Being Right: Mess on Aisle One, Calling Pence For Clean-Up

There are two words that immediately come to my mind when I attempt to summarize the first presidential debate of 2020 to my friends that opted out of the experience, and those words are: dumpster fire. The entire debate, from start to finish, lacked any sense of decorum and purpose. It felt like I was watching a Transformers movie; laced with potential, but ultimately a huge disappointment. I continually thought to myself, throughout the entirety of the debate, “this cannot get worse.” And every single time I mouthed those words, I was proven wrong. 

The debate consisted of two old white men belittling each other based on personal grievances, rather than actually fulfilling the purpose of the event: presenting policy positions. Calling that event a “debate” is a disservice to the very definition of the word. It was an event riddled with interruptions and inconsistencies. President Donald Trump resorted to his old 2016 debate tactic of personal belittling and it caused more harm than good. Even when presented with the opportunity to present the facts and figures behind certain arguments, he just does not recall them or implement them in the correct manner.

President Trump also missteps in making his victories personal, which then leads him to miss the opportunities to bring statistics in to support his often boisterous claims. Trump fell into old habits and did not let Biden stumble on his own. Trump could have stayed quiet and let Biden stumble and fumble, but instead, he Biden handed the undecided voter with his constant interjections and lack of decorum. Ultimately, America lost that night. 

After setting the dumpster fire ablaze, the American public turned to the vice presidential (VP) debate for clarity. Vice President Mike Pence had one job going into this sole VP debate: be a mop and clean up the mess. Vice President Pence is on this ticket to provide the Trump campaign with conservatism and reverence to be the yin to Trump’s unconventional and energetic yang. In these last four years, the American public has come to know the Vice President in glimpses, as he serves as a background character in the Trump administration. During the vice presidential debate, Pence fulfilled his purpose: be smooth and polished. 

Vice President Pence is a more conventional politician and showcased that during this debate. Some may say that this debate was “boring” or “uneventful,” but there was actually more to be learned in this debate than that of the presidential candidates. Politico writes, “Sen. Kamala Harris and Vice President Mike Pence felt at times like a 90-minute throwback to another moment in American politics: two professional, disciplined politicians delivering carefully engineered takedown lines, smiling politely while dodging inconvenient questions”. This debate was everything the presidential debate was not. Vice President Pence took the time to discuss the pain of the COVID-19 pandemic, to congratulate Senator Harris on her victory and mentioned the beauty of bipartisanship through his anecdote of late Justice Scalia and Justice Ginsberg. Vice President Pence focused more on the policy, rather than defending Trump and/or the Administration’s positions. He ended the debate with a message of Grand Old Party (GOP) unification, and hope for the nation. 

Vice President Pence provided the American public with an alternative view of the Trump Administration, one that speaks to the caliber of individuals surrounding the President. This debate articulated the stark differences in the campaigns based on policy positions, not personal vendettas. There was more to learn from the performances of Vice President Pence and Senator Kamala Harris than President Trump and Vice President Biden. The first presidential debate was completely on-brand with 2020 as it was laced with unpredictability and disillusionment, whereas the vice presidential debate served as both a fire extinguisher and a glimmer of hope.