The Vice Presidential debate between Mike Pence and Joe Biden’s second-in-command Kamala Harris was, in many ways, the presidential debate Republicans had previously hoped Donald Trump would deliver. Pence was calm and determined as he targeted the glaring flaws of the Harris/Biden administration. He attempted to force Harris to answer whether the Democrats would pack the court, and she refused to answer. He demonstrated the lies underpinning Harris’ candidacy when he pointed out that both Biden and Harris have called to end fracking, but now claim to have done no such thing. Finally, he raised the obvious point that Biden’s history of foreign policy decisions is replete with errors and ineptitude. When it comes to judging the outcome of direct competition between the Left and the Right, all that is needed is to look to the post-competition analysis from the Left. If a Democrat experiences a true victory, the framing of the story is one of equality of opportunity, with the Democrat outwitting his or her Republican opponent. If a Democrat experiences a loss, however, the framing is deliberately switched from one of equality of opportunity to one of assumed victim-hood.
In the aftermath of the debate, and building on Harris’ routine implications that any criticism of her or her record is rooted entirely in sexism or racism, members of the Left rallied to declare that any “victory” for Pence was impossible because of his “gross” behavior. Frequent self-described victim of sexism, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, condemned Pence’s questioning of Harris as “gross,” and demonstrative of work-based sexism.
Another common theme of this supposed expression of sexism is the diagnosis of “mansplaining.” ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, a former senior aide to famous feminist President Bill Clinton, said that there was “some mansplaining going on tonight,” while Dan Rather wrote “I don’t think VP Pence’s mansplaining and over-talking is doing a lot to narrow the gender gap, unless it is also turning off more men as well.”
As is now expected, the wider media were quick to embrace this shared narrative, with such headlines as “Critic’s Notebook: Kamala Harris Rises Above a Mansplaining Mike Pence in Vice Presidential Debate” from The Hollywood Reporter. Setting aside the literal fake news that Pence “over-talked” Harris – CNN reported that Pence and Harris’ final speaking times were merely 3 seconds apart – it’s important to focus on the familiar accusation of mansplaining which occurs any time a Republican man competes with a Democratic woman. Mansplaining is a cultural term used to describe “when a man talks condescending to someone (especially a woman) about something he has incomplete knowledge of, with the mistaken assumption that he knows more about it than the person he’s talking to does.”
Given this definition of mansplaining, it would be dishonest to believe that such behavior doesn’t indeed occur in all areas of life, and certainly in politics. Indeed, “the mistaken assumption” of expertise is a prerequisite to run for political office. However, it’s simply absurd to claim that Pence was guilty of mansplaining during this debate for two reasons. The first is simple – Mike Pence was not speaking about something he has incomplete knowledge of. You may disagree with his conclusions or his arguments or even his tone, but accusations of “mansplaining” should be partnered with evidence that Pence’s arguments were driven by ignorance. The second is deeper, and speaks to the Left’s sporadic positions on feminism and equality. To view Pence’s decision to ask questions of his opponent during a debate – which is the very purpose of a debate – as “condescending” is entirely subjective, and makes the invalid assumption that some form of hierarchy exists which separates the two parties. While Mike Pence is Vice President of the United States, Kamala Harris is one of the highest ranking officials in the country, making the continued argument that any criticism of Harris is an expression of racism and/or sexism, frankly, laughable.
This raises an important question – when is it acceptable to treat a woman as an equal? In this context, when is it acceptable to ask questions of a woman, or criticize her record? Kamala Harris was San Francisco’s District Attorney, one of the most powerful positions in the city. Was it sexist to ask her questions? What about when Harris rose to become California’s Attorney General, the most senior law enforcement position in the state? Surely as a U.S. Senator, Harris has authority significant enough to justify questions or challenges? Today, as she stands on the brink of becoming the second most powerful politician in the country (and arguably the world), aren’t questions regarding basic policies permitted? Given her clear prowess, why does alleged “tone” only matter when it is directed towards a Democratic woman, but the same tone is applauded when used against any Republican, male or female? What must be understood is that equal treatment is a one-way goal for the Left. “Tone” only matters when it concerns a Republican, and the acceptability of “interruptions” rests entirely on the political affiliation of the interrupter and the interrupted. Identity is nothing but a tool to be used both offensively and defensively as required.
Kamala Harris’ rise as a “woman of color” is applauded not because the Left are happy for her success, but because her membership to various identity groups provides them with shields against equality of treatment. Harris is free to smirk and laugh and interrupt Pence, but when Pence does the same, it’s “racism” and “sexism.” This nonsense has to stop, and it will only stop when “mansplaining” conservatives like me demand that the Left answer this question: “Do you want equal treatment for women, or not?”
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