When Plexiglass Becomes a Debate

Maggie Connolly ’21

Opinions Editor

Donald Trump’s response to Covid has clearly already been a colossal failure. Now, on top of his failure to the country, he has failed himself and many of his political peers and close advisors. Trump’s positive Covid test last Friday shocked the world, but it should not have. He has taken few precautions himself and rarely cautioned the American people, but again, we already knew that.

The notorious Rose Garden event at the White House celebrating is being deemed the “super-spreader” event that doled out the virus to at least 23 individuals. According to the New York Times, the White House has decided not to contact trace, despite clear evidence that guests were not wearing masks or social distancing.

This is a clear violation of the C.D.C.’s recommendations, but that is not the Trump administration’s only violation of C.D.C. guidelines. Mike Pence has tested negative multiple times, but still has not quarantined for fourteen days, which is the length of what we know now to be the incubation period the coronavirus. However, this Wednesday, Mike Pence got up on the debate stage with Senator Kamala Harris.

I cannot tell you how this debate went, as I am writing this before it occurs, but I can tell you it should not have occurred in the first place. The Biden and Harris campaign has requested a plexiglass divider. The divider has been agreed to by Pence’s team after lots of back and forth. They will be separated by 12 feet and 3 inches, which, according to the Times, is five inches shorter than the distance that was between Trump and Vice President Biden in their first debate, and their moderator will sit the same distance away. Keep in mind – this is all indoors.

Pence’s aides have criticized and ridiculed Harris for asking for extra precautions, like the plexiglass barrier on his side of the stage at the debate. Katie Miller, Pence’s aide said, “If Senator Harris wants to use a fortress around herself, have at it” (The New York Times). There’s an implication here, and there have been from Pence’s aides, that a plexiglass barrier is a sign of weakness – again, not surprising considering the narrative the Trump team and administration have been spinning regarding masks, treatment, and the virus as a whole.

The idea that a form of protection from a deadly, highly contagious disease might be considered a sign of weakness by aides to the Vice President of the United States is not only disturbing, but highly concerning. If Pence cannot rise above the plexiglass barrier and get his point across in a powerful, meaningful way, maybe he should not be second in command at all.

The mere existence of the debate when so many people in the White House’s political circle in person and indoors is concerning. It shows no regard for Biden, Harris, or their families, as well as any other staffers of the event or journalists in attendance. It is unacceptable, but I would expect nothing less from an administration who values the economy and the appearance of strength over the lives, health and medical care of its own people.

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