Here’s my talking heads, political junkie analysis of last night’s debate between Pence and Harris:
I think the Democrats’ strategy during last night’s debate was simply “don’t screw up.” In other words, since their lead is in double digits and may well widen even further, avoid saying anything to prevent that from happening. Harris seemed to follow that strategy, which left her with a number of missed opportunities:
- She could have pointed out that the same way that Pence was flouting the debate rules that he had in effect agreed to, in that same way his team is threatening to flout the rules of the US elections and refusing to recognize the outcome.
- She was okay on the issue of Covid 19, but how could she miss? She was handed the opportunity of knocking it out of the ballpark when Pence ducked the question of why the US death rate is so much higher than all other wealthy nations, including Canada. She failed to hammer at that question.
- She also failed to stress that by their actions they have misled millions through refusing to wear a mask in public. She ignored the Republicans’ killing of any new stimulus package and raise the $600/week supplemental unemployment. I suspect that’s because the Democrats are getting a lot of pressure from their corporate sponsors to let that question die.
- Same on the issue of global climate change. She missed the opportunity to point out that Trump has called it a “hoax”. Also, while Pence talked about science, he also said something to the effect that it’s an open question.
- On Breonna Taylor, Harris failed to point out that several of the grand jurors are now speaking out about how the prosecutor didn’t really try. As part of the system itself, though, Harris didn’t want to really throw too much doubt into it.
- She also failed to hammer Pence on the issue of abortion, not pointing out that while he and the Republicans talk about “freedom”, they want the government to regulate the most personal decisions a woman can make about her own body. I suspect that failure was due to the Democrats’ attempt to win over some of the right wing Christian voters. But she could have also really hammered them on that issue because the antibody medicine Trump took was developed through testing it on fetal tissue!
- The most vulnerable issue for Biden/Harris is that of “packing” the Supreme Court. My suspicion is that, given Biden’s history of compromising with the Republicans he doesn’t plan to do so but wants to leave that open as a means of threatening the (in)Justices.
The Democrats should insist that the moderators have a “mute” button. But, again, they have a long history of not going for the jugular.
It’s true that Harris had to contend with the prejudice against women, and a black woman at that. Specifically, this means that coming on too strong would have led to her being labeled as a “b____”. But she could have dealt with this by saying what should have been said with a smile. So, overall, I’d say it was maybe 55-45 for Harris. Given the opportunities, that’s pretty pitiful. (I wrote this before looking at the polls. A CNN poll says that people thought Harris won by about a 60-40 margin. Unsurprisingly, women thought so by 70-30. Do you think any women reacted to the scene of a man talking over not one but two women – Harris PLUS the debate moderator?)
I also have to wonder whether the Democrats don’t want to really wipe out the Republicans. If they did so, who would they use as a foil in the case that they win the presidency plus a majority in the Senate? Who could they blame for not doing even a fraction of what’s needed?