Pence Can Win this Debate by Letting Ohio Know about Harris' Record of Radicalism

Ken Blackwell is Senior Fellow for Human Rights and Consitutional Government at Family Research Council. This article appeared in The Ohio Star on October 7, 2020. 

Vice President Mike Pence has a relatively straightforward job to do: help the American people understand the true nature of Senator Kamala Harris.

As the two meet on the debate stage in Salt Lake City, Harris is still introducing herself to a large portion of the electorate. The Biden campaign no doubt prefers it that way, because the Democratic vice presidential hopeful’s California-centric career offers relatively little that would appeal to most Americans in the Heartland. The first and only vice presidential debate represents an opportunity for Harris to present herself in relatable terms — the candidate who proclaims that “Tupac is the greatest rapper alive” and campaigns in Timberland boots — to an audience that is largely unfamiliar with her background as a ruthless California prosecutor and the only U.S. Senator with a voting record to the left of Vermont democratic-socialist Bernie Sanders.

The Vice President will have no such opportunity. Unlike Harris, Mike Pence is a well-known quantity in the American political consciousness, especially here in the Midwest, where he spent 15 years as an anchor of traditional Christian conservatism and fiscal restraint before being elevated to the vice presidency. Since then, he’s distinguished himself primarily as a committed and effective spokesman for President Trump’s America First agenda, though Democrats continue to focus their criticism on his religious views.

No doubt Harris will endeavor to hit Pence where her side believes he’s vulnerable — on issues such as abortion, religious freedom, and traditional marriage. But most voters here in Ohio are already well aware from his years in Congress and as the governor of neighboring Indiana that Mike Pence is unequivocally pro-life and believes Christians should not be forced to violate their religious beliefs to appease sexual minorities and novel family arrangements.

The same cannot be said about Harris’s record. Outside of California, her habit of using the powers of her previous elected offices to build a name for herself is not widely known. How many people in Ohio know that she threatened to lock up the parents of truant school children before she became a U.S. Senator? For that matter, how many people are aware that Kamala Harris tried to disqualify a judicial nominee because he was a member of the Knights of Columbus?

Even the far-left record Harris has compiled over the course of this very campaign season — such as advocating for decriminalizing prostitution, “defunding the police,” and letting convicts vote from their prison cells, as well as comparing U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to the Ku Klux Klan — isn’t well known to those who aren’t committed followers of national politics. Neither is her commitment to the policy of letting criminals go free without posting bail, and encouraging supporters to donate money to bail violent rioters out of jail.

That general unfamiliarity gives Mike Pence an opportunity to define Harris to the American public before we decided whether to place her one heartbeat of a frail septuagenarian away from the presidency.

Vice President Pence should view his role in the debate as that of an educator, exposing the true nature of Kamala Harris to public scrutiny. Her record is out there, and if more people in Ohio know about it after the debate, Pence will have won hands down.