Vice President Mike Pence destroyed Sen. Kamala Harris on the merits in the debate Wednesday night, but media figures on the Left quickly latched on to an explanation for Harris’s lackluster performance: they accused Mike Pence of “mansplaining.”
“Mansplaining” is a pejorative term used to describe when a man explains something to a woman in a condescending or patronizing way. Journalists and Hollywood figures also accused Pence of dominating the debate by constantly interrupting and talking over Harris. (More on that later.)
One problem with that narrative: Pence actually spoke for about three minutes less than Harris. That some people have a perception otherwise shows just how thoroughly effective he was during the debate. Pence stayed on message, redirected to the most important points, and challenged Harris when she said something false.
An unofficial count from ABC that emerged immediately after the debate showed that Pence spoke for a total of 35 minutes and 22 seconds compared to 38 minutes and 48 seconds for Harris. There’s some variance depending on the source; CNN said the time they spoke was about equal while ABC said that Harris got more than 3 minutes more speaking time than Pence.
Ironically, Pence specifically and repeatedly asked Harris to answer whether the Biden administration would seek to pack the Supreme Court by expanding the size and packing it with liberal judges, but she pointedly refused to answer the question.
That’s not mansplaining. It was an extraordinary performance by Pence and a weak one by Harris. But Democrats and their media allies quickly rushed to defend Harris:
Katie Couric (formerly of the NBC’s Today Show and the CBS Evening News) tweeted: “Still need to be able to mute mics.”
Former CBS anchor Dan Rather tweeted: “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.
Chris Hayes of MSNBC tweeted: “The gendered dynamics of interruption and the power to interrupt is always so in your face in these settings. My god.”
ABC’s George Stephanopoulos (who was previously Bill Clinton’s communications director) said: “A lot of people were noticing some mansplaining going on tonight.”
New York Times contributor Jill Filipovic tweeted: “Every woman knows that condescending sexist man who repeatedly calls you by your name as a way to be disdainful and patronizing when he’s talking to you.”
Got that? It’s sexist to call someone by their name.
The Hollywood Reporter published a piece titled “Kamala Harris Rises Above a Mansplaining Mike Pence in Vice Presidential Debate” which started by saying “The California senator’s poise and firmness made for a satisfying contrast to the vice president’s smug condescension and interruptions.”
The piece then went on to accuse Pence of talking over and interrupting his opponent and steamrolling the moderator in an “uncomfortable spectacle of unconscious gendered dynamics”. The piece also stated that Pence’s portrait might be found in the dictionary under “mansplainer.” – calling him a “sexist jerk.”
The article lauded Harris, meanwhile, for her “looks of open skepticism, disbelief and irritation as Pence spoke.”
Notice that the media did not rush to protect Sarah Palin this same way when she debated Joe Biden in 2008.
Actor Mark Ruffalo decided that it was a symptom of both misogyny AND white supremacy, when he tweeted: “Just going over it all in my head. The way Mike Pence constantly interrupted and spoke over @KamalaHarris was the prime example of white male supremacy and its commons dismissal and disrespect for black woman.”
Two points on that: why is Ruffalo defining Harris based on only half her heritage by referring to her as a black woman while completely ignoring and erasing her Indian heritage?
Also: Ed Norton played the Hulk better.
Pence was not mansplaining
A man expressing disagreement during a debate with a woman is not mansplaining. That’s called having a debate.
Challenging someone’s assertions and arguing a different position is not mansplaining; laying out what the administration has done is not mansplaining.
It’s not mansplaining to call out a falsehood during a debate, such as when Harris denied that Biden said he would ban fracking, even though Biden said it repeatedly on video during the primary.
Pence performed so extraordinarily well during the debate that the media has resorted to calling him sexist for having the temerity to actually debate a woman during a debate. A man talking does not equal mansplaining.
The debate was civil, respectful, and far tamer than the first presidential debate between Trump and Biden. Harris failed to respond effectively by bringing up possible rebuttal points because she wasn’t able to think of them in the moment. Some women, like Sen. Elizabeth Warren, are good debaters. Some women are bad debaters, just like some men are bad debaters.
Harris did so poorly in the Democratic primary debates that she dropped out before the first vote in order to save face. And in those debates, Harris implied Biden is a racist.
Related: Harris awkwardly laughed when asked by Stephen Colbert to explain how she could join the Biden campaign after viciously attacking him during the primary debates. Read Joe Rogan’s thoughts about what that says about Harris as a person, and whether anything she says can be trusted
The Left is using the term “mansplainer” as a cudgel to attack Pence – it’s a way of invalidating his points based on his gender, not substance.
Men interrupt and talk over each other all the time. If a man does that to a woman, he is treating her exactly the same as he treats other men. If a woman has a problem with that, she is asking to be treated differently because of her gender.
Harris refuses to say whether Biden will pack the Supreme Court
Harris was specifically asked whether she and Biden would seek to pack the Supreme Court if Republicans fill the court vacancy created by the death of liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
“Packing the Supreme Court” means expanding the Supreme Court by adding seats to the bench, and then filling those seats with justices who are friendly to the president who will rule in his favor, which would completely politicize and de-legitimize the court, as well as weaken our system of checks and balances.
Ginsburg herself said that she opposed the idea. In a 2019 interview she said that “Nine seems to be a good number” and “I think it was a bad idea when President Franklin Roosevelt tried to pack the court.”
“If anything [it] would make the court look partisan,” she said. “It would be that — one side saying, ‘When we’re in power, we’re going to enlarge the number of judges, so we would have more people who would vote the way we want them to.'”
When Harris repeatedly refused during the debate to answer whether the Biden administration would do this, Pence pushed Harris for an answer. “The American people deserve an answer: are you and Biden going to pack the Supreme Court?”
For a moment, it almost looked like Pence was going to be able to get Harris to crack and speak her mind like in that scene from “A Few Good Men” but the moderator jumped in to save Harris.
It’s disingenuous to say Pence was talking over her and interrupting Harris if she won’t even take the opportunity to respond when given the chance.