Days before the presidential election, millennial voters consider the vice-presidential candidates too

Vice-presidential candidates Sen. Kamala Harris and Vice President Mike Pence

by Paapa Ewool, Kaylan Ware, JayJuan Shakur, Aliyah Thompson and Nichelle Robinson Hernandez

( – Given the ages of the two presidential nominees, former Vice President Joe Biden, 77, and President Donald Trump, 74, and because of the social justice issues that have been largely advocated by millennial voters, the youth constituency is eying vice presidential candidates Sen. Kamala Harris and Vice President Mike Pence alongside Biden and Trump as they make their decisions.

Their views were largely formed during the one vice presidential debate Oct. 7.

“Age and health are major factors for these presidential candidates, so knowing how these vice presidential candidates would lead is something that I wanted to hear more about,” said Adjoa Ewool, a recent Duke graduate who studied Psychology and German. Ewool felt that both candidates were being dishonest and misleading. “The way [Pence] is framing this administration’s response to the coronavirus is just not true at all. Saying that ‘Oh, 210,000 people are dead, but we’re still doing great.’ That’s just not true,” Ewool said. “I did have some issues with Kamala Harris’ stances as well. Her flip-flopping on banning fracking and her general stance on the future of policing in this country didn’t sit well with me.”

Because the first Biden-Trump debate was so venomous; especially with the pervasive interruptions, mostly by Trump, the Harris-Pence debate was met with more anticipation than vice presidential debates in previous elections. However, the vice-presidential debate was wrought with dodging of questions, lack of control from the moderator, and an insect – a fly – being the most memorable participant of the entire evening. A fly that sat on Pence’s hair near the end of the debate probably got more comments on social media than the debate itself.

“I thought Kamala did a good job representing Howard and the fly bit was funny,” said Aaron Oates, a Washington, D.C. medical student. “I feel like they both acted a lot like standard politicians when answering questions, but it didn’t really matter to me since I already voted.”

Arthur Cribbs, a Howard University senior journalism student from Los Angeles, watched much closer. “I personally felt that the candidates deflected several times throughout the debate, especially Mike Pence, so I’m not sure if I gained much perspective from a policy standpoint,” he said.

Cribbs believes Harris won the debate mainly because she rightly attacked the Trump administration on their slothful response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Ewool also thought Harris won simply based on debating skills and standards. “The way that Kamala spoke her full two minutes even while constantly getting interrupted by the moderator and Mike Pence – when the moderator never spoke over Pence – that, to me, was truly the black woman experience,” said Ewool, also a Black woman.

Jaylen Williams, a senior broadcast student at Howard, also noticed disrespect toward Harris.

“Pence tried to overtalk Senator Harris. But I think we are seeing now that women will not be mansplained to. It didn’t help Pence that he had an incredulous, know-it-all demeanor during the whole thing,” Williams said. “So, Kamala Harris definitely won that debate by being politically savvy and calm, even under interruption.”

Jada Buford, 22, a filmmaker from Chicago, also says Harris won the debate. “She was very focused on staying on point and answering the questions, unlike Pence. It actually seemed like at one point…she was the only one debating,” Buford said.

Not everyone agrees that Harris won the debate.

“As much as I like Kamala and I think her nomination for VP is historic, she tried to appeal more to emotion instead of just arguing the facts. She’s not a good debater,” said Donyel Hodges, 20, a Chicago Native who is a criminal justice student at Clark Atlanta University. “Pence appeared more calm but not really convincing to me. I’m still voting for Biden.”

Tracie Ivera, 21, a fashion design student from New York, says her watching the vice-presidential debate caused her to run out of options. “I thought the debate was filled with more information than the presidential debate. But I’m still not impressed. I’m still not voting either way,” she said.

Lily Robinson, 23, a program and research associate in New York City, said Harris displayed the conduct necessary in the largely male-driven world of politics.

“Harris’ composure when being met with the egotism that Pence displayed about his work and the work of President Trump showed the actions that are needed for an effective and fair debate,” Robinson said. “However, Harris’ ‘I’m speaking’ stood out to me and was symbolic of the way the American public had a lack of respect and consideration in the last four years of politics.”

The average life expectancy for a White male in America is 78.6 years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Therefore, although both Biden and Trump say they are in good health, some political observers believe the vice-presidential candidates should be watched closely.

“Not only did the debate attest to the political character of both candidates but it also challenged them to respond critically to the concerns of a nation in crisis, desperately looking for leadership,”  said Brianna Nargiso, 21, a teacher in Hollywood, Fla.

Shannon Jones, 31, an executive assistant in Alexandria, Va. concludes that even after what appeared to be a debate that was unfair to Harris, the American electorate will be politically astute enough to choose wisely between the presidential candidates.

“Pence consistently dodged the moderator’s questions, instead speaking about whatever he wanted to, often without even logical redirection, and going well over his given speaking time,” Jones recalls. “My takeaway and hope after watching is that our citizens will assess the professional character of what we saw play out that night, and more importantly to do their own research on current events and candidates in order to inform their own opinions and decisions as we count down to Election Day.”


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