A fly that landed on Vice President Mike Pence’s head and California Sen. Kamala Harris’ various smirks and “I’m speaking, Mr. Vice President” sound bite set social media abuzz following the only 2020 vice presidential debate on Wednesday, October 7.
“Senator Harris was abrasive and condescending. It was disheartening that the liberals focused their attention on a fly on VP Pence[’s] hair instead of what he was saying,” said Rudy Asercion, an elected member of the San Francisco Republican County Central Committee.
But amid the viral moments, other viewers found the vice presidential debate less chaotic than last week’s event between President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden, the Democratic nominee, and that it gave the American public an opportunity to hear from their running mates before the November 3rd election.
“Pence’s performance was better than Trump’s so I can say that…But if you listen to his substance, he really has a distorted view of what happened in reality,” said Irene Bueno, a government relations consultant and former official in the Clinton administration. “If you are already leaning towards Trump and Pence, then you think that he performed well, but if you are the average American voter who’s been looking at what’s been happening these last four years, you could see that Pence was just trying to spin you a truth that did not exist.”
Bueno praised Harris for “keeping her cool” despite instances of being interrupted by the vice president.
“What the American people saw was someone who is intelligent, firm, prepared, believes in science, and someone who could really step into the shoes to be president if that should happen,” she added.
Pence and Harris squared off at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City for their only 90-minute debate wherein they touched on issues, such as the Trump administration’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, climate change and the Supreme Court vacancy.
Debate moderator Susan Page, Washington Bureau Chief for USA Today, reminded the candidates that they had two minutes interrupted to respond to each question.
From the start, the ongoing pandemic took center stage on Wednesday night as the death toll has risen to more than 210,000 Americans with over 7.5 million positive cases. The two candidates were separated by two plexiglass dividers and were seated 12 feet apart as a reminder of the new normal.
“The American people have witnessed what is the greatest failure of any presidential administration in the history of our country,” Harris said in her opening remarks, referring to the current administration’s management of COVID-19.
Pence, who is the head of the White House’s coronavirus task force, defended the administration’s response and said that the president acted early on, such as suspending “all travel from China.” He also alleged that the Biden-Harris campaign’s coronavirus plan “looks a little bit like plagiarism” and mirrors what the administration has already done.
“When you say what the American people have done over these last eight months hasn’t worked, that’s a great disservice to the sacrifices the American people have made,” the vice president said in response to Harris’ criticism. “The reality is, Dr. Fauci said everything that he told the president in the Oval Office, the president told the American people.”
For Luisa Blue, executive vice president for the SEIU and former registered nurse, the vice president’s answer to the COVID-19 question fell short. She cited how health care workers across the country reported the lack of sufficient personal protective equipment.
“This administration has failed totally — they still call it a ‘hoax.’ They don’t believe in science so they haven’t responded adequately at all,” Blue said following the debate, referencing the U.S.’ withdrawal from the World Health Organization earlier this summer.
“This is a pandemic [and] everybody is supposed to work together to come up with a cure, to come up with common standards to apply across the world to tamp down this virus.”
Despite the CARES Act passed in the spring, many Americans are still unemployed and small businesses have had to shutter.
“If [Trump] was smart, he would come to an agreement on a relief package because then he can claim victory that he’s getting money back into the pockets of the American people and he didn’t take that advantage,” Blue said.
With the vacancy left by late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Pence said the “American people really deserve an answer” on court packing, the idea of expanding the Supreme Court to allow more liberal justices to be nominated.
“Joe and I are very clear. The American people are voting right now, and it should be their decision about who will serve on this most important body for a lifetime,” Harris said.
“Another key moment is when Kamala Harris refused to answer Vice President Pence’s question about packing the Supreme Court, this shows how polarization negatively impacts the Democrats and the Biden-Harris message of perpetuating radicalism instead of uniting our country over Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination,” said Lisa Noeth, a small business owner in Las Vegas.
Days after the first presidential debate, Trump revealed on Friday, October 2 that he tested positive for COVID-19, and is still recovering at the White House, after spending three days hospitalized.
“Don’t be afraid of Covid. Don’t let it dominate your life. We have developed, under the Trump Administration, some really great drugs & knowledge. I feel better than I did 20 years ago!” the president tweeted on Monday, October 5, before he was discharged from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.
Some voters hoped that going through the experience would change the president’s perspective on the seriousness of the virus.
“When he came out of the hospital, and he said, ‘You know, I learned a lot about COVID because it happened to me,’ I was expecting that his next words would be, ‘We need to take this seriously. We need to wear a mask, we need to have social distancing, we need discipline in order to get this under control,’” Bueno said. “It’s because he got access to treatments that are not accessible to most Americans. So he’s asking people to continue to take risks that he’s continued to support and advocate for since he knew about the virus. He knew it was deadly back in January and concealed it from the American people.”
The Commission on Presidential Debates announced on Thursday that it would move the upcoming Oct. 15 town hall to a virtual format with the candidates in separate, remote locations “to protect the health and safety of all involved.”
The president, however, told Fox Business anchor Maria Bartiromo on Thursday morning that he would not do the virtual debate, calling the format “a waste of time.”
If a future debate between the two presidential candidates arises before the election, Fil-Am voters hope they can cover issues like health care reform, immigration, and the U.S.-Mexico border.
“Our current health care system is broken as many Filipinos are facing job loss through massive layoffs due to the repercussions of COVID-19 across the nation,” Noeth said. “This issue about access to affordable health care needs to be addressed promptly by both presidential candidates about how can we reduce the cost of healthcare by removing Obamacare and forcing insurance companies to compete with one another for Filipino Americans out of work right now in these unprecedented times.”
“Immigration has not come up, so assuming there’s a future debate, I hope the issue comes up because it impacts not only the Filipino American community, but also so many communities,” Bueno said.
Blue said that given that family separation at the border has been a contentious topic over the past few years, it should be brought up. “I hope for the next debate, there’s going to be discussion about what’s going on at the border. They’re separating children. There’s over 2,000 migrant children that are still unaccounted for and folks are getting with COVID at the border.”
Asercion would like to hear more about the U.S.’ foreign policy in the South China Sea, which other Fil-Ams are closely watching as well.
“I would like the next presidential debate to address freedom of navigation in [the] South China Sea where $5.3-trillion worth of goods transit through annually,” he said.
Last 20-some days until election
With less than a month to go until the general election, Fil-Am voters on both sides are urging still undecided voters to look at both Trump and Biden’s political record.
“For undecided voters, I believe Filipino Americans need to do their own research about the facts and impact of President Trump’s leadership and accomplishments of improving the lives of hardworking Filipino American workers for the past four years matters through tax cuts, protecting the police, and upholding our first and second amendment rights. President Trump and his administration’s policies triumph over Vice President Biden’s track record for over 4 decades in public office,” Noeth pitched.
Meanwhile, Bueno said it’s telling how many Republicans and independents are supporting the Biden-Harris ticket.
“I think it’s just really clear why they want to bring back respectability to our government. They want to be seen as a beacon of hope to the rest of the world. They want a government that relies on science and that cares about everybody…” Bueno said. “We’re exhausted these last four years of what this president has been doing tearing apart this country. We just want someone who can bring it back together again, and provide some stability and hope for all Americans.”