The debate scheduled to take place Wednesday night in Salt Lake City, Utah will constitute the most important one in vice-president Mike Pence and Sen. Kamala Harris’s political careers. As the race for the White House tightens with the election nearly 30 days away, Harris’s appearance will not only serve to further Biden’s chance at earning a spot in the Oval Office, but also foreshadow a presidential candidacy. Here are some ways Harris can win the debate during the final stretch to rally support for the Democratic presidential ticket.
Trump’s handling of the coronavirus has harmed his re-election chances, as polls indicate a growing disapproval of the president’s leadership during the last six months. At the debate, Trump and Pence’s management of the public health crisis will be a big issue, especially since the vice-president assumed the role of the head of the White House coronavirus task force. Harris said at the Democratic National Convention that Trump “doesn’t understand the presidency” and thinks it’s “all about him,” as he’s shown “a reckless disregard for the well-being of the American people.”
"And here's what you have to understand about the nature of a pandemic: It's relentless. You can't stop it with a tweet. You can't create a distraction and hope it'll go away. It doesn't go away," she added.
With more than 210,000 Americans killed by the virus and over 7.5 million infected, Harris will attempt to blast her political opponent as a failed leader of the top task force on the pandemic. Already Harris has said that Trump himself “was petty and vindictive” and “froze.”
Harris must also briefly detail Biden’s plan to curb the spread of the coronavirus and how it compares to Trump’s lack of nationally strategy. Biden’s plan calls for boosted testing and tracing by doubling the number of drive-through testing sites and creating at-home and instant tests to prevent spread during an incubation period, as well as implementing the Defense Production Act to ramp up personal protective equipment for cities and states across the country.
But Harris can’t be blind to the face that Trump now has the deadly disease. The California Senator is expected to be sympathetic towards the president, as sources familiar with the campaign’s approach to the Veep debate told Axios, addressing Trump’s contraction of Covid-19 “because of the message they want to send Americans.”
As the first Black and Asian American and the third female vice presidential running mate on a major party ticket, Harris will surely seek to play the racial injustice card. Harris must ensure to these types of voters that the policing system will be restored to teach future and current law enforcement officials to be racially just, in hopes to abolish systemic racism in the sector completely.
"I think that Donald Trump and Bill Barr are spending full time in a different reality," Harris told CNN in early September, after Trump banned federal agencies from conducting workplace trainings on race. "The reality of America today is, what we have seen over generations and frankly since our inception, which is we do have two systems of justice in America."
Harris is known to be a flip-flopper on key issues and was even voted as the “most liberal compared to all senators” in 2016, according to GovTrack, the nonpartisan government watchdog -- that placement is even more left than her colleague Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). It’s unclear if she currently supports the more liberal Democratic proposals, but to respond to the “socialist” label, Harris will likely argue that she welcomes criticism and new ideas. Harris’s ability to morph ideology to meet the needs of the moment are actually crucial during this period of uncertainty.
Just days after Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died on Sept. 18, Trump and GOP leaders pushed for a White House effort to remonimate a justice to replace the vacant seat. The announcement spurred widespread uproar as filling the seat would occur amid two major crises and a competitive presidential election.
“They just want to jam this nomination through as fast as they can," Harris told supporters during a speech at Shaw University. "It’s called raw power. But President Trump and his party are about to learn something. They may think that it is they who have the power in this country, but they don’t. The American people are the ones who have the power. You have the power."
Harris may well pivot to the argument of: why would the Trump administration commit to such a nomination with less than a month until the election? Why not let voters decide when they select who gains the White House in November?
“Defund the Police” Movement:
The Trump administration continues to label the Democratic ticket to have a radical agenda that cuts funding towards the policing system. Although she’s joined policing legislation that bans choke holds, racial profiling and no-knock warrants and has been vocal on social media in regards to police misconduct, Harris says that she does not support the “defund the police” movement. Instead, she often refers to establishing well-funded schools, sustainable jobs and affordable housing to create safe neighborhoods, a perspective she formed with her law enforcement experience in California. Pence will likely swipe jabs at his political opponent for having a weak track record during her time as California’s attorney general, so Harris must champion her experience on-the-ground, working with police officers in the nation’s largest populated state, building reform and reducing police misconduct.
The Veep debate will not only test Harris’s response to key issues. It will also demonstrate whether she can camouflage her views with a political ideology that is more moderate than her own.
Rachel Bucchino is a reporter at the National Interest. Her work has appeared in The Washington Post, U.S. News & World Report and The Hill.
Image: Democratic U.S. vice presidential nominee and Senator Kamala Harris speaks in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S., October 2, 2020. REUTERS/David Becker/File Photo.