Saturday, January 16, 2021
Elections Campaign Trail Harris plays to the center; Pence plays to the base

Harris plays to the center; Pence plays to the base

It's sad that the Democratic Party feels it has to defend fracking and hide from the Green New Deal.


Well, at least it was relatively civil. Most of the time, Sen. Kamala Harris and Vice President Mike Pence didn’t interrupt each other.

But we saw some remarkable statements, starting with Pence refusing to acknowledge that climate change is caused by human activity – and like his boss, refusing to say that he will accept the outcome of the election.

And Harris, representing the Democrats, insisted repeatedly that they will continue issuing permits for fracking.

“The climate is changing,” Pence said. “The question is what is the cause and what to do about it.”

Actually, the question is not what the cause is; we know that. And what Pence said to do about it is embrace natural gas, which is a fossil fuel.

This is no surprise; it’s what the Trump administration has been saying all along.

Pence, of course, talked about a “free-market economy.” He talked about “climate alarmists” and (of course) about “forest management.”

But at the same time, it’s pretty clear that the GOP has poll-tested the term “Green New Deal,” because Pence over and over accused Joe Biden of supporting that idea. And Harris repeatedly said that Biden is not supporting a Green New Deal.

She also said, at least three times, that Biden “would not ban fracking.”

That’s a change from what Harris said during the debates – and it’s kind of a sad moment for the United States that the Democratic Party candidate has to defend fracking.

Both candidates did what campaign advisors often tell politicians to do in high-stakes debates: Don’t answer the question you were asked. Answer the question you want to answer.

So Harris declined to say whether she and Biden would press to expand the size of the Supreme Court if Trump’s appointee is confirmed before the election. Instead, she talked about how Trump had “packed” the federal courts with unqualified right-wing ideologues.

She turned the discussion to the potential of the High Court overturning the Affordable Care Act.

When Pence tried to talk about the environment and “following the science,” Harris caught him: When Trump was told earlier this summer about the scientific explanations for the California wildfires, he said “what does science know?” Pence had no response.

Pence was on the defensive from the start because, as several commentators have put it, he had to defend the indefensible, starting with Trump’s response to COVID.

An he kept trying to interrupt Harris, who kept him off balance by saying “Mr. Vice President, I’m talking.”

Oddly, Harris didn’t focus on the lack of an economic bailout to help struggling workers; instead, she hit Trump and Pence for failing to let the American people know how serious the virus was back in February.

In fact, other than saying the Democrats would repeal the Trump tax cuts (for anyone making more than $400,000 a year) there was no talk of economic inequality at all.

Instead, Harris followed the centrist Democratic campaign plan perfectly. And Pence spoke almost entirely to the Trump base – which keeps getting smaller and smaller.

Tim Redmond
Tim Redmond has been a political and investigative reporter in San Francisco for more than 30 years. He spent much of that time as executive editor of the Bay Guardian. He is the founder of 48hills.


  1. One word: Pennsylvania. At the time it looked like Biden’s lead in Pennsylvania was getting a little shaky. Why startle them?
    In any case, they can have their cake and eat it too. They can regulate fracking wells to eliminate methane emissions and groundwater pollution. That would at worst make fracking cleaner and at best uneconomical.

  2. @simba – We are in a climate emergency. Who defined this “whole point on fracking” as gradualism, exactly? There’s already too much carbon in the air, gradual reduction of adding more is a stupid goal.

  3. Kamala Harris knows how to win elections. The whole point on fracking is to gradually phase it out over a period of time while substituting clean energy, not ban it in one day. She should have said that. When Pence says “Trump is a business man ” she should have said “Trump is a failed businessman.” But she did get some good lines in. Pence looked bedraggled and worried.

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