The Vice Presidential Debate: 90 Minutes I’ll Never Get Back

On Tuesday, Oct. 4, I ordered a pizza and settled in my recliner for what had been promised to be the dullest political event of the election season: the Vice Presidential Debate between Mike Pence and a guy whose name I could only faintly remember, Tim Kaine. I figured it couldn’t be any less valuable than the crap-chute we called a Republican Primary, and I watched those debates. However, what I observed was not dull; it was in fact very irritating. It bordered infuriating.

Before the debate even began, I had to sit through ten minutes of a member of the Trump campaign, A.J. Delgado, describe America as having “fallen in love” with Donald Trump, a person who has been regarded as one of the least liked presidential candidates in modern history. She then continued to bash Hillary Clinton for not running a campaign that fit in with “Judeo-Christian values.” Her thin grasp on what voters, especially millennials, are looking for in a leader would have been comical had it not been rather scary.

I had anticipated perhaps learning a thing or two about these two candidates or even some discussion about their previous political careers. The event that followed really offered little insight into who these two men were and what would happen if they became leader of the free world. Essentially, the debate was ninety minutes of attacks on the presidential candidates and sad attempts to divert questions away from those topics. If I wanted to watch an hour and a half of old white men talking in circles about faith and Ronald Reagan, I’d go to my grandfather’s nursing home and talk to his buddies Abe and Gary.

What left the best impression on me and was actually very funny was Mike Pence’s ridiculous choice of words in describing his running mate. Within the first eight minutes Pence used the phrases “bombastic and colorful” to describe the Republican Nominee. Now, I am aware that Pence probably wasn’t an English major; however, I put some weight into the idea that a person who participates in a campaign for a party that has long insisted that English become America’s national language should have a strong grasp on the English language himself. On that note, I think it is worth pointing out that the word bombastic means, according to Merriam-Webster, “pompous, overblown.” The debate had just begun and already Mike Pence had accidentally summed up Trump’s character in a single word. I am baffled that he thought this was a compliment.

Tim Kaine inspired bittersweet emotions in me. Initially, his prepared speeches made me forget the question that he had just been asked. In his defense, he did an exceptional job of steering the direction of the debate. He repeatedly defended Clinton and sold her as a tough negotiator willing to “work across the aisle” and across international borders. All the while, he kept the pressure on Pence for supporting a candidate like Donald Trump. Kaine repeatedly asked Pence to defend Trump’s position on a myriad of issues. One of the most irritating moments of the night came when Kaine brought up Trump’s comments on women being punished for abortions. Mike Pence can stand there and shake his head all that he wants, but I sat in Park Bar in Detroit and watched as a the entire place came to a staggering halt while we watched the Republican nominee say that there needs to be “some form of punishment” for women who get abortions.

My advice to the entire Republican Party is that they need to adapt to modern times. You cannot win over the hearts and minds of the next generation of voters with these outdated ideologies. If I hear the phrase “War on Coal” ever again after that debate, it will be a thousand times too many. Seriously, Mike Pence, people want clean energy alternatives. Millennials believe in climate change, and guess what, so does the pope.

Pence continued to sell the narrative that it is a dangerous time to live in America and the world. He had the audacity to accuse the Clinton campaign of using scare tactics. I watched that fear rally the GOP called a convention and I have never seen a bigger glass house. The majority of the debate was simply a continuation of that convention and the first presidential debate, in which Hillary has been blamed for absolutely everything wrong with the country and the world. It is as if the Republican Party has forgotten how much they hate Obama and has chosen to cast Hillary Clinton as the secret mastermind for the entire Obama administration. Not to mention that they already equate her with all of the wrongs and missteps of her husband’s administration. Even the language Pence used throughout was consistent with a fear mongering campaign. The theme of a “stifled” and “weakened America” dominated the majority of his talking points.

When the conversation entered the territory of Trump’s tax returns we were all treated with much more of the same. Pence claims that Trump is going to release his tax returns “after the audit is over.” The election is November eighth. How about offering the American people and American journalists, who should be supported and respected, not degraded, the opportunity to fulfill their duties to American society and release them with adequate time to examine them before we vote.

As the debate meandered on, the discussion moved into our law enforcement and institutional racism. While both candidates acknowledge that we have a prison system in need of reform, it was painfully obvious to me that Pence failed to grasp basic themes about discrimination. He denied implicit biases and even accused the Democratic Party of seizing upon tragedy for political gain.

While Kaine insisted upon “building bonds between community and police,” Pence agreed with him and then moved again into attacking the opposing party. He accused Democrats of capitalizing on the ideas of “isms:” racism, sexism, etc. This moment was such a clear demonstration of the lack of concern and understating from conservatives regarding the concept of discrimination. Mike Pence is so much a product of his own privilege that the concept of equality looks to him like persecution.

It is also rather ironic that a party that refuses to acknowledge that implicit biases exist within all of us should be so quick to shout about biased moderators. All I could think the entire debate was where was Elaine Quijano during the presidential debate? At one point she even told both candidates, “The people at home can’t understand you when you talk over each other.” She was incredibly fair and reasonably patient with both candidates. Unfortunately, Republicans are the party that cried foul. Even if Trump loses, his campaign and supporters will most likely claim that the evil Clintons fixed the election.

So here we are, another debate come and gone. Only two more to go. I’ll watch them, complain about them, then ultimately never get those hours back. All I can say for sure is that whether we end up with Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton, I am ready for this election cycle to end. If we do end up with a Trump-Pence win, I will prepare for civility in this country to end.

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