Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia and Governor Mike Pence of Indiana took the stage Tuesday night during the first, and only, vice presidential debate of this election cycle to discuss both their own visions for the future of the country and to answer some of the criticisms leveled at the presidential candidates.
Polarizing candidates have mobilized large groups of people during this election cycle, especially among students, as interest among the younger demographics has increased, according to NPR.
The Civic Engagement Committee, a program run through the Office of the Dean of Students that includes Boston College Eagle Political Society, hosted a viewing party last night that was attended by over 65 students, according to EPS President Domenick Fazzolari, MCAS ‘17.
“We believe that everyone can be involved in politics through discussion and debate, and that we can grow and become better citizens through learning from one another,” he said. “We encourage students from different parties and backgrounds to come together to have conversations and debates about the issues affecting themselves, the country, and the world.”
While Hillary Clinton recently held an event in Boston, where Mayor Martin J. Walsh, WCAS ’09, expressed his support and vowed to stump for the Democratic nominee in New Hampshire and Ohio, Donald Trump will visit New Hampshire next week.
The debate, which took place at Longwood University in Virginia, became a platform for both Kaine, Clinton’s running mate, and Pence, Trump’s Republican vice presidential candidate. While to many, Kaine and Pence represent some of the most irrelevant vice presidential candidates in recent memory, according to The Boston Globe, their fervor and substance-filled exchanges were a breath of fresh air, especially following last week’s lackluster presidential debate—after which neither Clinton nor Trump saw notable changes in their polling numbers, according to Washington Monthly.
Clinton only saw her polling numbers increase after The New York Times obtained Trump’s tax returns from 1995, which show a $916 million loss, suggesting that the real estate mogul could have avoided paying federal income taxes for years.
“This election is a phenomenon for several reasons, primarily because none of the debates to date have had a significant impact on how people were planning to vote and last week’s presidential debate was no different,” Taylor Cerwinski, MCAS ‘18, said.
Kaine in particular saw himself enter into a realm that the American public is not used to seeing him—a man on the offensive. Right from the start he was combative, constantly interrupting Pence during his allotted speaking time, much to the chagrin of moderator Elaine Quijano, a CBS anchor.
“The people at home cannot understand either one of you when you talk over each other,” Quijano said, referencing the constant interruption.
Pence, keeping a cool head amid the interruption barrage coming from the Democratic corner, became visibly annoyed as the debate wore on and both Kaine and Quijano pressed him to defend Trump’s remarks on women’s health issues, immigration, and tax reform.
“I can’t imagine how Governor Pence can defend the insult-driven, me-first style of Donald Trump,” Kaine said.
While more mild-mannered and formal than Kaine on the night, Pence showed a deftness that was lacking from the headliner of his ticket, as he was able to bring a different face for the Republican Party to undecided voters. He spoke at length about his time as both a congressman and governor, which complements Trump’s business acumen, he said.
After withstanding Kaine’s attacks, Pence went on the offensive, having some of his best moments while questioning Clinton’s decisions as secretary of state, including the events of Benghazi, Libya, in 2012 during which U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three others lost their lives, and her campaign’s prepared one-liners.
“You and Hillary Clinton would know a lot about an insult-driven campaign,” Pence said. “The campaign of Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine has been an avalanche of insults.”
Pence also disputed many of the laws Clinton and Kaine proposed, saying their abortion policies would allow partial-birth abortions. Pence questioned Kaine’s values as a Catholic, stating that he was neglecting his own views to support those of Clinton. But Kaine refused to back down, saying that a candidate’s faith should not dictate policy.
Eventually, the two vice presidential candidates turned their attention to the issue of violence by and toward law enforcement officers, particularly in the wake of yet another shooting in Los Angeles and the massacre in Dallas in July, when five officers were killed by a sniper. Unlike the main candidates, who cautiously avoided talking about the underlying issue of discrimination at length last week, Kaine and Pence embraced the discussion about the causes of the unrest.
Both candidates seemed to agree that community policing would rekindle relations and curb violence between disillusioned individuals and law enforcement. They disagreed, however, on the tone used to describe the role of police officers, with Pence decrying the “demeaning of law enforcement officers.”
Most importantly, Kaine and Pence avoided making significant errors during the night, protecting their running mates from criticism. Many candidates have used these debates to raise their national profiles. Pence was tasked with defending Trump and emphasizing his ability to win.
The next presidential forum on Sunday, Oct. 19, will feature Trump and Clinton in a town meeting format, during which undecided voters will ask questions.
Correction: this article has been updated to reflect the fact that the event was hosted by the Civic Engagement Committee, not just Eagle Political Society.
Featured Image by Julio Cortez / AP Photo