We all saw it. The tiny little fly that sat on Mike Pence’s head. It was a civil rights activist, a feminist, a scholar. We all joked the next day about how flies are always attracted to trash, just like it was the night before. I’m always up for political banter, but most people failed to realize that the fly is part of the reason America has such a level of polarization.
I decided this year that I would watch all the presidential debates, however terrible they may be. Although in November I will still not be old enough to vote, I realized I need to stay politically conscious, so I’ll be prepared to vote in 2024. The debates, as you may know, haven’t been pretty. The Presidential one was definitely more notable, as Biden’s remark ,“Will you shut up, man?” became a viral sensation on social media. But something fascinating happened in the Vice-Presidential debate that wasn’t so apparent in the Presidential one. Nine segments of 18 questions were asked but barely one question was answered. Harris and Pence alike both skewed questions to tell their fanbase what they wanted to hear, not the questions the American public needed answered.
This political vagueness is far from new. George Orwell’s groundbreaking paper “Politics and the English Language” discusses just that. He states, “political speech and writing are largely in defense of the indefensible… Thus political language has to consist largely of euphemism, question-begging and sheer cloudy vagueness.”
During the Pence-Harris debate, moderator Susan Page asked how they could handle a presidential disability, with both presidential candidates being in their seventies. Pence, instead of answering the question, took the time to note Biden’s mishandling of the H1N1 swine flu scare during the Obama administration, fully dodging the intended question. Likewise, Harris’s response was nowhere near an answer. She recalled the moment when Biden had called her and asked her to be his running mate. This refusal to answer concrete questions, like the specific cautions these candidates are taking with their older presidential candidates, is one of the greatest problems in American politics.
When a politician verbally maneuvers around direct questions, one has to be weary of how they really plan to run our country, since gaining power may be prioritized over improving the lives of Americans. This lack of information, however, isn’t just the puppet-mastering of a few powerful politicians. This cycle is also reinforced by the complicity of the people. When we choose to ignore the secrecy of our politicians and instead focus on trivial matters, we let them get away with it. Joking about flies rather than addressing why neither Pence nor Harris could give a clear plan of how to solve climate change allows these politicians to get away without knowing the answer either.
I’m not suggesting that we shouldn’t joke about our politicians, since I actually find a lot of their actions quite laughable. I’m simply highlighting our society’s tendency to make light of politics instead of discussing why our lawmakers, who are supposedly our greatest advocates, choose not to tell us certain things.