Harris said. “Joe Biden has a history of lifting people up and fighting for their dignity. I do believe the future is bright, and it will be because we will fight for each person’s voice through their vote.”