Will tonight’s vice presidential debate lift the discourse bar?
It’d be quite a feat to lower it, as the battle between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton has been swirling around in the gutter for quite some time. In the wake of the first presidential debate the candidates have devolved to epic levels of lowliness, with Trump mocked Hillary’s ability to walk back to her car
Donald Trump mocks Hillary Clinton over her pneumonia outbreak pic.twitter.com/feHjV6cLDa
— The Telegraph (@Telegraph) October 2, 2016
while Hillary blamed increased ISIS recruitment on Trump’s rhetoric.
Presidential campaigns always get ugly, but this year feels particularly different.
As Faithwire previously noted, a new poll showed 7% of Americans have ended friendships over the election while 70% feel the 2016 campaign season has brought out the very worst in Americans. The Vice Presidential Debate is poised to be significantly more productive and resembling normal interaction. Both candidates have been open about their faith backgrounds, although they are on two very different ends of the faith spectrum.
As Jonathan Martin points out, Mike Pence has been a vocal proponent of evangelical values. He championed a religious freedom bill (those on the left choose to describe it as ‘anti-gay’) and thus bearing the brunt of political attacks.
Tim Kaine, meanwhile, has raised eyebrows from the largely secular Democratic party for his openness about faith:
“(Kaine) had his faith forged when, during law school, he went to Honduras and served as a missionary for the Jesuits. It was there that he embraced a brand of liberation theology centered on social justice that would eventually be one of the forces propelling him into government.”
Interestingly, Martin notes that Kaine has appeased concerns from fellow democrats by shifting his gay marriage and pro-life stances “to accommodate his party” – while (without noticing the irony) claiming to remain ‘unapologetic’ about how important his faith is to him.
Regardless of theological and political differences, there is a chance that tonight’s debate will feature many of the hot button issues surrounding the faith community that have been, so far, missing in action from the conversation. Martin observes:
“people of faith are choosing between two candidates uneasy discussing religion. Mr. Trump has at times been unable to cite a single Bible verse, and he memorably referred to the second book of Corinthians as “Two Corinthians,” a sign of his unfamiliarity with Scripture. Mrs. Clinton is a Methodist and more grounded in the church, but she concedes that discussing her own faith does not “come naturally.”
A record number of people watched the first debate between Clinton and Trump – 84 million – the buzz was palpable as everyone wanted to see the wreckage.
Tonight’s debate, which begins at 9:00pm eastern at is being held at Longwood University, doesn’t have the anticipation, flare or dramatics as the main event did. It’s just a couple of decent gentlemen debating differing policies while trying to avoid major gaffes or unwanted attention – and that tone doesn’t get ratings.
Dr. Russel Moore told the Times: “If we had a Mike Pence versus Tim Kaine race, it would be an election worthy of the American people.”
But given how Americans continually reward the lowest antics with the highest TV ratings, it sure seems like we are getting exactly what we deserve.
The debate will be live streamed on Facebook, Twitter and Youtube. It will be hard to miss on TV, as virtually every major network is carrying it.