Mansplaining with Mike Pence, empty poses with Kamala Harris

The debate between Pence and Kamala Harris was actually as civilized and polite as a competitive dialogue can get. But the few moments of real debate appalled left commentators.

It was like bringing up the two Americas who will also face each other in the elections in less than a month. With Vice President Mike Pence from the small town of Columbus in the state of Indiana and the California Senator Kamala Harris, two lawyers sat across from each other. But besides that, the two competitors for the office of Vice President could not be more different. It was the quieter debate that made such a meaningful contrast to the mid-level turmoil that unfolded between Donald Trump and his adversary Joe Biden last week.

They met at the University of Salt Lake City in the state of Utah, between the salt lake desert and a ski resort. Kamala Harris acted as a shape-shifter, sometimes she acted as the tough prosecutor who presented her case with tally lists, sometimes she put pressure on the tear gland emotionally (as lawyers are wont to do), now she painted America’s bleak future, then she shone through again expressing hope in her smile. There were too many camera views. Mike Pence was much more economical.

And there were also some rehearsed gestures by Harris – for example the palm raised against Pence to the words: “I’m speaking, Mr. Vice President!” At one point Pence replied to such a remark: “Then you should tell the truth.”  The signal of such a gesture to the outside world is clear: someone here is trying to take away my TV-certified speaking rights. Ben Shapiro rightly spoke of “womansplaining”.  Harris’s time was almost over anyway. And she was no longer able to present her argument effectively.

So you could say: Fortunately, rehearsed poses are useless on this stage, because the camera is a ruthless observer. At least one should do it more skillfully. But basically something like this only works if you mean what you do and say, i.e. really believe in it.

Mike Pence recalls the “pandemic” of the Obama years

A first climax came when Harris accused the Trump administration of hiding the dangers of the pandemic from the American people. She was probably alluding to the latest revelations from a Trump interview in March. But Trump had only talked about making the outbreak smaller than bigger. And that is likely to be related on the one hand to his management style, which works through positive motivation, not through prohibitions, and on the other hand with his rejection of drastic measures in the Chinese style. Personal provision stands against very extensive state provision. On the other hand, it echoed with Harris when she said Trump was overwhelming the Americans.

Biden’s Corona plan was just plagiarism, copied from the daily problem-solving work done by the White House, Pence replied to Kamala Harris’ emotional pandemic sermon. Shortly thereafter, Harris shocked by saying that there was no way she would take a vaccine recommended by Trump. It was so obviously a petty political coin that it was easy for Pence to accuse her of irresponsible, even unscrupulous behavior and thus to question a national effort. Harris is playing a political game with people’s lives. It sounded like that again later, when Harris wanted to convey to various audience groups (for example those with previous illnesses) with terrible intensity that Trump / Pence would “get them” (“they’re coming for you”),which Pence denied, of course.

Pence also recalled the uncertain public relations work and the dubious record of the Obama administration in the swine flu case. It is estimated that 60 million Americans were infected by the virus at the time, almost nine times as many as today. Of course, only a good 100,000 cases were officially confirmed. In fact, Biden had excelled at the time with extremely cautious comments on the relatively harmless disease, including: “I would currently not go to any closed rooms.” The vice president had also warned in a somewhat panic about the subway and planes after a member of the government got infected on a flight to Mexico.

Biden’s successor has the talent to criticize sharply, but soon to make it productive again for his own actions: one has learned from the mistakes of the Obama administration. Despite the H1N1 panic of 2009, the storage facilities for medical material were found largely “empty”. This is also a bit of a self-justification, but it points to the general negligence of the West with regard to the pandemic plans once drawn up.

Questions handled about the health of the candidates

There followed a few points that could be put under the heading of “courageous inquiries.” What happens if Biden is incapacitated? No response from Kamala Harris except for a long talk about her own life and that of Biden and how much the two are alike.

What about the health of the two presidential candidates anyway? Does the public have a right to know about it? Pence thanked the public for the general sympathy for the recent fortunes of the President and acknowledged the transparency shown so far. Indeed, there has been some critical interest in Trump’s health, but it would be an exaggeration to say no one knew anything about it. And was it actually about Trump’s ability to officiate, or rather about being able to reproach him?

Harris first tried to smile away at the question about Biden and then said the hypocritical sentence: “Absolutely, and I think Joe Biden was incredibly transparent, in contrast to Donald Trump …” But here followed an excursus on Trump’s allegedly minor, but otherwise simply unknown Tax payments. Trump responded to this accusation in his debate with Biden that he had paid millions in income tax. Pence now referred to the wage and property tax that Trump has certainly paid. In addition, Trump has created tens of thousands of jobs as an entrepreneur.

Green New Deal and fracking

In order to understand the section on environmental policy, one has to consider that the Democratic Party covers practically the entire spectrum of left-of-center, from liberals in the true sense of the word to solid socialists like Bernie Sanders to eco- and other radicals like Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez. At the center of these left-wing groups is the resolution for a  Green New Deal, which Ocasio-Cortez initiated last year.

Biden and Harris are currently busy trying to distinguish their own plans from the program of this Green New Deal and thus become eligible for the middle. But Pence followed up and found the words that might be remembered: “You have a right to your own opinion, but not to your own facts.” Biden once spoke out in favor of a fracking ban and against fossil fuels in general. For Pence, that’s a description of economic decline. And it was precisely these Biden words that could indeed be found in a primaries debate in 2019.

Winner Pence and gender politics in Salt Lake City

For the analyst Frank Luntz it is clear that Pence was the winner of the evening. Not so much because his answers were better or less evasive. But he made the more personable figure. Harris, on the other hand, often appeared condescending and arrogant. Again, opposites sat opposite each other: on the one hand, the personified lack of authenticity in the form of a woman who regularly hangs her flag in the wind, regardless of whether it is blowing from the right or the left within the party. On the other hand, a man who can speak from the depths of his own being and does not (yet) have to hide his Christian convictions in the land of the free.

In fact, Pence made a much more confident impression. The allegations that were made in retrospect – he had interrupted Harris too often – did not really do the quiet man justice. And since there was also the fact that Pence was debating with a female candidate, gender politics were not far off. With Kamala Harris, the issue of gender justice has found its way into the top league of political reporting in the US.

The accusation against Pence quickly took on the name of “mansplaining”. This alleged fact was immediately interpreted as a negative signal for the female voters who were lost to the Trump camp. But above all, you can see how hypersensitive the American media has become on these issues. The whole issue is probably more a question of media representation than the situation in the country itself. On ABC,Whenever the “mansplaining” accusation was raised, several women contradicted the assumption that one should not contradict a woman or attack her aggressively. Above all, many had not even noticed such a thing. Of course, the accusation of violating the rules is also part of the wider range of symptoms of Trump Derangement Syndrome. It is intended to cast doubt on the legitimacy of positions that cannot otherwise be challenged.

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