‘Mr. Vice President, I’m Speaking’: Kamala Harris

Kamala Harris

Getty Democratic vice presidential nominee Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) participates in the vice presidential debate against U.S. Vice President Mike Pence at the University of Utah on October 7, 2020 in Salt Lake City, Utah. The vice presidential candidates only meet once to debate before the general election on November 3.

Vice President Mike Pence and Senator Kamala Harris’s vice-presidential debate Wednesday was somewhat of a contrast to the messy display put forth by President Donald Trump and Democratic Presidential nominee Joe Biden on September 29, in which there were so many interruptions on the debate stage that the debate commission said they may consider changing the rules going forward.

While that has yet to happen, Harris and Pence both cut into the other’s allotted time on occasion during the October 7 debate, but overall the VP candidate and the incumbent kept it civil.

However, on a couple of  occasions, Harris got the upper hand by firmly saying, “Mr. Vice President, I’m speaking.”

Harris Told the Vice President ‘I’m Speaking’ on 3 Occasions

Kamala Harris

GettyDemocratic vice presidential nominee Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) and U.S. Vice President Mike Pence were separated by plexiglass during the vice presidential debate on Oct. 7 in an effort to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

The first time Harris told Vice President Pence, “I’m speaking,” was when Pence cut-in as Harris was saying that it was wrong of the Trump administration to withhold information about the coronavirus from the American public when they first knew about it because as Trump told Bob Woodward, he wanted people to remain calm.

Harris was trying to make the point that it was wrong to not tell the public as soon as they knew the gravity of the situation. People panicked anyway, she said.

After Pence acquiesced to Harris’s statement that it was still her turn to speak, she continued, “I want to ask the American people, how calm were you when you were panicked about where you’re going to get your next roll of toilet paper? How calm were you when your kids were sent home from school and you didn’t know when they could go back? How calm were you when your children couldn’t see your parents because you were afraid they could kill them?”

The next time she told Pence, “Mr. Vice President, I’m speaking,” was when they were talking about tax cuts. That time, Pence did not acquiesce. He finished his point as Harris nodded and smiled until he stopped speaking, then she said her piece.

The third time Harris told Pence “Mr. Vice Presdident, I’m speaking,” was when Pence brought up whether Democrats would want to pack the courts if they gain power, a question Pence said neither Biden nor Harris would give a straight answer about.

There Is a Double Standard About Men & Women on the Debate Stage When it Comes to Interrupting

Harris is the third female to be on the debate stage as a Vice Presidential candidate and the first Black woman, but according to experts, women are historically judged differently than men in politics.

A New York Times 2019 article called “Interrupting Is Different for Men and Women, Even on a Debate Stage,” says that gender stereotypes play a big role in how debaters are perceived when they interrupt one another. They don’t mind so much when a male interrupts, chalking it up to being assertive, which is more acceptable in the minds of some than when a woman behaves in the same way.

Psychology professor, Adam M. Grant, at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, told the New York Times, “This means male candidates are free to interrupt, while female candidates face a double bind: stay silent and fail to be heard, or speak up and get judged as too aggressive.”

Harris is no stranger to being a woman in politics and how to navigate that world. She worked her way up the professional ladder, from the district attorney of San Fransisco to Attorney General of California to being elected a senator of that state, and now, she’s on the ticket to possibly become the first female and first Black woman vice president of the United States.

Pence, a skilled debater,  practiced his second vice presidential debate with a woman. According to Axios, he and Pam Bondi, former Attorney General of Florida, practiced debate questions and tactics at least two times for an hour and a half. Yet it’s unclear what measures they practiced regarding interruptions or speaking over one another, or how to best react to Harris’s pointed statements that it was her turn to speak.

Harris’s side, alternately, prepped for the debate in part by researching “how women are judged more on ‘likability’ and held to a higher standard to prove they’re qualified,” Axios reported.

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