Op-Eds, Presidential Debates

The VP Debate: “Pence’s Performance was Just A Kinder, Gentler Version of Trump’s WWE-worthy Brawl Just One Week Ago”

By Michelle D. Bernard for Politico Magazine

10/08/2020 01:00 AM EDT

The vice presidential debate made three things crystal clear: We are not yet a post-racial nation. We are not yet a post-sexist nation. And Mike Pence is nothing more than Donald Trump’s white-haired, achromatic, smooth-talking doppelganger.

Like Trump, Pence refused to abide by the rules both campaigns agreed to in advance. Pence’s performance was just a kinder, gentler version of Trump’s WWE-worthy brawl just one week ago.

Pence ran roughshod over the debate moderator and literally stole Sen. Kamala Harris’ speaking time. He repeatedly and intentionally interrupted Harris. He incessantly spoke over Harris. He exceeded the time allotted him to answer questions or rebut statements made by Harris. On at least three occasions, Harris had to remind Pence that she was speaking, thus demanding that he stop interrupting her and allow her to speak. He rarely answered the question asked of him by the moderator, but demanded that Harris answer his questions. He repeatedly glared at Harris. He made sure to pepper his responses with words meant to rile up his base, like “liberal,” “Hillary Clinton,” “pro-life,” “sanctity of human life” and “Dr. Fauci.”

If she were a white male, Harris could have pulled a Biden and told Pence to “shut up.” She could have remarked, “It’s hard to get any word in with this clown.” However, doing so would have meant risking the label of the “angry Black woman” that haunted Michelle Obama during her husband’s first presidential race—and plagues ambitious, forceful Black women to this day.

If she were a white male, she could have pulled a Trump, and turned the tables on the debate moderator for her inability to rein in Pence. She could have declared, “I guess I’m debating you, not him.”

Watching this debate, it was clear in Pence’s treatment of Harris and the debate moderator that a Trump-Pence administration wants a United States of Gilead, not a United States of America.

Michelle Bernard is a political analyst, lawyer, author, and president and CEO of the Bernard Center for Women, Politics & Public Policy.

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