I saw two people who were oblivious to how annoying it is for voters to see politicians who — while perhaps well-versed in social studies — still managed to come up short on social skills.
The elephant in the room in Wednesday night’s vice presidential debate wasn’t an elephant at all. It was a zebra.
When Sen. Kamala Harris and Vice President Mike Pence took the stage, the contrast was as clear as black and white.
In fact, even before Harris and Pence arrived at Kingsbury Hall on the University of Utah campus in Salt Lake City, some commentators were euphemistically alluding to the fact that the candidates came from different backgrounds.
It’s a safe bet they weren’t talking about how the 61-year-old Pence is a product of Columbus, Indiana and 55-year-old Harris was — as she was sure to emphasize at one point — born in Oakland, California.
Riots, looting and systemic racism
After a tense summer of racial unrest in dozens of U.S. cities, and Americans more divided on the issue of race than we have been since the 1960’s, there they were on stage — albeit socially-distancing from one another: a Black woman and a White man.
This kind of matchup doesn’t happen every day. In fact, it has never happened before in all of U.S. history. Oh, there have been two other women nominated for vice president by a major political party — Geraldine Ferraro in 1984 and Sarah Palin in 2008. But they were both White.
Watching the start of the debate, I anticipated that fireworks were on the way — and, more than likely, over the issue of race.
Yet, for the first 30 minutes of the debate, race did not come up. Not at all, unless we count the time that Harris “humble bragged” that she had been the first person of color, and the first Black woman, to be elected California Attorney General.
Sen. Kamala Harris debates Vice President Mike Pence on Oct. 7, 2020, in Salt Lake City. (Photo: Robyn Beck/AFP via Getty Images)
You can see why neither Pence nor Harris would be all that eager to bring up such an emotional and divisive subject.
That task fell to USA Today’s Susan Page, the moderator, who finally asked a question that sparked a 10-minute discussion about race. Page wanted to know whether the candidates thought that justice had been done in the tragic case of Breonna Taylor.
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The 26-year-old emergency room technician was mistakenly shot and killed earlier this year by police in her own apartment in Louisville, Kentucky. A grand jury indicted only one of the officers, and the charges are for endangering Taylor’s neighbors — not for shooting her.
As to whether justice was done, Harris replied: “I don’t believe so.” She then quickly pivoted to discussing the killing of