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Wednesday, October 05, 2016

Veep Debate (UPDATED)

Mike Pence probably won the hour, but Tim Kaine won the week. Pence is a gross homophobic racist theocratic asshole, but he seemed calm while Kaine seemed unduly aggressive, and this contrast didn't play well for Kaine especially in the first half of the debate. But each candidate had a job to do and Kaine did his job in ways that will pay dividends (and already are on social media). Both candidates were speaking to and shoring up their respective bases, and since few undecideds would be watching a vice-presidential debate this makes sense. Both succeeded in that task. Pence was shoring up Christian evangelicals (and making his play for that constituency in 2020 against Ted Cruz) while Kaine played selections from the Democratic coalition hymnal -- somewhat superficially given the rapid pace of the debate format, but I was quite happy to hear his "Trust Women" formulation on choice, which is kinda sorta all I want to hear in a discussion of abortion rights in which straight white men are doing all the talking. Another job the candidates had was to defend their respective Presidential partners and while Kaine did this in spades -- his happy warrior discussion of the Clinton Foundation was textbook veep debate workmanship -- Pence repeatedly failed to defend Trump's outrageous comments and positions, and indeed seemed to deny their abundantly evident recorded reality while implying nobody in their right mind would say these things Trump has been saying. While this might be good for Pence's future ambitions as a national figure (that's why he took the risk of this stinkbomb of a vice-presidential gig from hell in the first place as his Indiana governorship was going down the tubes after all), it amounted to a serial failure to do what he came to the debate to do as a candidate on a ticket and provided material for ads and memes and taunts and late-night comedy that will get deeper and deeper under Donald Trump's skin all week long, right up until Sunday night when he returns for round two with Hillary Clinton who wiped the floor with him last time around. I do think it is pretty clear that Kaine's debate prep included quite a bit of trap setting for Pence along precisely these lines and that the campaign probably calculated that a bit of aggressive needling was just the ticket to get Pence to provide social media content for the next few news cycles. I daresay they remembered that Biden's aggressiveness in the 2012 vice-presidential debate went down quite well and they probably imagined Kaine would play much the same in the hall and on screen… which it did not. In the sound bites, though, these aggressions will have a nice rhythm and concision and Pence's denials and evasions will play to clip after clip of instant refutation. This debate was about Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton and it seems to me that only one campaign really knew what it was doing there. You know, the usual.

UPDATE: As predicted, this stuff is everywhere today.


Lorraine said...

You could have made a regular drinking game around the slogan "war on coal." Did you see that coming? I must confess that I actively tune out horse race coverage and didn't. Do you think they're hoping "coal rolling" makes a comeback during this last month of the campaign season? Do you think Mr. Kaine made a critical mistake by not unapologetically taking that one head on, or would that have amounted to taking the bait and feeding the troll? "War on coal" sounds like a very good idea to me, and no, I'm not motivated by "war on coal country" as a culture war gambit. I mean rehabilitating the both the coal belts and the coal consumption belts (almost all of America) to more honest and honorable (AND prosperous) livelihoods. Sort of like the largely successful and much needed "war on tobacco" that we have been waging for the last few decades. Coal is an entire product category we'd be better off without.

Dale Carrico said...

I suspect the "War on Coal" is on its last lap as a culture war site. The places where that resonates are becoming electoral backwaters, the political system is becoming less responsive to them as their numbers dwindle and their politics abrade winning national coalitions. That's terrible news for the precarious citizens with legitimate concerns and urgent unmet needs in such places.

Of course, fracking has killed way more coal jobs than solar panels or EPA regulations. If anything renewable infrastructure looks like one of the better employers for coal country at least in the short term. HRC has an elaborate plan for economic revitalization in extractive economies which the GOP just lies about while they otherwise ignore the issue in the usual manner (coal country and the demographic for which it is synecdochic would also benefit from HRC's drug treatment/mental healthcare-not-jails programs and early childhood education and support and environmental justice infrastructure proposals -- not that they'll vote for her for it, but the problem is ours to solve anyway).

I agree with you that a "war on coal" would actually be a good idea anyway, and a war on fracking when it comes to it. Battles against fracking look to remain state-level for now, national politics can't see past the electorally unpredictable volatility of energy pricing spikes during the too-long transition to public renewable energy/transportation infrastructure investment, which looks like it is going to have to be stealthed through Defense rather than stealthed in the historically usual manner through Highway and Education funding due to dysfunctional Congressional GOP obstructionism.

I do also like the rhetorical gesture analogizing dirty extractive energy to tobacco -- but Gore really pushed that analogy in the An Inconvenient Truth era of mainstream eco-activism and it really didn't go anywhere. Maybe HRC's more jingoistic "World's Green Superpower" rhetoric will work better for my dumb fellow Americans. Who knows?

Bizarro Freedom said...

I feel like somewhere there is a good steampunk story to be from war on coal. Though when victorian ideas are the first you think of in Veep debate somethings wrong.

Dale Carrico said...

That's for sure.