Being another in a series of dispatches from the Outer Void that American politics has become
I woke up this morning with a similar stuporous confusion I previously associated with undergrad students on Spring Break. "Good Lord, were we just arrested by Mexican police? Did Badger just get his stomach pumped? IS THAT A DEAD HOOKER?!"
Except, in my own case, I was in my own bed, no interesting substances had been ingested (although I'm starting to wonder if there isn't something in the water), and there were no dead hookers to be found. All of which would normally be considered good things, but today, something like that would almost assuage the odd sense of dread and vague agitation that haunts me - y'know, "Oh, OF COURSE I feel awful; I tried heroin and strangled a single mother."
No; I merely made the mistake of tuning in to the Vice Presidential debates. Complete honesty; in the 17 years I’ve been eligible to vote; I’ve only watched one previous VP debate (it was in 2004, between Cheney and What’s his face). It was such a dispiriting, uneducational experience that I vowed never again to tune in to one. And, like most Americans, I stuck with that decision. And then 2020 gave me the cage match I never knew I wanted to see. Full admission; I’m already a decided voter, and I’ve decided I prefer affordable healthcare and not dying of COVID to guns and repealing the fifth amendment. The Biden campaign already had my vote, then they chose K. Harris as VP pick. This was not an inconsequential decision made on a whim. Picking Harris as a VP is more akin to choosing a moderate swing-state governor - she’s there to signal to every disenfranchised, previously-ignored group that we will have a voice in this administration. She’s not a black, transgender Jewish woman in a wheelchair, but she’s about as close as we’re going to realistically get. So it’s possible that I went in with unrealistically high expectations of seeing the world’s most-ludicrously overqualified woman deliver verbal body blows to the human version of powdered milk; the walking embodiment of feeble white male privilege. That was my ridiculously over-romanticized school girl fantasy - watching the representative for American minorities slap back the bully.
Imagine my horror as Debate 2: The Sequel unfolded.
Now, I will admit that a two minute response time doesn’t really allow for the nuanced explanation and analysis a policy wonk like myself likes to see, but I also never dreamed of a day when the line, "fuzzy math" would seem like a decent analysis. I totally understand that our country is insanely regressive, and coming onstage with a guillotine and "Black Lives Matter" flag wouldn’t fly, but, at the same time, I’ve already seen the Trump Biden debate; I didn’t need to see it a second time with different actors. And, although this bout was slightly more civil, it was just more of what we’ve already seen. White men talking over black women (for all of my black woman friends, on behalf of white men, I’d like to formally apologize for continuing four centuries of hideous rudeness). Everyone loves police and fracking and we’re going to recruit an army of cops just to drill through shale deposits (or something - after a certain point, my boredom, fatigue, and aggravation overrode my reason centers and I remembered why no one watches VP debates). No one said anything we haven’t heard, K. Harris seemed like she’d rather be running a police reform commission, Pence looked like he would rather be left alone for a week to digest the live goat he just ate (that’s a Komodo Dragon joke - post-debate commentators quickly devolved into the boring stereotypes about how immensely dislikable opinionated minorities are, while conveniently overlooking how Pence looked and behaved like something that just slithered out of the Mesozoic). It was both boring and infuriating.
Unfortunately, I couldn't turn off the television; because I made that mistake last time, and missed Donald verbally cozying up to neo-Nazis. So, I didn't want to make that mistake this time and wake up to some scintillating headlines like, "Harris calls for reparations, immediate execution of billionaires," or, "Pence finishes debate with siegheil, vows to clone Himmler."
We didn’t get anything that interesting, the closest thing to interesting was when a fly got caught in Pence’s hair for two minutes. I’m not making that up or exaggerating anything, although I’ve seen some Marvel films that seemed shorter than those two minutes. Like most people who had points deducted from my middle school essays when I mixed up the words "metaphorical," and, " literal," I was livid a few years ago when Webster’s Dictionary changed the meaning of "literal" to include its use as "metaphorical." This morning, though, I get it. 24 hours ago, "Lord of the Flies" was a book or theological metaphor. This morning, though, it’s an actual almost-person: Mike Pence. To be fair, that fly’s gentle caress was probably more intimate contact than he’s received in the past year from Mother.
The one good thing about this debate is that Harris stumbled upon a fear-based rallying cry for leftists. For years, conservatives have been able to shrilly claim the Democrats are coming for your guns and/or money. Now, we have our own chant: "They're coming for your healthcare!"