How Mike Pence conducted himself in the recent vice-presidential debate with Kamala Harris has reaffirmed my confidence in Western democracy. Pence was a model exemplar in statesmanship, rhetorical skill and political intelligence.
The conservative political commentator, Sydney Watson, summed up the Pence phenomenon best when she tweeted:
Before we started watching tonight, I said that Pence is attractive. My girlfriends were like “lolno”— Sydney Watson (@SydneyLWatson) October 8, 2020
Now, after 20 minutes of this, they know precisely what I’m talking about. 😂
Pence’s performance last week was the type from which memes are made. And I mean that quite literally as any Google image search now demonstrates. But one of the best and most insightful was this:
Clearly, the fictional cartoon character of ‘Roger T. “Race” Bannon’ and Mike Pence bear an uncanny likeness and resemblance. And the connection is even more pertinent when one realises that not only were the two men born in America’s heartland of the mid-west but according to Wikipedia, Race Bannon is the special agent from Intelligence One assigned to safeguard Jonny Quest “24 hours a day and 7 days a week as tutor, companion and all-around watchdog”.
Significantly, this is precisely how Pence functions in regards to Trump. He is a guardian, mentor and protector of the current US President. Because while many conservative evangelical Christians—myself included—couldn’t vote for Trump as a person, they could still in good conscience support the Republican ticket because of the leadership legitimacy that Pence brings.
Maybe that explains why the Left love to hate him so. Because Pence is a model of what modern masculinity should be! This was especially manifest in how he treated Kamala Harris with such graciousness. For not only did he begin the debate by saying that it was a privilege to be on the stage with her, but he also expressed to Harris his own personal thanks for her and Joe Biden’s genuine concerns for the health of President Trump when he contracted COVID-19. What’s more, Pence went on to also congratulate Harris on her historic nomination.
But the most significant thing of all that Pence did was he treated Kamala Harris as his equal. Pence engaged with the arguments of Harris seriously and he pushed back with both civility and decorum whenever he didn’t agree.
As to be expected, most of the mainstream media interpreted what Pence did as ‘mansplaining’, but that quite frankly, misses the point. What Pence and Harris were engaged in was a national debate! And as such, if Pence didn’t seek to seriously respond to the numerous falsehoods which Harris was repeatedly espousing—such as claiming to not banning fracking or fossil fuels, championing The Green New Deal, misrepresenting the state of the American economy as well as international relations with China, recycling inaccurate media reporting involving President Trump, or most of all, the Democratic intention to clearly stacking the Supreme Court—then Pence would’ve been derelict in fulfilling his civic duty.
But unlike President Trump—as well as Senator Biden—Pence never lowered himself to name-calling or similar boorish behaviour, despite the blatant untruths that Harris was espousing. He simply stuck with the logic of his argument and tried to get his point across in the clearest and most compelling way he could. The fact that his opponent on the night was a woman was irrelevant. Pence simply treated her with the same dignity and respect as he would any political rival, regardless of their gender, race or sexuality.
And that’s precisely what any real man does.