Dickinson Community Reflects on Vice-Presidential Debate


Left to Right: Moderator Susan Page, Senator Harris, and Vice President Pence at the 2020 Vice-Presidential Debate. Courtesy of the New York Times.

Deon Rosado , Staff Writer

Dickinson students and faculty reported mixed feelings on the first and only vice presidential debate for the 2020 election held on Wednesday, Oct. 7.

Vice President Mike Pence and Senator Kamala Harris conducted the 90 minute debate at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. The candidates sat 12 feet apart with two plexiglass dividers between them in light of President Donald Trump announcing his COVID-19 diagnosis on Friday, Oct. 2. 

Vincent Stephens, director of the Popel Shaw Center for Race and Ethnicity, reflected on the event. “Incumbents typically have a political advantage but the current administration’s policies, tactics, and overt mismanagement of the COVID-19 crisis, have motivated many voters, across the political divide, to make the Biden-Harris ticket more viable than was forecasted originally,” said Stephens. 

Stephens also addressed the strategies behind the debates. “The debate primarily fed the populations’ curiosity about Senator Harris and Vice President Pence’s perspectives on issues related COVID-19, climate change, taxes, and the racial climate, which were quite predictable, and their interpersonal styles,” said Stephens. 

According to Associated Press, “the Trump campaign wants voters to focus on anything but the pandemic that has killed more than 210,000 people across the country and infected at least 7.5 million more. But that subject dominated from the outset, with Trump and a growing list of White House aides, campaign staff and allies now side-lined with COVID-19.” 

Harris addressed the current administration’s record, stating that Trump’s pandemic response was “the greatest failure of any presidential administration in the history of our country.” Trump and Pence “still don’t have a plan,” Harris said. 

Taking that into account, Jannah Souverain ‘24 said, “Both candidates spent a lot of time pointing out the benefits in all the policies or actions that their respective sides and administrations took without acknowledging the harm they’ve done as well.”  

On the same topic, Associate Professor of Political Science Sarah Niebler stated, “I still felt like there were lots of moments where the candidates evaded questions. I’m probably in the minority here, but I would actually like to see less of a ‘debate’ between candidates and more of a conversation.” 

“The Vice Presidential debate felt different, not because of the pandemic, but because of Senator Kamala Harris,” said Cristian Tineo ‘22. “She made sure her voice was being heard when she was interrupted, ensured she got the respect she deserved, and educated me on history, context and terminology. I felt seen listening to her speak,” he said.

Professor Niebler added, “The VP debate last Wednesday was certainly more substantive and policy-focused than the first presidential debate.”