ICYMI: The 4 most important issues actually discussed during the VP debate

The Vice Presidential debate Tuesday night was expected to be more balanced and civilized than the free-for-all presidential debate last week. But, unfortunately, the conversation between Democratic candidate Tim Kaine and Republican Mike Pence was just as full of interruptions, side eye and bizarre references as the earlier battle between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.


Ridiculousness aside, though, the veep candidates — both seasoned politicians — did answer some questions directly about where they stand on campaign issues, and they offered insight into what they’d be like as second-from-the-top dogs.

So what were the important issues actually discussed last night (when Pence wasn’t gaslighting the nation and Kaine wasn’t speaking over everyone and anyone in the room)?

1. How to stop police violence against people of color.

The Clinton-Kaine ticket has said throughout the campaign that community policing is the most effective method we have to repair the relationship between non-white Americans and law enforcement, a point Kaine reiterated last night. And while Pence agreed with that sentiment, saying that criminal justice reform is  necessary, the candidates disagreed sharply on the use of tactics like stop-and-frisk (Kaine is against it, Pence appears to be in favor of it, as is Trump) and whether or not implicit bias is an issue that affects police judgment.

Kaine made the point that implicit bias — the prejudicial, unconscious beliefs about certain racial groups that many people hold — is a problem we have to talk about if we ever plan to solve it. But Pence disagreed, insisting that the phrase “implicit bias” is just a way to unduly shame and blame law enforcement.

"Enough of this seeking every opportunity to demean law enforcement broadly by making the accusation of implicit bias every time tragedy occurs," said Pence. "What Donald Trump and I are saying is let's not have the reflex of assuming the worst of men and women in law enforcement. We truly do believe that law enforcement is not a force for racism or division in our country."

2. Whether or not women should have access to abortion.

Things really heated up in the last third of the debate when moderator Elaine Quijano asked the candidates to describe a moment when their Christian faith conflicted with their duties as public servants.

After Kaine explained that he felt conflicted about Virginia’s death-penalty policy when he was governor of that state (he’s opposed to capital punishment), Pence jumped right in to say that he has “sought to stand with great compassion for the sanctity of life” as a political leader.

Pence then went on to insist that he is proud of the work he’s done in Indiana to “expand alternatives in health care counseling for women, non-abortion alternatives” (including mandating funerals for fetuses and slashing funding for Planned Parenthood) and said that he “couldn’t be more proud to be standing with Donald Trump, who’s standing for the right to life.”

Though Pence said many times that Kaine is “pro-life,” Kaine himself said that he supports Roe v. Wade and “the constitutional right of American women to consult their own conscience, their own supportive partner, their own minister, but then make their own decision about pregnancy.”

He added,

"That's something we trust American women to do."


3. The candidates’ stances on Russia and President Vladimir V. Putin.

While Kaine affirmed the Clinton campaign’s promise to meet Russian aggression with military force, if necessary, Pence diverged sharply from his running mate — Trump — in calling the Russian president a “small and bullying leader” and insisting that “we’ve just got to have American [military] strength on the world stage.” Trump, for his part, has repeatedly praised Putin and has even encouraged Russian intelligence officials to hack into Clinton’s email (a serious national security risk).


A difference of opinion that big definitely calls into question the strength of the Republican ticket.

4. Treatment of immigrants.

It’s widely known that Trump wants to build a wall across the U.S.-Mexico border — and make Mexico pay for it, no less — and Pence concurred with many of Trump’s views about undocumented Latino immigrants and Muslims during last night’s debate.

In addition to repeatedly calling undocumented immigrants “criminal aliens,” Pence hammered on Trump’s plan to institute mass deportations, saying Trump’s administration would “remove criminal aliens, remove people that have overstayed their visas … [and] then we’ll deal with those that remain.”

Kaine was massively critical of that Trump-Kaine plan, painting a picture of a “deportation force” going “house to house, school to school, business to business and kick[ing] out 16 million people.”


That’s it for Vice Presidential debates, but you can catch the next presidential battle on Sunday night.