Explaining Why Hillary Clinton Has Not Won the Hearts and Minds of Millennials

Media and Millennials –
II Explaining Why Hillary Clinton Has Not Won Their Hearts and Minds

by

Howard Adelman

Based on my son’s suggestion, I have what I believe might explain the strong reluctance of millennials not to support Hillary Clinton that goes much deeper than the surface reasons offered by them which I contend are often distorted. For my youngest son is even angrier at the media than at a nihilist and psychopathic liar like Donald Trump. He blames the mainstream media for creating Donald Trump. But which media? He watches television shows and follows the news on BBC, NBC and CNN, watches the debates and satirical news shows, but only online, and reads newspapers, again only online. Is there a difference between reading a newspaper online versus in print?

When he reads news online, he hates distractions. He wants his news to be factual, brief and to the point. He generally does not read my blogs, even when they are directly intended for his eyes (as in the Bernie Sanders series) because they are far too long and he regards my distributing them them as equivalent to his releasing his films incompletely edited. He would argue that they are unfinished and not just long. But are these the only reasons?

Four years ago, Liew Chee Kit and Gan Wei Teng wrote a paper, “Print Newspaper versus Online News Media: A Quantitative Study on Young Generation Preference.”
(https://www.academia.edu/6125892/Print_Newspaper_versus_Online_News_Media_A_Quantitative_Study_on_Young_Generation_Preference) In their study, millennials not only preferred online news to print media by a wide margin, but did so, not so much for convenience and saving money, but because online media is not only immediate but also interactive, even though most millennials do not respond with tweets. What matters is the ability to do so. What matters is that the millennials feel that they can at least respond to the “intellectual prison” and “handed-down frameworks” of the print media. It is this permissible use that goes far beyond printing a few letters to the editor in newsprint that most attracts those millennials who read newspapers online.

But look at the differences between print and online newspapers, at least as I experience them. Interactivity is irrelevant for me even when I read news online – which I do extensively. But I read differently. I read a print newspaper holistically. I read newspapers online intentionally, seeking out stories about which I am thinking. Reading online deepens my investigation of a subject. Reading a newspaper in print broadens my perspective. On the other hand, in spite of my very poor memory, I recall more, much more, from reading a newspaper and can usually place a story spatially on a page. I cannot do this with online newspapers, but what I can do is extract pieces that interest me and deposit them in reference files. This is probably another reason why I do not file these snippets in my memory; I file them in my computer. In newspapers, I skip over ads – with some exceptions – but they do not annoy me. I hate online ads.

Most important, I like the very thing that I believe many if not most millennials hate – being guided by what is on the front page, by the position on the page, in determining the salience of a story. Some even claim that they respect stories more if they are printed. I do not believe I do, but I may. But I certainly appreciate the aesthetics more. Of the three Toronto Newspapers, on the basis of aesthetic reasons, I think the National Post, the newspaper most on the right and the one most discordant with my own views, has the best typeface, spacing, margins and sizes of stories. For me, it is the most attractive newspaper to read. I do not read online news based on attraction, though, perhaps, I may do so subliminally, but I do not think so.

Further, unlike many readers of online material, length does not bother me and so I impose on my readers 2500 words on average even though studies indicate 1,000 word maximums – and even less – should be adhered to except for scholarly articles. Finally, the old-fashioned convenience of portability, especially for doing sudoku and crossword puzzles, ends up trumping online news. But I read far more online news that I get from newsprint, for online reading allows side excursions, checks and in-depth exploration.

So what is the difference between myself and my son, between my past-the-due-date generation and my youngest son, a millennial? It is not the media in itself, I believe, but the way we use it and the way we experience it. The alternative media sources and their characteristics do not determine preferences, but the questions I bring, the frameworks – intellectual and aesthetic – do make a difference. And millennials, I believe, now experience the world much differently than previous generations.

What issues bother him and many of his cohorts? I believe environmental issues are first and foremost on the agenda. Whereas my generation in the sixties faced down a nuclear arms race and feared Armageddon, we still believed we could get control of the nuclear threat. Millennials, on the other hand, prioritize environmental issues, but see their own behaviour and practices as frequently hypocritical, and the government policies attacking the problem as too little and far too late. The Armageddon they face is perceived to be even worse than a nuclear war.

There is another issue that made Bernie so appealing. Though many of their upper middle class friends who graduated from university do not bear the huge educational debts of their other friends who were not lucky enough to grow up in families that could support their education, those who are better off see the burden that their other friends carry who were not blessed with parents who could pay the costs of their education. They also see how that burden impedes their life prospects. Further, many of their compatriots in their mid-twenties still live at home and many of them believe they will never accumulate the capital on their own to buy and own a home – especially since the group he hangs out with are downtowners.

Because of the economic burdens they carry and the economic prospects they see before them, they can ill afford the disproportionate share of that money on media, electronic media in particular, compared to what we spent on all media when we were that age. And this at a time when house prices have increased twice the amount of the purchasing power of money! So they generally find ways to get the information and visual views they want in the least expensive ways, even if that way is at the expense of the producer. They take Uber drivers at the expense of the careers of taxi drivers who have their own families to support. So their social concerns are not with the undereducated working class. Though they might come from upper middle class families, their goals – and this is true of all the ones I know in my personal experience – do not include wealth accumulation as having a significant priority. Happiness and work satisfaction do. Millennials do not want to and are very reluctant to work in jobs they do not like. On the other hand, they see no inherent fault with wealth accumulation.

What unites almost all of them in my eyes is that they are products of the new electronic media age. They are not entirely enamored with that media. Although they are most familiar with and embedded in the electronic media with Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc., they also recognize that those networks are infused with crazy and outlandish beliefs and even prejudices. Further, they have all personally witnessed the transformation of these media from vehicles for enhancing communications among friends to tools for pushing products and services.

The new social media have, I believe, had a potpouri of results, assembled in no particular order and without elaboration:
• An emphasis on speed and immediacy of retrieval, a propensity not to be equated with narcissism and an indulgent emphasis on self
• An emphasis on originality and almost a visceral gut hatred of the repetition of traditional TV news, though, in contradiction, most watch shows with repetitive themes and storylines
• An emphasis on their choice and a hatred of anything fed to them
• They are very comfortable with the use of technology, but some of them, the critical ones, are also very uncomfortable with the results – when they see a mob chasing a Pokémon on private property, and that many in that mob may come from their age group, they are appalled
• The reason some are appalled is that they see within themselves and among their cohort an increasing inability to separate fact from fiction, a problem they all face; in fact, given the current age, all of us are prone to see reality as fiction and to take fiction for reality – Tina Fey’s comic sketch that portrayed Sarah Palin as able to see Russia from her house, was never uttered by Palin, but try convincing most millennials or even most older viewers of Saturday Night Live
• Donald Trump is at the extreme, an individual who cannot discern the difference between reality and the products of a fevered imagination; they hate Trump, I believe, because he represents the parts of themselves that they hate
• The nature of the media that allows instant communication undercuts the need for forward planning and social commitments, but that is replaced by valuing spontaneity and improvisation, on the one hand, and a permanency and consistency of belief on the other hand as the place to find solid footing in a very slippery world
• In spite of their resistance to fixed plans in the future, they almost all see themselves as living in the future rather than the present; that is why they are mostly not narcissists even though they take millions of selfies
• They are disgusted by their elders and with themselves for looking at politics as entertainment, but primarily hold the media responsible for enhancing the phenomenon when moderators do not moderate or hold politicians to time limits; these moderators do not turn off the microphones of their guests when they evade answering questions (the guests are pivoting), and when the guests tell outright lies; instead, rather than interrupt the drama of the occasion, they (and we) are forced to wait until afterwards for these egregious failings to be pointed out in fact checks “after the fact”
• The media rate winners on style and follow trends instead of providing much more leadership on discussions of substance
• In the name of balance, outright dissemblers are permitted on stage as performers
• They recognize that they live in a world in which imaginary friendships brought on through the accessibility of information with others seem to be as real as intimate relationships and that makes them long all the more for authenticity and the fixity of values and points of view
• They recognize that people live in bubbles, strengthened and reinforced by their exposure only to media that reinforce their own values whether liberal, conservative or anti-establishment
• They are not political institutionalists and totally underrate and even ignore the importance of institutions in preserving values and trust; instead, they tend to believe that those values are imbued in individual persons and are not protected but undermined by institutions.

Media have indeed transformed the world and has transformed the millenial generation and the future of politics. So how could Patrick Caldwell two years ago in Mother Jones write that “Millennials Love Hillary Now”? (www.motherjones.com/authors/patrick-caldwell ) Well then she had 58% of the 18-24-year-old population; now she has less than 32%. Then Senator Elizabeth Warren, now a heroine for millennials, ran almost 10% behind Hillary in the support she drew from them. The explanation – Bernie Sanders came on the scene in a big way and did what Barack Obama did in 2008, showed her up as both wooden and programmed, on the one hand, and a shape-shifter in comparison on the other hand. But Bernie did it as an ideologue rather than as a soft shoe salesman. Bernie spent months and an enormous amount of money that in part strongly served the agenda of the Republican Party in instilling that portrait of Hillary.

Millennials believe that an authentic guy like Bernie stands outside the accusations they level at advertisers. They seem to be uncritical of the degree to which their views have been infused by repeated exposure. So all the efforts Hillary put in to appeal to millennials were undermined by Bernie. It certainly helped that Bernie projects himself as a more authentic individual and authenticity is where millennials hang their petards. Bernie was double-digits ahead of Hillary among millennial voters. And the suspicions of Hillary continue because pragmatic politics, because shifting position in the face of changing circumstances, this great virtue among traditional politicians, is viewed as a disability on both the right and the left. And although Hillary Clinton managed to win their support for a period, she never won their hearts. She never won their minds. And without the allegiance of the heart, the heads of millennials tend to grossly exaggerate Hillary as simply a politician who changes just to meet the requirements of gaining votes.

The explanation again can be found in the nature of the media and in the shift to gender egalitarianism that Hillary Clinton surely represents, an explanation to which I alluded in my third paragraph of part I. Women are now the majority in medical classes (they were restricted to 10% when I was in medical school), in law classes and, over time, may even become the majority in engineering schools. Women come in all shapes and sizes. But a man like Trump still lives in the locker rooms of the fifties with an attachment to the superficialities of the greater sex. Ivanka Trump can be brighter and exhibit greater ability than her brothers, but she still conforms to Trump’s singular vision of a beautiful woman. So do most of his female surrogates. And many women, experienced with and having created shields to gender marketing, know that branding distorts women into a single mold to sell products. The revolt against this idolatry has been instigated by women and adopted by the millennial generation, except by white males who still cling to Trump’s artificial vision of the female universe.

Has Ivanka Trump altered her appearance by surgery? That is no longer absolutely necessary since photoshop can achieve the appearance of the same result; many if not most partners meet as a result of media images through dating services now. In my experience, women can spot inauthenticity in appearance a mile away. And authenticity is physical as well as emotional and intellectual for millennials. Hence, the reference to Hillary as wooden and an automaton. It is her body language that is primarily seen as inauthentic even when they claim it is her shift in positions. Millennials want to view the same body that avoids shape shifting mentally or physically. And constricted body movement are viewed as inauthentic even when they are the result of seven decades of institutional pressure and shaping.

The irony then is that millennials have this intensive desire for a firmament beneath their feet based on an anti-idol approach to humanity, but without a divine presence. This does not mean one is necessary. But like all religious seekers, including those who are absolutely secular, they are attracted to absolutes. They crave stability in the fleeting world of the media that veers between the attention span of a two-year-old and the equally compelling nature of repetition loved by young children. Hillary Clinton simply disappoints them and men, at least intelligent ones, now follow women in this revolt. That is why a seventy-five-year-old democratic socialist with fluid arms and a flexible visage could win their hearts and Hillary could not. Millennials are desperate for a very different kind of fluidity than the one Hillary offers, and a stability and security that the media fails to provide for a generation so dependent on that media.

With the help of Alex Zisman

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Media and Millennials – I Their Support and Criticisms of Hillary Clinton

Media and Millennials – I Their Support and Criticisms of Hillary Clinton

by

Howard Adelman

It is too easy to generalize about millennials. What I write here is certainly not true across the board. But trends and proportions are important and require explanation. And it is difficult to write about an age group without introducing generalizations that are clearly false if one attempts to apply them to some of that population. With that important caveat, let me now begin to skate on very thin ice.

Tina Nguyen in Vanity Fair wrote that Hillary Clinton could lose the election because millennials don’t like her. (19 September 2016) Too many of them, it seems, have drifted from being Bernie supporters into the Gary Johnson and Jill Stein camps. A recent September Quinnipiac poll indicated that 29% of voters between the ages of 18 and 34 would vote for Gary Johnston, the Libertarian candidate, and 15% said they would vote for the Green Party candidate, Jill Stein. That is 44% of the millennial population. Clinton only has the support of 32% of that age group, only slightly more than Donald Trump with 26% support. Given the margin of error in polling, the two major contenders are almost neck-and-neck in millennial support. That is amazing! When millennials generally find Trump to be a phony and a liar, a misogynist and a racist, an anti-environmentalist when, for most of them, doing something about climate change may be their highest priority, why won’t enough of them shift their vote to ensure Trump is defeated?

Hillary Clinton is a woman; Millennials overwhelmingly believe in gender equality. Hillary Clinton has appropriated many of Bernie’s social planks and seems to have toned down her previously relatively hawkish views in foreign policy. She is indisputably and has always been genuinely committed to women’s issues. Why is one of my sons, my youngest, who was a strong Bernie supporter, now grudgingly in the Clinton camp? Why is this bright, talented, terrific kid – not much of a kid anymore – who dances rings around me in analyzing movies, so put off by Hillary? If he was an American, he would vote for Hillary, but not because he believes that she would make a good president. He sees her as in the pay of Wall Street given the high priced fees she was paid for her speeches by Goldman Sachs and Wells Fargo. Trump’s charges of “crooked Hillary” may not precisely resonate with him and a large number of other millennials, but he, for one, remains highly suspicious of her willingness to compromise and be beholden to interest groups that do not have the best values of society at heart.

Hillary is also seen as insincere and an individual who flip-flops when it is politically expedient to do so. She flip-flopped on her support for the Iraq War which Bernie always opposed. She claims now to be an environmentalist, but she is on record as supporting the Keystone Pipeline. Only when Bernie seemed to be beating her badly among millennials did she switch over and support reduction of tuition fees for students and a $15 minimum wage. My son’s biggest bone of contention was with Hillary’s shift in position on gay marriage. So let me concentrate on analyzing the justice of the charge of a flip-flop on this issue.

When her husband was president, Hillary announced that she opposed Bill Clinton’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy prevalent in the American military. In 1996, when her husband as president signed the Defense of Marriage Act defining marriage as a union between one man and one woman, she supported the bill, but insisted that “same-sex unions should be recognized and given the same legal status as a marriage between a man and a woman with all the same legal rights.” Thus, the only flip-flop was over whether the word “marriage” should be reserved for heterosexual couples. She has adamantly opposed making same-sex unions illegal and proposed legislation to that effect. When senator from New York, she defended the right of the state of New York to include same-sex couples under the category of “marriage,” though as a candidate for the Democratic Party nomination for president in 2008 she joined Barack Obama and all other candidates in opposing the application of the term “marriage” to same sex couples in federal legislation that would force states to comply. She had already called for repeal of the provision in the Defense of Marriage Act prohibiting the federal government from providing benefits to same-sex couples. By then she was already using the word “marriage” rather than “couple.”

As she prepared her run for the Democratic Party nomination in 2013, she explicitly endorsed legalizing same-sex marriages even before the Supreme Court overturned the Defense of Marriage Act. To call Hillary Clinton a flip-flopper on the gay marriage issue is a gross misuse of the term flip-flop when she clearly simply evolved in her use of language, not even policy. By 2013, well before she was battling Bernie, she had declared that, “LGBT Americans are our colleagues, our teachers, our soldiers, our friends, our loved ones, and they are full and equal citizens and deserve the rights of citizenship. That includes marriage. I support it personally, and as a matter of policy and law.”

Another of the issues that infuriates my son perhaps as much is the perception that the Democratic hierarchy tried to rig the primary system against Bernie. As the cliché goes, I could argue myself blue in the face that these efforts, as misjudged as they were, were made after it was very clear that Bernie would not win the primary and were initiated out of a conviction that Bernie was undermining the Democratic ticket with his continuing attacks on Hillary when she was clearly going to be the candidate of the Democratic Party. But Bernie would not drop out.

We all know the polls that indicate that both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are the most disliked presidential candidates in recent history, though Trump trumps Hillary in this category, but only by a few percentage points. Personally, my son sees Hillary as an automaton, a trained spokesperson for establishment Democratic Party interests, the very same political point that Donald Trump repeatedly makes though my son abhors Trump’s language use to relay his insults. Though he would vote for Hillary because Donald Trump is a lying demagogue, he joins the vast majority of millennials who are convinced that Hillary is inauthentic, that she does not say what she believes but only what is necessary to win the election. So even if a third of them will vote for Hillary largely to keep Trump out, even they are generally voting against Donald Trump and not for Hillary.

That is the puzzle. Why?

With the help of Alex Zisman

Impressions of the Mike Pence/Tim Kaine Debate

Impressions of the Mike Pence/Tim Kaine Debate

by

Howard Adelman

Can you stand another missive from an American presidential race junkie? I watched the Mike Pence/Tim Kaine debate last evening. My general take was that Mike Pence won on style and Tim Kaine won on substance. But it wasn’t much of a victory from either side. The Pence strategy simply worked better because throughout he remained on message and was unflappable under attack. When Mike was clutched in the corner and the jabs kept coming at Pence’s waist, Mike pivoted very well by often throwing his presidential candidate, Trump, under the bus. Tim Kaine, on the other hand, threw himself under the bus for Hillary.

Kaine was mediocre to poor as an attack dog, interrupting too often at the beginning, repeating points too many times – on Donald Trump’s taxes – and took too long to find his stride and let the true Tim Kaine emerge – the nice polite guy with excellent principles and a substantive record. He had the opposite trajectory to Donald Trump in the latter’s first debate with Hillary; he improved enormously, with some fallbacks, as the debate wore on. Mike Pence, on the other hand, always remained smooth and unruffled, but in the last one-third began to reveal himself as a self-righteous moralistic schoolmarm rather than a politician capable of empathy and compromise.

As an aside, I thought that Elaine Quijano has been the best moderator if the three occasions are compared – last night’s debate with the presidential debate and the previous occasion when Trump and Hillary were on the same stage but were not debating. On the other hand, in spite of generally being an improvement, Elaine did not fact check, did not prevent the debaters from running on well over time, especially Mike Pence, allowed total pivoting away from her excellent questions and allowed far too much crosstalk that almost made it impossible to follow the discussion. Clearly, moderators are harpooned if they stand too far back and allow the debaters to confront one another but might be doubly harpooned if they actually tried to referee the debate, holding each of the candidates responsible when they lied and delivered low blows.

Most of all, I thought Tim Kaine missed a number of opportunities to undermine Mike Pence as he clearly delivered his over-rehearsed punch lines in executing the Democratic Party strategy decision to focus almost exclusively on Trump and letting Pence off the hook on a number of issues. Let me illustrate with the issues where he pinned Mike Pence on the ropes. Kaine did it best on the issue of abortion and, in the process, linked Trump with Pence’s reactionary policies. As Tim pointed out clearly and unequivocally, both he and Hillary were pro-choice candidates, even though he personally was a believing and practicing Catholic who was against abortion. Mike Pence, on the other hand, not only admitted but defended his belief (and Donald’s) that the state should interfere in the wombs of women who get pregnant and not only would not provide medical insurance for abortions, but prosecute women who sought an abortion. Kaine alluded to but did not exploit the fact that, as governor of Indiana, Pence signed a law this year which obligated women to have funerals or cremation for aborted foetuses. As well as he did, I thought Tim missed an opportunity to highlight this issue more, but it is easy enough for spectators to second guess political candidates.

I thought Mike’s honesty and critical self-reflection came through best when he was asked about his most difficult choice when he had been governor of Virginia. He opposed the death penalty, as did his church, but the laws of Virginia mandated the death penalty. So when he could find no extenuating circumstances to remit the death penalty in a specific case, he allowed the execution to go ahead. Mike Pence, in contrast, seemed to pretend he was humble and torn in a case of justice, but came across as disingenuous. After all, he was not torn at all when he said, “I support the death penalty.”

At the end of September, Mike Pence stated that he would refuse to pardon Keith Cooper who had served 10 years of a 40-year sentence after eye witnesses recanted their testimony and there was proof that there was no Cooper DNA at the crime scene. Pence took this stand in spite of the unanimous recommendation of the Indiana parole board. Why? Because this wrongly accused and convicted man, in his view, had a duty, not only to prove he was innocent, but had to, at great personal expense, exhaust all other remedies before Governor Mike Pence would consider a pardon request. However, for legal reasons that sped up his release from jail, Cooper could not use the courts to win a pardon. Cooper was caught in a Cath-22 of Mike Pence’s making. Therefore, a felony conviction, remains on record limiting Cooper’s job prospects.

Where government financial relief should have been immediately forthcoming for the wrongfully convicted, Mike Pence threw this innocent man under the bus once again as he often did to Donald Trump in the debate. Mike Pence appears on the surface as a Trump loyalist, but Trump demands absolute loyalty and there is no sign that Mike Pence is willing to go down in flames with Donald Trump and instead is focused on his own campaign to be the Republican candidate for president in 2020.

There was a good debate on the justice system and policing in general, but the two explicitly differed on stop and frisk, a policy which Trump also promotes. Tim Kaine missed an opportunity to push Mike Pence on this issue. It was on the justice system issue on which Mike Pence appeared to be most self-reflective, but why did Tim Kaine not puncture Mike’s righteousness by pointing out how Pence as governor of Indiana refused to pardon an innocent man after he had unjustly been incarcerated for 10 years?

What was lost in the debate, except on the abortion issue, was the fact that Mike Pence is a religious troglodyte. He is homophobic and anti-LGBT, arguing not that a governor is there to enforce the law of the land, but to enforce his own personal moral code whatever the law. So he defended a bill to protect civil servants who, as a matter of conscience, refused to deliver state services in Indiana to same-sex couples. Can you imagine that if he happened to be a racist or anti-Semitic, he would defend the right of civil servants of the state to ignore their legal obligations and not provide services to Blacks or Jews if those acts assailed their consciences. But, of course, in Pence’s mind, being homophobic is ok, but anti-Semitism and racism are not.

Tim Kaine could have pointed out how such a stance was so antithetical to the American constitution in a much clearer and more forceful way if he was not determined to keep on script and focus almost exclusively on attacking Trump. So he also omitted to point out how Mike Pence’s policies led to declines in tourism, in cancellation of conventions in the state, a state that may have balanced its budget under his governorship, but a state which also ranked lowest in economic growth in the Midwest, a state where average wages dropped from $53,500 in 2000 to $46,900 in 2015. No wonder that he and Trump believe the economy has been driven into the ground. In Indiana, Pence’s trickle-down economics which he shares with Donald Trump, was a major contributor to that effect. Tim Kaine could have skewered Mike Pence on this specifically instead of just reiterating general criticisms of trickle-down economics. Kaine did succeed in pointing out repeatedly that Trump’s tax policies would benefit the rich like himself and punish the middle class, and at the same time, would add far more to the national debt that any of Hillary Clinton’s policies would.

Two other areas in which Mike Pence was very weak and got off the hook were issues on which Tim Kaine could have pierced both Pence and Trump with the same thrust. Both the Republican presidential and vice-presidential candidate do not, at heart, believe in science. Trump focuses on climate change as a liberal myth while Pence argues that climate has changed as a result of human activity. Tim Kaine could have had Mike Pence throw his boss under the bus on this as well as on the six issues in which he did. On the other hand, Tim Kaine could have gored Mike Pence on his stand on cigarette smoking while also revealing that he had been in the economic pocket of the tobacco industry from which he has received over $100,000 in campaign donations.

After all, did Pence not write an op-ed that said, “Despite the hysteria from the political class and the media, smoking doesn’t kill”? After all, “9 out of 10 smokers” he insisted, “do not get cancer.” In fact, the correlation is the exact reverse – in cases of lung cancer death, the death of 9 out of 10 men and women is caused by cigarette smoking. Smoking kills almost half a million Americans each year. SMOKING DOES KILL. Has Pence not consistently opposed legislation to retard tobacco use, even opposing an agreement to which the tobacco industry had signed on in a suit with opponents of big tobacco? Mike Pence said it was more government regulation and Tim Kaine missed an opportunity to impale Pence’s cool but rigidly Republican anti-regulation dogmas.

But what about the big issues like immigration, foreign and economic policy? On the latter, I have already referred to the fallacies of trickle-down economics which Tim Kaine pointed out, but without pinning the specific tail on Pence as the donkey. On foreign policy, Kaine held his own on getting rid of Iran’s nuclear stockpile, on Hillary’s dealings with Russia, on Hillary’s Middle East policies. But he repeated over and over again Trump’s possible ties to Russian economic interests. The issue is not, however, as Eric Trump pretended it was, Trump’s investments in Russia, but Russian oligarch loans to the Trump organization. Kaine focused on Trump’s and Pence’s praise for Putin as a strong leader contending that if Pence did not know the difference between good leadership and dictatorship, he was wearing blinkers. But on this issue, both Trump and Pence said that Putin was a strong, not a good, leader, so Kaine’s jabs missed their target even as Pence denied he (and Trump) explicitly admired Putin as a leader when both unequivocally did. Because Trump and Pence both believe in strong, not good leadership – and many Americans for some reason seem to be longing for a Turkey-like, for a Philippines-like – you name the country – for we are in an era where disastrous strong leaders but not good leaders are everywhere.

The exchange went as follows:
PENCE: “That is absolutely inaccurate. I said he’s been stronger on the world stage.”
KAINE: “No, you said leader.”
And Kaine was absolutely correct.

Mike Pence clearly came out as a hawk on Syria. but Kaine failed to explore the huge gap between the policies he advocated and the very restricted foreign policy involvement of Donald Trump, his boss.

Tim Laine did point out that Pence’s policies differed radically from Trump’s on six other different issues, but the format of the debate prevented him from expanding on that observation in any detail. After all, Pence may be ardently anti-abortion, but unlike Trump who has been pro-abortion and then converted to support the so-called pro-life position to advance his presidential candidacy, Pence does not come across as Trump does as guilty of misogyny. Pence refused to grab the bait and try to defend Trump’s absolutely scurrilous remarks on women. Kaine could also have pointed out that Trump’s misogyny extends to men who change diapers, for Trump openly mocked such behaviour by men.

Going to another aspect of foreign policy, Pence insisted it was Hillary’s fault in letting Russia get away with the invasion of Georgia and Kaine’s epée slipped off its mark when he correctly said that Russia’s invasion of Georgia took place in August 2008 under Dubbya Bush’s administration when Obama was running for president, but had not yet become president and had not yet named Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State. But Kaine did not push back strongly on this issue. Kaine also did not point out how the Obama administration has rolled back ISIS significantly without the commitment of large numbers of American boots on the ground, but for some reason or other – and I cannot figure out why – Kaine’s defence of the complete withdrawal of troops from Iraq and the failure to conclude a status of forces agreement with the Iraqi government did not seem to register or disclose how badly Pence was misconstruing what had taken place.

On immigration, Pence managed to pivot away and obscure in a cloud of rhetoric Trump’s repeated assurances that he will deport not only 11 million illegal immigrants in the U.S., but 4.5 million native-born Americans whose parents were illegals. Pence managed that, not only by shifting from Trump’s revisionism that this is but the final stage of a longer term program, by simply wiping such a policy out of the discussion by side-stepping the attack. In another case of such deftness on the part of Pence, when Kaine repeatedly challenged Pence to defend Donald Trump’s not only abandonment of nuclear proliferation but its promotion, Pence simply lied and said that Trump never said that.

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict was ignored. Turkey was ignored. Egypt was ignored. North Korea was brought up and Pence seemed to favour an attack, as did Kaine as well. But on this very important issue, they both came across as much more hawkish than Trump as well as Obama. I could go on. I generally appreciated the debate much more than the presidential encounter for it was far more serious, but the Democrats will have to sharpen their game strategy much further if Trump learns from his first debate failures and the way Mike Pence handled himself.