Here’s What You Need to Know About the Christian Jihadist Zealot Who Is Now Donald Trump’s Apprentice
The national political conversation this month has been all about Donald Trump, and with good reason. Every day, new stories erupt demonstrating why a Trump presidency would be an unmitigatable catastrophe not just for the United States, but – given the immediate economic collapse his election would trigger, not to mention climate change – every person on the planet.
That said, Trump is far more charismatic than Hillary Clinton, and his fundamental message of nativism and economic discontent is far more attuned to the times than her campaign is. We’re one catastrophic event from Trump being in the White House. Liberals should not kid themselves – Donald Trump could be the next president, and in Hillary Clinton he’s lucked into facing another deeply flawed candidate whose flaws are, for Trump, a near-perfect foil.
So it matters that Trump has selected as his running mate Indiana Governor Mike Pence, who is in every respect the most radical ideologue to be on a major party ticket in modern US history. Trump’s foibles have dominated the news – to the point that his selection of Pence has been almost universally ignored. Even Pence’s selection last month was bumped out of the news by the attempted coup in Turkey.
But it matters that Mike Pence would be one impeachable scandal or Donald Trump heart attack – one heart attack for a dude that is not young but is very, very tightly wound – from holding the most powerful job in the world. And Pence is a very different and terrifying type of bad news. It matters that the United States, in the person of Pence, faces a realistic scenario of being taken over by radical religious zealots, and they don’t have anything to do with ISIS (though the leaders of ISIS have a lot more in common with Pence than either party would like to admit).
It matters, a lot, that Mike Pence is Donald Trump’s running mate. It’s as if Mussolini had picked Father Coughlin as his running mate. It’s the worst of both worlds.
Until last month, most people outside Indiana had no idea who Mike Pence was. The handful of politically-minded people who did know recognized Mike Pence as the governor who presided last year over anti-gay legislation so extreme that big companies started cancelling plans to expand in his state, until he finally had to (sort of) back down.
Now, if the Republican Party can succeed, all it will take is the president of Uzbekistan insulting Donald Trump, thus inducing a coronary, and Mike Pence will hold the most powerful job in the world. And that shouldn’t just worry Teh Gayz. Nobody – nobody – in modern American history has been nominated to such a high office who is such an across-the-board radical extremist. Sure, Trump’s options were limited because most remaining Republicans these days are inherently unhinged – but Pence is worse than most. A lot worse. Mike Pence makes Sarah Palin look moderate and well-informed. And he’s smarter, which makes him that much more dangerous.
Unfortunately, because Pence holds elective office (rather than, say, running a wrestling empire), national political media painted Pence’s selection as a “conventional” and “safe” choice. That’s grossly inaccurate – and the fact that such has been the media narrative not only shows how far away from reality the goalposts have moved in only the eight years since Palin’s selection, but how far pundits will go to confer legitimacy to truly alarming viewpoints. The Trump/Pence logo – which, rotated, looks a lot like a swastika, and at any angle looks like the stem of the “T” is doing to the hole in he “P” what Trump hopes to do to each of his latest 320+ million marks – rightly earned instant social media mockery. But Pence’s selection is no laughing matter, and corporate media isn’t about to tell anyone how dangerous this guy is.
Meet Mike Pence
Pence is exactly the sort of privileged, humorless Christian scold that gives straight white guys such a bad reputation. He grew up in rural southern Indiana, one of six children of a Catholic father who ran a number of local gas stations. Pence grew up to become first an attorney, and then a right-wing talk show host explicitly emulating Rush Limbaugh for a network of radio stations in Indiana. He ran unsuccessfully for Congress in 1988 and 1990, but tried again in a more conservative climate and was successful in 2000, serving seven terms in Congress before getting elected as Indiana’s governorin 2014.
Pence’s entire political worldview can be summed up as his desire to impose his notion of Christian morality (which wouldn’t be recognized as remotely moral by any person of faith with an ounce of empathy) on everyone else. If you’re not among his flock, you’re an enemy. If you’re reading this, you’re an enemy. If you read, you’re an enemy. With Trump’s love of reality TV theatrics and Pence’s fondness for medieval torture for sinners, the duo really does have transformative potential. I don’t meant that in a good way.
Pence’s hatred of homosexuality is so extreme that you just know there’s a photo of him snorting coke with a gay hooker somewhere. The aforementioned Religious Freedom Restoration Act [sic] was explicitly meant to legalize – and encourage – discrimination of all kinds against any individuals anyone thinks might be gay. Previously, in Congress, Pence wanted to fund mandatory conversation therapy – the discredited, abusive practice of “curing” gayness that the city of Seattle recently criminalized with good reason. He opposes the service of gays in the military, same-sex marriage (of course), and in Congress also tried to withhold federal funding from any organization that “encourage(s) the types of behaviors that facilitate the spreading of the HIV virus.” It was probably lost on Pence that this also would have defunded every hospital in the country that gives blood transfusions, which is to say, every hospital in the country. Or perhaps he considers that a small price to pay to achieve the larger goal of stigmatizing homosexuality.
Not surprisingly, Pence also doesn’t like funding for women’s reproductive health. He’s signed a bill banning state funds from being used by Planned Parenthood, a move that helped trigger a still-ongoing HIV epidemic in rural southern Indiana and exactly the type of bill that is now preventing pregnant women in South Florida from getting kits that would prevent the spread of the Zika virus. He helped get passed an anti-abortion bill so broad that it was overturned by a federal court even before it was implemented. In Congress, Pence began pushing to defund Planned Parenthood in 2007, long before it became a cause celebre on the far right. He wants minors – including victims of incest – to get parental consent for contraceptives, meaning that teenage girls would have no way to avoid being impregnated by a family member. He has done all he can to make contraceptives harder to get for women of all ages – a stance the Supreme Court made illegal over a half-century ago. He’s also a fan of fetal personhood measures, including signing into law a bill mandating that aborted fetuses be given “a proper burial.” (Proper, of course, meaning Christian.) Pence is also a supporter of federal funding for the widely discredited approach of “abstinence education.”
Beyond contraception and abortion, Pence has also shown himself eager to defy the Constitution on a number of other issues. A federal court recently had to overturn his order as governor banning the resettlement of Syrian refugees in Indiana. (A xenophobic impulse that is one of the few issues where his zealotry aligns well with Trump’s.) Not surprisingly, Pence has also lauded Arizona SB 1070, the controversial Arizona anti-immigration bill largely struck down by the Supreme Court. He opposes birthright citizenship, the constitution’s provision conferring citizenship to anyone born in the US regardless of the parents’ citizenship status.
Prior to his run as governor, Pence was in Congress during the debt ceiling crisis, when Pence and fellow ideologues briefly shut down the federal government. Pence, incredibly, went even further than most of his Tea Party colleagues, demanding that the government not be funded until a Balanced Budget Amendment be passed. Setting aside the sheer economic idiocy of mandatory balanced budget proposals, passing even widely desired constitutional amendments takes years, and it’s been 45 years since any amendment – the one extending the vote to 18-year-olds – has passed at all. Pence either didn’t understand the process, was fine ignoring the constitutionally mandated process, or was fine with shutting down the federal government indefinitely. This is the guy that would now run the federal government.
Pence was in position to trigger the debt ceiling crisis due to his role, in Congress, as chairing the Republican Study Committee, a caucus of mostly newly-elected Tea Party fanatics that now numbers 172 members and remains notorious as the most far-right policy group in Washington. In 2006 he mounted the earliest challenge to the speakership of John Boehner, garnering only 27 votes but establishing his radical credentials and positioning himself to lead the generation of Tea Party zealots elected to Congress in 2008-2010.
For two decades, Pence has also been at the forefront of the effort to deny climate change science, helping it move from a fringe position to a mandatory stance for Republican politicians. He has called climate change a “myth” and claimed, preposterously, that the planet is cooling rather than warming. From Wikipedia: While in the House, Pence “voted to eliminate funding for climate education programs and to prohibit the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating greenhouse gas emissions.” Pence also “repeatedly voted against energy efficiency and renewable energy funding and rules” and voted “for several bills that supported fossil fuel development, including legislation promoting offshore drilling.” The League of Conservation Voters, an environmentalist group, gave Pence a lifetime rating of 4 percent.
Pence has chosen ideology over science on a number of other issues as well. He opposed the lifting of George W. Bush’s ban on stem cell research and has been a public supporter of the anti-evolution scam known as “intelligent design.” Even more preposterously, Pence was also a long-time critic of science linking tobacco use to cancer, and has opposed both federal efforts to combat tobacco use and the 2001 settlement of a massive class action lawsuit against tobacco companies.
His economic beliefs can best be described as Randian – no regulations of any kind, supporting all “free trade” treaties (in direct opposition to Trump), and fiercely opposing unions of all kinds. He supported privatization of Social Security, opposes the minimum wage, and has been a vocal supporter of various widely discredited proposals for flat tax rates. He signed a bill as governor allowing guns on school property, and has led effort to attract the gun industry to his state with tax incentives. He also opposes all campaign finance laws and has lauded the controversial Citizens United Supreme Court ruling allowing unlimited campaign spending by corporations.
On a wide variety of issues, Pence shares the obsessions of many of the more aggressively ignorant of his Republican colleagues – he just takes them farther. He likened the Supreme Court’s ruling upholding the legality of Obamacare to the 9/11 attacks. Like many of his colleagues, Pence was fiercely militaristic in Congress, including supporting the invasion and occupation of Iraq long after even many Republican politicians had disavowed it. He was a cheerleader for Dick Cheney’s torture regime, and is, naturally, a big fan of Israel, defending both its illegal assaults on Palestinians and any attack it might launch on Iran. He also aggressively supported the passage and various expansions of the USA PATRIOT Act and, again not surprisingly, has been a longtime supporter of the harsh criminal penalties associated with the war on Drugs, including cannabis use. He also, as governor, refused to comply with federal efforts to reduce prison rape, a bizarre stance that combined his impulse to punish with his hatred of homosexual acts.
There’s more, of course – much, much more. This is the man who Donald Trump has chosen as his second in command, the man who would be the proverbial “one heartbeat away” from the presidency. Are you worried yet?