So how is Pence the winner after telling so many easily fact-checked lies? Maybe because Donald Trump has spent the last year and a half de-sensitizing America to democratic (small d) absurdity.
Pence didn’t win, he should almost be disqualified. The Donald Trump who exists and is running for president, and the Donald Trump that Pence shielded from critical analysis by simply changing subjects calmly, measuredly and often are a paradox of antimatter that would likely explode if they ever met. They are complete opposites, and ideologically cannot exist at the same time.
Pence discussed foreign policy regarding Russia as if Donald Trump was a neoconservative, and as if Trump was genuinely concerned about the authoritarian threat Vladimir Putin posed to American allies and national interests. The real Donald Trump admittedly admires Putin’s dictatorial governance, and proposes exaggerated law and order domestic policies of his own. How can Pence have won a 2016 debate when he’s not debating Election 2016?
Meanwhile, Tim Kaine could have challenged Pence’s unrealistic imitations of Trump’s politics, though he was visibly astonished that Pence would not even try to defend Trump. The media has deemed Kaine a loser for his argumentative interruptions, but the interruptions were intended to try and force Pence to rationalize his running mate. But Pence simply ignored any Trump talk, to the point that some in the media believe Pence must be running for president himself in 2020.
Which made for a borderline dysfunctional debate because Pence wasn’t genuinely participating. Kaine was as prepared as Hillary Clinton in her debate—with memorized lists of Trump2016 controversies and exact, offensive Trump quotes—but Pence’s strategy was to simply sidestep Kaine’s lawyer-like indictments and to defy the reality of Trump’s toxicity. Yet it impressed many in the media, I suppose, because he wasn’t lying with Trump’s bombastic pageantry. Pence’s calm lies may naturally look good juxtaposed with Trump’s wild, undisciplined lies, but they’re still lies.
Perhaps Pence really does want to run for president in 2020. The premonition suggests that Pence might be stoically fighting the losing battle of Trump2016 only to better position himself in the eyes of the Republican Trump-loving base. Good luck with the Deplorables, Mr. Pence.
This explains why Pence spent the debate describing a Republican presidential campaign that is not at all Donald Trump’s campaign, and why Tim Kaine allegedly lost a debate in which only Kaine was arguing reality. Pence was describing Pence2020 along with a perhaps overly optimistic hope that the Republican Party will want to return to traditional conservatism following a Trump loss.