13 Anti-Feminist Moments Of The Vice Presidential Debate That Knocked Our Progress Back
Given the histories of the two men taking part in the vice presidential debate Tuesday, not to mention the respective running mates they had to speak up for and defend, you might have expected women's issues to play a large role in the debate. Alas, you'd be wrong! Still, the lack of discussion on women's issues as a whole didn't mean that there weren't a ton of anti-feminist moments. Great.
Tim Kaine, current Virginia senator and Hillary Clinton's running mate, has a long history of supporting a woman's right to choose, improving access to contraception, and generally trusting women to make the choices that are right for them. He has a mutually supportive relationship with his wife, Anne Holton, an accomplished public servant in her own right. And besides, Clinton picked him as her running mate. That definitely counts for something.
Mike Pence, on the other hand, is about as far from a feminist as you can get without angrily ranting about men's rights on the internet. He's far too polite and mild-mannered to be the loud sort of misogynist that his running mate Donald Trump is, but his actions — fighting against abortion rights and Planned Parenthood and mocking working mothers, just to name a few — reveal that he as just as much contempt for the fairer sex as Trump does.
Here, then, across all sorts of subjects and issues, are 13 moments during the vice presidential debate that collectively pushed women's progress back 50 years.
1. Comments About Clinton's "Insult-Driven Campaign"
Right at the beginning, Kaine listed off a number of things that Donald Trump has actually said about immigrants and President Obama's origins. Pence, in the first sentence of his rebuttal, chalked it up to the "insult-driven" campaign which he claimed Clinton and Kaine are running. I'd be curious to hear what he calls it when Trump blatantly insults women. Evidently, he's unbothered by those moments and insults. And yet he bristles when Kaine and Clinton bring the facts of what Trump has said to light.
2. Attributing The Rise Of ISIS To Clinton's Weakness
Pence essentially repeated Trump's line that Clinton founded ISIS, but in different words — this time highlighting her "failure" as a secretary of state. The men on the Republican ticket have made every effort to make her and President Obama seem weak on foreign policy, conveniently ignoring her sometimes-hawkish achievements.
3. Kaine Called For Equal Pay, Pence Passed
In laying out his and Clinton's economic plan, Kaine emphasized that they want women to receive equal pay for equal work. Pence, in his rebuttal, didn't even bother to answer that part of Kaine's comments, as his record on equal pay is abysmal.
4. Secretary Of State Does Not Equal Economic Advisor
Pence's comments about Obama leading the country to financial ruin "with Hillary Clinton at his side" is both sexist and strongly misleading. As secretary of state, Clinton would have had no role in deciding the Obama administration's economic policies. In the first debate, Trump revealed that he hasn't quite understood that, either.
5. Implicit Bias Is A Thing
In one of his weaker attacks, Pence attempted to paint Clinton as a villain for bringing up the heavily documented issue of implicit bias. Kaine effectively shot it down, but Pence denigrating Clinton for raising this issue ignores both the strength it took to say such an unpopular truth and the issue itself. This is both sexist — implying that Clinton doesn't understand the topic — and racist, because it pretends that it doesn't exist. Plus, it's awfully rich coming from a man who attempted to bar any Syrian refugees from entering his state.
6. Trump's Disgusting Comments About Women
Kaine, as expected, quoted Trump's various hateful comments toward women. Pence could have used the moment to defend his running mate, or at least to stand up for them for himself. Instead, he turned the issue around and started talking about Clinton's "basket of deplorables" comment. This provides us with yet more proof that neither man on the Republican ticket respects women to the extent that they deserve.
7. Holding Clinton To A Different Standard
Trump has apologized for exactly zero of his hurtful comments. Clinton said that she regretted her "basket of deplorables" comment. Why Pence should be able to ask for a stronger apology there while ignoring basically everything that his running mate has ever said is beyond me.
8. More Implications Of Clinton's Weakness
When the subject of Vladimir Putin and Russia came up, Pence basically blamed all of Russia's actions in the last decade on Clinton's weakness. Why did Obama scrap the plans to put a missile defense shield in the Czech Republic and Poland? Because they were a weak team, not because they decided on a different plan and the countries in question were strongly opposed to it.
Russia's invasions of Georgia and Crimea, in 2008 and 2014, respectively, both of which were heavily steeped in the complicated ethnic and political history of the region, suddenly fell on Clinton's shoulders as well. American foreign policy, including Clinton, had no more effect on those unilateral moves by Russia than Russian foreign policy had on the 9/11 attacks.
9. Blatant Lies About The Candidates' Respective Foundations
This is another excellent case of not holding the candidates to the same standard. Pence lied about the Clinton Global Initiative spending less than 10 cents of each dollar donated on charity (the number is closer to 88 cents on the dollar), and then defended the Trump Foundation simply by saying "The Trump Foundation is a nonprofit." He couldn't dispute Kaine's well-founded claims that the Trump Foundation isn't properly registered as a charity, or that it used donations for Trump's personal benefit. Imagine the uproar if Pence and his running mate could find legitimate wrongdoing connected to the Clinton foundation — but it's fine when Trump does it.
10. And Then... Abortion
When moderator Elaine Quijano turned the subject to faith, Pence dove right into what has been one of the primary causes of his entire tenure as a politician: taking away women's right to choose. Kaine, who is also deeply religious, chose to go with the issue of the death penalty, which he personally opposed but carried out as governor of his state because the law mandated it. Pence, on the other hand, took the first opportunity he had to repeat his position that women should not be allowed to make their own decisions.
11. Trump's Comments About Punishing Women Who Seek Abortions
Kaine brought up the comments that Trump made suggesting that women who seek abortions should be punished — a statement that he took back soon afterwards. Pence's only defense was that Trump was "not a polished politician like [Kaine] or Hillary Clinton." He also said that neither he nor his running mate supported that explicitly, but to refuse to give an impassioned argument against it is to put the lives of the women who seek abortions and the doctors who provide them in danger.
12. Pence Against The First Amendment
The separation of church and state — a fundamental element of our Constitution and part of the very basis of the country — should protect women from politicians who would block abortion rights because of a religious argument. Kaine came out very strongly for it, saying that his personal beliefs had to take a backseat to the laws of the land. Pence, who only last year signed a "religious freedom" bill which ended in a huge mess, seemed to not quite grasp that using the Bible as a reason to implement laws isn't something that you can do in the United States.
13. Tim Kaine's Killer Line
Probably the most memorable moment of the whole debate was Kaine's response to Pence's comments about abortion: "Why don't you trust women to make this choice for themselves?" Pence offered the weak line that the unborn need to be protected as a vulnerable group, but that ignores the obvious: In an America led by Trump and Pence, women would need far more protection than they do now, or than they have needed any time in the last half a century.
As if we hadn't gathered as much from watching any given five minutes of any Trump speech ever, this debate just underscored one of the most fundamental problems with this whole election. On the one hand, we have Hillary Clinton, who has been a crusader for women's rights and who has broken through numerous glass ceilings herself. On the other hand, we have a pair of misogynists who wouldn't worry about moving the women's movement back to the middle of the 20th Century. We can't let that happen.