Though expected to pack less excitement than last week’s Clinton v. Trump matchup, the VP debate succeeded in being a productive conversation regarding the path the U.S. government should take in the next four years. Sure, there were facts in need of checking, as well as words put into mouths, but this contest was truly a reprieve from that of the two unfortunate choices for President.
Naturally, the candidates touched on race relations and the role of police. Kaine touted his experience as a former mayor and governor in Virginia, pointing out that he lowered the crime rate. Mike Pence, unfortunately, began with the “my uncle was a cop” bit . . . yes, this is cut from the same mold as the classic “my goldfish’s mother’s godfather was an immigrant and *blah blah blah* the American Dream!” move. But aside from this employment of an overused political relatability grab, the candidates actually found common ground on this issue. Tim Kaine brought up the strategy of community policing, which is a system in which police spend more time in a community getting to know its inhabitants in order to generate trust. Mike Pence readily agreed with this approach. While it is good to know where the candidates stand on this issue, a question does arise of whether community policing can actually be implemented by federal legislation, or if it is simply a choice made by individual police departments and the officers that make them up.
Another obvious topic of debate was ISIS and how to stop them. Tim Kaine began this segment by refusing to admit that the threat of terrorism is greater now than when President Obama took office, even in light of the recent emergence of homegrown terrorism. This display of party loyalty certainly hurt Kaine. On the other side, Pence reiterated his campaign’s stance on intensified screening for immigrants and refugees. Sadly, it seemed that though both candidates recognized radicalization of U.S. citizens as a problem, neither provided any real plans to combat it. This simply shows just how complicated an issue this is. Hopefully, a solution is brought forward soon.
Terrorism and law enforcement were the focal points of the debate, but the candidates touched on many other policy differences throughout the night, as well as the subject of their faith. Both men are Christians and are said to be regular churchgoers. The conversation about how faith influences politics quickly shifted to a debate on abortion. Tim Kaine made it clear that he and Clinton favor the right of a woman to have an abortion. Mike Pence clarified his running mate’s stance on punishing women for making such a choice, but expressed deep regret for the undervaluing of human life in this country.
Debate style was a popular topic of conversation on post-debate talk shows. Tim Kaine interrupted Mike Pence consistently throughout the debate, and this may affect his likability, especially for viewers who were unfamiliar with him. Meanwhile, Pence seemed to exude confidence through his answers, although he could have done without chuckling during some of his opponent’s responses. Overall, Pence seemed the more comfortable debater.
The candidates also discussed their running mates extensively throughout the debate. Tim Kaine had clearly set a goal to force Mike Pence to defend some of Donald Trump’s more outrageous quotations. This was a good strategy, because oddly enough, there appeared to be inconsistencies between the policies that Donald Trump has laid out and the ones Mike Pence described at the debate. It was almost as if Pence was clarifying to voters what they hope Trump means by his policies. This led to a very strange moment, when Mike Pence seemed to apologize for his new boss’ rash statements, saying, “things don’t always come out exactly the way he means them, but I’m telling you what the policy of our administration would be.” This was surreal, because it is easy to imagine Mike Pence wanting to say something like this, but hard to believe he actually did it. One has to wonder what Trump was thinking when he heard Mike Pence basically deem himself Trump’s policy translator. Pence, too, did not go without criticizing his opposition’s running mate. He initiated conversation about the legitimacy of the Clinton Foundation, something that may make voters increasingly uneasy about Hillary’s trustworthiness.
This Vice Presidential debate will not determine the election, but voters should remember: if something happened to the elected president, the most powerful job in the world would fall into the lap of either Tim Kaine or Mike Pence. This debate may have provided a glimpse of how each man would handle that role.