The Debate Two Ways
Who Won Depends on What Your Side Tells You to Think
There were three takes from the Vice Presidential debate last night. Left, Right and the honest one. The honest one won’t be making it into any of the headlines or status updates or tweets you read, depending on which side of the political aisle you fall.
When Trump debated Biden, there was a clear failure on Trump’s part that not even those who support him could deny. But with Harris and Pence, there were subtle differences between the two such that each side could declare they won and be fairly plausible.
Immediately the left mobilized into their default with all things Trump: attack, bully, humiliate, shame, accuse. Pence mansplained! Pence was insulting to Harris. Pence lied. But none of that could compete with a fly who happened to land on Pence’s white hair and after that it was Pence is a piece of shit because flies only land on shit (not true) and that Pence is the Devil himself and Lord of the Flies. It went on and on from there. There wasn’t much Pence said in his debate that could be attacked, as he said they would follow the science on climate change - which was the one place they would have had an opening. By the end of the night the Biden team was selling fly swatters.
If you did not watch the debate you would imagine the mild mannered Pence, as he was in 2016, behaved as badly as Trump had during his debate.
Watching the left’s treatment of Pence is yet another reminder that our side is too easily given over to dehumanization and cruelty and how that works against us. Against us, you might ask, Biden is way ahead in the polls. That could change and change pretty quickly.
Trump dehumanizes people constantly. That is what he does. That is who he is. But I’m not sure, I’ve never been sure, that the right response to this is mirror that level of cruelty and abuse. His calling Kamala Harris a “monster” this morning is a good example of that. But there was not a minute last night where Pence dehumanized anyone. Not only that, but he was respectful to Harris, congratulated her on her historic nomination and was in general mostly kind in that very Christian way of his. The more vicious the reaction to him the better it works for him. This goes all the way back to Jesus and his persecutors to the heavily religious supporters of Trump and Pence. It does nothing to help our side, nothing to bring people over to our side - all it does is remind the general public how awful people on the left can be.
I remain shocked at watching how many of my friends go along with it. How many people I admire go along with it. I always thought we were the good guys, fighting honorably. And while the Democrats are not Left Twitter - they never really push back on any of it either. I wish they would. I wish one of them would say something to remind me that we are still the good guys.
Pointing this out, however, on Twitter will put you in thought-crime-jail as it did me after I was called a racist, in so many words, for pointing out that Harris in a split screen alongside Pence was not working for her with the way she was smirking throughout - it gave the appearance that he was taking it more seriously. Thus, I was, in typical Twitter fashion, surrounded and attacked until I deleted the tweet and set my account to private. Commenting on this, I said that I could not believe how mean the left could be at times. And for that, The Hollywood Reporter’s Scott Feinberg scolded me with “what has happened to you!” And then followed it up with a directive that whatever negative comments I had about the behavior of the left should wait until after November 3. Feinberg, and others, clearly have no problem going along with what we see on Twitter every day. Why not criticize the right, they ask, they are so much worse?
But why does that justify dehumanization and cruelty, thought policing, bullying on our side? It should not. I cannot. It does not. Because, frankly, there is never any justification for it. This is why we have a system of law and order, crime and punishment - to save us from ourselves.
But speaking of the right, although the feeds I spent time scrolling did not reach the levels of online abuse Pence was enduring - certainly not the way they savaged Hillary in 2016 - Senator Harris was mocked for her smirking, her “attitude” and at least one tweet I saw called her a “lying bitch.” The way for the left to play this, of course, is to maintain our dignity while the right goes after Harris. But we were too busy writing puff pieces supporting Harris while treating Pence like the Devil himself to give them enough rope to hang themselves. So, Pence comes out looking like the victim and the left come out looking like bullies everywhere except the mainstream media which tells people what to think and then polls them on how well their directive landed.
Even still, Fox’s Tucker Carlson continues to beat both MSNBC and CNN in their time slots - and Ben Shapiro’s podcast remains in the top ten on iTunes and he has 7 million Facebook followers. All of that to say that if you’re listening to one side and not the other you might not be getting the full picture.
I myself will be curious to see how they cover the debates last night now that The Atlantic, the New York Times, the Washington Post, CNN, MSNBC handed the win to Harris. But we knew that outcome already, didn’t we? In the end this election is going to come down to how powerful these media outlets actually are. We’ve never seen mobilization like this in a modern day election, at least not in my lifetime, where every institution of media, science and social media is urging the public to vote for Biden. I can’t imagine what would happen if Trump won. What would that say?
Given that, I do not see how Trump can win. It’s true his voters are more enthusiastic and harder to measure because many of them have never voted before - and the Trump ground game is off the charts. Painting Trump as a victim is working well for that effort. Any traditional mainstream Republican could wipe the floor with the Democrats considering what they’re threatening to do with the filibuster if they maintain all three branches of government. But the fish rots at the head and Trump is the one who will drive voters out to the polls to get rid of not just him but all GOP control in government.
I have seen ugliness, unacceptable bullying of Kamala Harris in other places for a while now - I’m sure if you log on to Parler you will see a lot of it. She is not yet as well known enough to be given the same treatment as AOC or Hillary but the more powerful she becomes the worse that will get. There is a reason women have a harder time rising to power in this country.
So what was my honest take of the debate? I watched it two ways. I watched it as a person who has my own ideas about climate change, COVID, the Supreme Court, etc. And of course I agreed with Harris on almost everything she said. My only gripe with the Democrats is their gaslighting over the protests and how hypocritical we were in light of COVID panic. No one is going to address that, of course.
And I watched it as a potentially undecided voter (I am not undecided, Biden gets my vote). My first thought was that there are still different rules for men and women in this country about who can show anger and who can’t. I thought Harris did a better job controlling that aspect than she did during the primary debates where losing her cool probably cost her the nomination, at least partly. You can call it sexist or racist or whatever you want but it was a fact that no think pieces or Twitter swarms could repair.
Nonetheless, Pence had the advantage because he really did play it cool while she did not. The same sort of narrative played out when Tim Kaine debated Pence. Both Kaine and Harris believed that the way to debate Pence was to be the more aggressive and in both cases, in my opinion, they gave Pence the advantage. How would someone much less aggressive have handled a debate against Pence? I don’t know. But it seemed to me that Harris was aiming much of her anger less at Pence and more at Trump, which might have been their strategy. To that, many of her punches landed.
In short, people who already love Harris probably loved that debate. Loved the smirking. Loved the “I’m speaking”. Those who do not like her will have hated the debate. It probably did not change many minds.
You might be wondering how the undecideds rated the debate. Here is an assembled focus group, though it turns out towards the end that one of them is actually a Trump voter pretending to be an undecided.
Both Katie Couric and Richard Dreyfuss make an appearance.