Winning by What Measure

[Content Note: Bigotry.]

Politico's morning playbook began thus:
The general consensus: Mike Pence won the debate. The CNN/ORC poll post-debate poll -- which tends to track pretty closely with public surveys taken days later -- has Pence beating Tim Kaine last night, 48% to 42% ( Pence turned in a far better performance than Donald Trump.
Except: A far better performance than his own running mate is: 1. A low bar; and 2. Not typically the objective of a vice-presidential debate performance.

Normally, we expect the veep debate to be about reflecting well on the top of the ticket—and by that traditional measure, Tim Kaine was the clear winner. His opening statement was about being proud to run with Hillary Clinton, a message he has delivered clearly and often on the campaign trail, while Mike Pence spent the entirety of the debate unable and unwilling to defend Donald Trump.

This election, however, has seen all traditional measures thrown out the window. Trump is so appallingly weak on policy that the media have seemingly decided to abandon policy as a metric, focusing heavily instead on "optics." Pence's ability to "look reasonable," irrespective of the actual policy positions he was espousing, thus rendered him the winner, by some accounts.

But Pence and his dreadful positions on everything from Syria to abortion don't make him a winner for the people affected by those policies.

By that measure, Kaine was the winner, too.

But Kaine, pundits complained, interrupted too much. Which is somehow now more important than, for example, the fact that he trusts women to make our own reproductive decisions—and his opponents don't.

If the trajectory of one's life depends on the right of bodily autonomy, perhaps one assesses the winner of a debate differently than whether one guy looks "too interrupty," especially if the reason he's interrupting is to stop his opponent from lying about expressed and legislative bigotries.

Kaine had a couple of important tasks to accomplish during the debate: He needed to bolster Clinton, which he did successfully by communicating his pride at running with her and defending her record; he needed to hammer Trump, which he did successfully by staying relentlessly on message about Trump's odious comments and tax avoidancce; and he needed to remind women that the Democratic Party is the party of women's rights, in which he succeeded expertly, strongly reiterating his belief that he trusts women.

Pence, well, he managed to convince a lot of conservatives he could be a contender in four years. Thing is, if he imagines he can take on Hillary Clinton, good luck to him. They've met before, and that didn't come out well for Pence.

Just like this debate, by any metric that matters to progressives.

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