What the presidential and vice presidential debates have taught us


The results of the second presidential debate of the 2016 election were something we all should have seen coming. Donald Trump attempted to impose his masculinity on his opponent, Hillary Clinton, much like he had (to great success) in the previous Republican primary debates.

However, Mrs. Clinton was not Rubio, Cruz, or Bush. She refused to be intimidated by Mr. Trump’s methods, fully aware of the fact that public opinion of her rises after viewers see her standing resolute against a barrage of masculine arrogance. To many female voters, what they saw on stage, a man trying to take advantage of his perceived power against a woman, was an all too real representation of what they witnessed in their workplaces daily.

Mrs. Clinton did an admirable job reeling in Mr. Trump throughout the debate, hitting him where he was most sensitive: his father’s loan, his business, his name (Mrs. Clinton called Mr. Trump “Donald” throughout the debate, much to his evidently growing irritation). True to his nature, Mr. Trump veered off from the issues and wasted valuable time going on tirades and defending his honor from her attacks, remarking at one point that “I think my strongest asset, by far, is my temperament.”

All of this was regrettable for the Trump campaign, which had started off the evening so brilliantly. Mr. Trump did a masterful job painting his opponent as a gear of the political machine, an endorser of NAFTA, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and other forms of globalism that the populist movement has spit on this election year. His repeated attack asking Mrs. Clinton why she could not implement the changes she was outlining on stage in her decades of Washington experience struck a chord with viewers who are now tired of political insiders.

However, as the debate wore on, Mrs. Clinton finally succeeded in bringing Mr. Trump off message and off victory. By dragging him through a trail of personal insults and grievances she successfully baited him into revealing his aggressive, rude nature that contrasted with her presidential, reserved look.

Now let us move to the vice presidential debate, where campaign motivations somehow became clearer.

The first and only vice presidential debate concluded with a whimper—a white, middle-aged whimper, if you will. Senator Tim Kaine and Governor Mike Pence, referred to affectionately as America’s stepdad and that one grandfather who can’t stop blurting racist and sexist comments periodically (respectively), squared off in a battle nobody bothered to watch.

This really was not the vice presidential candidates’ fault; both had tasks that required clearing their candidate’s name, and that was not going to be done in fiery exchange.

However, something felt off with Senator Kaine from the beginning of the debate. While Governor Pence brought a stately, calm demeanor to his answers, Mr. Kaine continuously interrupted him with a stream of pointed, and frankly irritating, questions. “Well, what about what Donald Trump said, sir?” “Well, what about what he said last week?” “Well, what about his?”

Mr. Pence’s face throughout the debate seemed to be just one question: “Well, what about you shut up and let me deliver a coherent sentence?” It was uncharacteristic of Mr. Kaine, who is an accomplished debater and public speaker, to appear so overcharged and hyperactive, an image that contrasted harshly with Mr. Pence’s reserved demeanor. However, a devastating ad released just hours after the debate showed why Mr. Kaine had done what he did; all he had to do was leave video record of all of Donald Trump’s outrageous comments for the campaign to use. The political ad juxtaposed Mr. Kaine’s recitations of Trump’s statements with Pence’s inevitable denials, of which there were many, with a concluding clip showing Trump say the precise statement Pence had denied. In hindsight, it was brilliant.

Essentially, the vice presidential debate resembled two cars driving on their own roads: Mr. Pence sought to clear up his running mate’s name, and Mr. Kaine did his part for the campaign (videos).


Dear Mr. Pence:

Shame on you, sir. Shame, also, on the people calling for your nomination for President instead of Donald Trump’s. Those who think they’re doing the country a service by writing your name in on the ballot must be delusional; all they are doing is trading in a sexist, misogynistic, and frankly disgusting human being for another sexist, homophobic, and frankly disgusting human being—in a better-fitting suit, though, I’ll admit.

Has the country forgotten that you were the one who signed, into Indiana law, a “religious freedom” law that allowed businesses to deny service to gay people? That you were the one who signed one of the most restrictive abortion laws in the country, enabling restrictions the Supreme Court found unconstitutional? That you blocked the resettlement of Syrian refugees in Indiana and tried to cut off federal aid from refugees already living there (until a federal judge overthrew your actions)?

You supported Mr. Trump through hard times, stuck with your man because of your “principled beliefs”—then left him alone when you saw most people were done with him. Like a true carpetbagger, you leeched off of Mr. Trump’s popularity when you could and bolstered your national standing, all for personal gain (not that I feel sorry for Mr. Trump in any way, but that doesn’t excuse your attitude at all).

Republican leaders are calling on their constituents to write you in as the presidential candidate come November because you’re convenient—you never stir up headlines or controversy when it matters. I commend you for that; that’s a very politician-like thing to do, like, say, a Hillary Clinton style (you know, the one you denounced every time Senator Kaine asked about Mr. Trump’s taxes during the debate).

You must have a hard time fitting in that suit of yours, Mr. Pence, because you must wake up a different man every morning. The face you wear when you meet the public must come in handy when you try to pass yourself off as a conciliatory candidate who in fact is the worst news possible for every group in America other than white, religious (the right kind only), middle-aged men from Indiana.