Subscribe now for just $ 2 a month!
travel with The nation
Be the first to find out about Nation Travels travel destinations and explore the world with kindred spirits.
Vice President Mike Pence just got some very bad news. He will lose the Vice Presidential Debate this fall, and that loss will seriously damage the Republican Party’s already diminished election prospects for 2020.
California Senator Kamala Harris will crush Donald Trump’s unfortunate comrade-in-arms when the two face each other during the Vice Presidential Debate on October 7th at the University of Utah.
This is not the only reason for an alleged Democratic candidate Joe Biden chose Harris as a Democratic vice presidential candidate. Harris is putting youth on the map as a candidate 22 years younger than the party’s presidential election and as a variety of Indian and Jamaican immigrants who will be the first black women to get a big party ticket. She has the experience in local, state, and national politics that Biden values. She is more liberal than Biden on a number of issues, but she is certainly not a progressive in the sense of Bernie Sanders, Senator from Vermont, or Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, representative from New York. That frustrates the left, which pushed Biden to consider potential vice presidents like Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren and Chairwoman of the Progressive Caucus of Congress, Karen Bass. It is now clear, however, that the former Vice President and his ideologically cautious inner circle are planning a campaign in which Trump and Pence are more prominent than the bold structural change proposed by Sanders and Warren with their 2020 presidential offers.
Biden acknowledges that despite encouraging poll results, he is in a serious battle. And he knows from personal experience that Harris is a sharp and aggressive activist who has no trouble calling out her opponents and commanding a phase of debate.
MORE FROM John Nichols
Biden is a political structuralist. He knows where the hinge of campaigns are, and he knows that the pundits are always wrong if they neglect the role vice presidential candidates play in determining the flow of presidential campaigns. After all, Biden is one of the few Americans who can undoubtedly have won two vice presidential debates – against Alaska Governor Sarah Palin in 2008 and against soon-to-be House Speaker Paul Ryan in 2012 – at critical points in running for the White House.
The 2008 win was important because it closed some of the final hopes for the jaw-dropping Republican ticket from Palin and Arizona Senator, John McCain, in a race with a dynamic young Democratic presidential candidate, Barack Obama, and a far more competent vice-presidential candidate than his Rival.
The 2012 victory was even more important because it came after an initial presidential debate in the Republican candidates Mitt Romney had dramatically exceeded expectationsA development that led experts to speculate that President Obama and Vice President Biden could actually be defeated. The Republicans only “knew” that Ryan, whom they still imagined as their cool, sleek “think tank”, would draw circles around the gawking Democrat who time magazine recommended had a brain that was “wired for more than the usual amount of stupidity”. It didn’t work out that way. Biden swung out so hard when the two contestants met in Danville, Kentucky that Ryan didn’t know what hit him. It was all over when Ryan set up his Wall Street-approved Medicare “reform” program and Biden looked at the camera and said, “Guys, use your common sense: who do you trust?”
Biden, who will have his hands full debating the sly and cruel Trump this fall, wants his run mate to take down Pence as effectively as Palin and Ryan. The presidential debates will, of course, still matter most, but Democrats have to gain momentum at every turn and a pence from Harris will do it. And Biden knows Harris will destroy Pence. After all, she showed no mercy to Biden when they clashed at the most dramatic moment of the 2020 Democratic presidential debates.
A lot has been done Harris’ confrontation with Biden– during the first round of democratic debates in June 2019 – on statements he made to praise segregationist senators and his rejection of court-ordered school buses. The exchange in which Harris recalled her own experiences as “a little girl in California who was part of second grade to integrate her public schools” was aptly described by Vox how “The outstanding moment of the entire first debate.”
With masterful dexterity, Harris combined strong political criticism with a poignant personal history as a black American who grew up during the bus fights of the 1970s. Her command of the debate phase was so conspicuous that few honest observers debated the conclusion of The New Yorker: “Harris won the night. ”
Harris got a boost, but she did never overtook Biden. As the race gained momentum, it faded. Like Biden in 2008, she was a presidential candidate with obvious skills, but her campaign never figured out how to find a way to get nominated.
But here’s the twist. Even when she fell in the polls, Harris continued to excel in debating. It wasn’t just solid. She was convincing effective and memorable. She asserted herself against other candidates – when she attacked them and when she went after them – and just as importantly, she had problems with bold and quick-witted language. It wasn’t necessary to approve of Harris – and I often haven’t – to realize that if she had been nominated, she would have beaten Donald Trump in the fall 2020 debates.
A Politico review a November debate summed things up well:
Harris put in a solid performance, had plenty of talk time, and continued pounding the key message that she is best equipped to defeat Trump. She passionately appealed for her ability to “rebuild the Obama coalition” and bring black voters to justice – a critical part of Harris’ potential path to the presidency – and reprimanded Democrats “showing up in a church” during election season, however “the backbone of” neglect the Democratic Party. “
And she made it into the foreign policy debate, where the crowd laughed and cheered as she declared that the president got “punky” from North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.
The Harris campaign had its problems, as was well documented. The New York Times suggested that it “unraveledEven before she stopped. But if the high-season debates had been as important as they were in the fall, the strength of their presentations – not just in the first round but in the following ones – would have gone much further.
Joe Biden saw that. Even when some of his aides continued to refuse Harris to show their boss, Biden had the political insight and flexibility to see what the Californian had brought to the debates they faced – and the urgency Kamala Harris was in the debate will bring with Mike Pence and the rest of the 2020 campaign.