The most interesting part about the Vice Presidential debate was that there was not a dime’s worth of difference between the arguments put by Mike Pence and the views of Donald Trump. The difference is entirely in presentation along with the various self-imposed constraints that Pence has learned through many years of experience. He knows how to phrase what he says and knows how to craft the arguments just so. But so far as what they amount to, they are exactly the same as Trump’s.
Kaine on the other hand was a much worse version of Hillary. She was more polished and understood her position and how to present it to the back teeth. I found Kaine irritating and shallow to a startling degree. I have always recognised that anecdote is the replacement for analysis when you are dealing with people unused to complex ideas. But if underneath anything he said there actually was a complex idea of any sort, I missed it.
Pence described how a Trump administration would deal with national defence, illegal immigration, economic revival and racial tensions. He defended removing illegals along with stop and frisk policing. What possibly surprised me most about Kaine was the extent to which he repeated Trump’s policy proposals over and again, I imagine under the assumption that just to hear what Trump wishes to do is automatically to be in opposition. That’s what comes from locking oneself in the media sounding board where no other ideas seem to come through. My suspicion, however, is that for those who like what Trump has to offer, it is exactly what he proposes that is what they like. Kaine did no more than reinforce in the minds of Trump’s supporters why they are voting as they are.
Who knows if any of the more difficult parts can be done? But there is little doubt that most Americans want a stronger military, defeat of ISIS, border security, a revival of the economy, a tax system that promotes economic growth and a more cohesive community.
And then there were the two personalities on display. Kaine had no presence or substance. Pence seemed a deeper thinker who has had his ideas forged in the fires of debate among those who disagree with many of the things he says. As a conservative, even in a party of the right, he would be a lonely presence. It was a positive pleasure to listen to him.
Trump-Pence are not just running mates, but might hopefully even be thought of as a succession plan. I think this election remains a toss up. But if Trump should manage to win in November, and Pence remains a typical example of the kinds of personnel that Trump chooses for the various slots in his administration, there is reason – perhaps only dimly – but there is reason to hope for improvement, and not just a minor relief but even long term.
Only Trump makes this at all possible. Pence, however, provides evidence how it might even be done.