By Ralph Nader
Vice President Pence “debated” Senator Kamala Harris in a way that reminded voters of how he and his boss, Donald Trump, have lawlessly misgoverned since 2017. Pence arrogantly and continually broke through the time rules that he and the Republicans agreed to obey.
Again and again, Pence blew through the two minute, one minute, and 30-second limits so he could extend his fabrications and phony promises. Again and again, moderator Susan Page of USA Today would say “Thank you” five or six times to get Pence to stop each infraction. Pence also interrupted Harris in mid-sentence, against the rules.
This boorishness should have been anticipated by the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD). The CPD has put on presidential debates since its creation by the Republican and Democratic Parties in 1984 to replace the League of Women Voters when they couldn’t control the League’s independence (See No Debate by George Farah and his website, opendebates.org ).
That said, what about Susan Page, known as an aggressive veteran journalist (especially against Third-Party candidates)? Why did Page allow Pence to run over her repeatedly and violate the time rules? Why after several overtimes by Pence did she not admonish him to stay within the agreed-to time limits?
It was only after an exasperated Harris went briefly overtime twice near the end of the session that Ms. Page told both speakers to follow the rules. Pathetic. She lost control of the debate to abuser Pence and owes the public an explanation.
On the substance of the presentations, Senator Harris used three arrows in her quiver when she had a dozen, well known to her, that went unused.
Most astonishing was Harris not nailing Trump/Pence and Mitch McConnell for blocking the House-passed stimulus and relief bill (last May under Speaker Nancy Pelosi) that is desperately needed by tens of millions of Covid-19 impacted Americans and by hard-pressed millions of small businesses. This callous trio is willing to keep furloughed or laid-off workers from receiving $600 a week until January and stall the delivery of aid to hard-pressed local agencies, schools, healthcare facilities, the Postal Service, and other stimuli to a sagging economy.
As a lawyer and former California Attorney General, Harris avoided calling out Trump/Pence for breaking and bending the law and committing many ongoing impeachable violations of our Constitution. While Pence kept touting “de-regulation,” Harris didn’t decode that deception by illustrating the many health, safety, and economic protections destroyed by the Trump/Pence regime that favors Wall Street over Main Street. Where was the talk about the “kitchen table” necessities on the minds of Americans daily?
Harris stressed health care, but not full Medicare for All, and let Pence get away with lies about how clean our air and water are and the overall health of the environment. Under Trump – law enforcement has been brazenly abandoned. Protecting our food, drugs, air, water, soil, and controlling greenhouse gases have been left to the whims of greedy corporate outlaws putting profits over safety.
Pence would totally ignore Page’s questions and go off on rehearsed and deceptive shout-outs. He used this escape tactic to refuse to answer Page’s crucial question about agreeing to a peaceful transition of power should the Republicans lose the presidency. Page chose not to follow up or even say “You didn’t answer the question, but we have to move on.” Once Harris used this brushoff technique when asked where she and Biden stood on expanding the number of Supreme Court Justices.
After the “debate” ended, it occurred to me that Harris completely ignored the progressive agendas of Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren and millions of their supporters. There was no mention of the corporate crime wave and accelerating control over the people by immune global corporations. There was no mention of strengthening union organizing laws (such as the simple “card check” promised and forgotten by Obama/Biden in 2008). There was not even a mention of a federal $15 minimum wage, lifting the stagnant wages of millions of women and men, passed last year in the House and blocked by the Senate Republicans satisfied with the frozen $7.25 per hour
If Bernie Sanders ever thought his massive mobilization of voters for the primaries in 2016 and 2020 was going to move the dominant corporate Democrats, he must be having second thoughts after both Biden and Harris, in two debates before huge audiences, turned their backs on the fast-growing progressive wing of their Party. There was not even a nod to Bernie and his many supporters.
Biden/Harris may not be able to be so dismissive of progressive Democrats and Independents should they take control of Congress next year. But don’t bet on it.