How Artists Responded to the Vice Presidential Debate on Twitter

As America watched Tim Kaine square off with Mike Pence, art Twitter kept score.

Democratic vice presidential nominee Tim Kaine (L) and Republican vice presidential nominee Mike Pence (R) meet on stage following the Vice Presidential Debate at Longwood University on October 4, 2016 in Farmville, Virginia. Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images.
Democratic vice presidential nominee Tim Kaine (L) and Republican vice presidential nominee Mike Pence (R) meet on stage following the Vice Presidential Debate at Longwood University on October 4, 2016 in Farmville, Virginia. Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images.

Vice Presidential debates always seem a bit like sideshows. This time out, though, with the smoke from last week’s feverish TV mega-matchup between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton not yet cleared, the head-to-head between Democrat Tim Kaine and Republican Mike Pence felt particularly like a placeholder, even if plenty of people still tuned in to take in the spectacle.

As if filling the void left by the absence of the Trump, one of the most shared tweets I saw in the lead-up was from architecture critic Paul Goldberger, who reminisced about a very special 3:00 a.m. tweet from Trump a few years back. It would, indeed, probably be the most memorable anecdote to come out of the night:

As for the matter at hand, NYC artist/Twitter gadfly Jeanette Hayes pretty much summed up the feeling in the air:

Just how high were the hopes for Democratic VP Tim Kaine? High indeed, with “multimedia artist” and “Singulatarian trans-humanist” Sterling Crispin offering the following as the candidates took the stage:

Moderator Elaine Quijano kicked off the event with a question about the economy. Pence declared, “Donald Trump and I have a plan to get the economy moving again—just the way it worked in the 1980s, just the way it worked in the 1960s.” New York painter Michelle Vaughan:

Kaine cites evidence that the country has been in economic recovery. Pence fires back, “People in Scranton know different; people in Fort Wayne know different.” Gallerist Ed Winkleman made the logical connection:

The evening would soon evolve towards the subject of law enforcement and police shootings. Praising police as “the best of us,” Pence reminisces about his uncle, a Chicago cop: “He was my hero when I grew up.” Jeanette Hayes again:

The question of racial profiling took center stage, with Pence slamming Hillary Clinton for her claim, at last week’s debate, that Keith Lamont Scott, recently gunned down in Charlotte, North Carolina, could have been the victim of racial bias, since the officer who shot him was himself black.

Boston painter Steve Locke (who has some personal experience of the issue, having penned an essay that went viral about his experience being profiled by the police) weighed in:

In general, the two candidates spent the night talking over the moderator, reducing Quijano to trying to snap them into line: “Gentlemen!… Senator Kaine! Governor Pence! Please!” Painter Julie Mehretu takes notice:

Kaine’s tendency to talk over Quijano would undermine his message later, when the subject turned to women’s rights—or at least it did for Chattanooga-based artist and educator Katie Hargrave:

By the 10 o’clock mark, New York sculptor John Powers was pining for another VP candidate:

On foreign policy, Pence’s mantra was reasserting a strong America: “We’re going to go back to the days of peace through strength,” etc. Jayson Musson:

As the two men hammered each other about the relative merits of the Clinton Foundation and the Trump Organization (Quijano: “I’ll remind you both this was about North Korea”), painter and occasional adult film star Zak Smith had the following epiphany:

Kaine would go on to ding Pence about Trump’s charity buying a big Trump portrait, and Pence to defend his running mate with the old “he’s not a polished politician” defense. Then we were through to the final question about bringing America together again, and to the end.

Here’s painter and Living and Sustaining a Creative Life author Sharon Louden again, assessing the evening:

NYC painter and journalist Molly Crabapple:

And LA critic and arts journalist Carolina Miranda (making reference to the Late Show‘s VP “kitty cam”):


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