Current Indiana governor Michael (Mike) Richard Pence is now officially Donald Trump’s running mate.
- Pence was U.S. Representative from 2001 – 2013; he also served as Chairman of the House Republican Conference from 2009 to 2011.
- He earned a B.A. in History from Hanover College in 1981 and a J.D. from the Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law in 1986.
- Immigration – In June 2006, Pence unveiled a plan he describes as “no amnesty immigration reform”, consisting of increased border security, followed by strict enforcement of laws against hiring illegal aliens, and a guest worker program. This guest worker program requires potential participants to apply from their home country (where their lives are in danger every day) to government-approved job placement agencies that match workers with employers who cannot find Americans for the job. Pence has repeatedly attempted, unsuccessfully, to ban Syrian refugees from settling in Indiana.
- Foreign Policy – he supported the Iraqi War; he opposes closing Guantanamo Bay; he supports Israel’s right to use preemptive strikes against Iran and deadly force in Gaza.
- LGBT rights – opposes rights for the LGBT community; supports anti-LGBT legislation; opposes homosexuals in military; opposes same-sex marriages and civil unions. In 2015, Pence signed a highly controversial “religious freedom” bill into law.
- Other – he has compared ACA (aka Obamacare) to 9/11 terrorist attacks
Speculation is that in selecting Pence, Trump is attempting to appease other republican leaders, such as Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan, as well as to trying to reassure social conservatives who are uncomfortable with certain elements in Trump’s rhetoric and behaviour. Additionally, there is the matter of demographics – Trump is not polling well in the industrial Midwest. And last, but by no means least, Pence has strong ties to the billionaire Koch brothers who are not fans of Trump and have, thus far, withheld their financial support from his campaign.
Until today, Pence was running for re-election for governor of Indiana, though he will drop out of that race now that he is officially Trump’s running mate. His re-election bid has been by no means smooth sailing, given the controversy over his signing of the “religious freedom” bill last year. He was facing Democrat John Gregg, whom he narrowly defeated four years ago, and the odds were that he would not come out on top. There are multiple Facebook pages titled “Pence Must Go”, or some form thereof, and all indications are that he is not popular in his home state, so it is questionable how much assistance he can bring to the Trump campaign on that score. I am told by friends that one can see yard signs sporting the slogan “Pence Must Go” throughout the state. He had been given until noon on 15 July (today) to decide whether to drop out of the race, and now the Republican state committee will have 30 days to select a replacement.
In addition to his unreasonable stances on immigration and LGBT rights, Pence has received significant campaign donations from none other than the tobacco industry, presumably in exchange for his efforts on their behalf. In 2001 he wrote: “Time for a quick reality check. Despite the hysteria from the political class and the media, smoking doesn’t kill. In fact, 2 out of every three smokers does not die from a smoking related illness and 9 out of ten smokers do not contract lung cancer.” And not only does he discredit decades of research by the CDC, but also by environmental scientists. “Here’s the deal. Environmentalists claim that certain ‘greenhouse gases’ like carbon dioxide are mucking up the atmosphere and causing the earth to gradually warm. Despite the fact that CO2 is a naturally occurring phenomenon in nature, the greenpeace folks want to blame it all on coal and certain (evil) coal burning power plants …” He goes on to refer to climate change as a “chicken little” movement with no other intent than to raise taxes. Such arrogance, claiming to know more than scientists, doctors and researchers … he and Trump will make quite a duo.
So, what does it all mean? Less than you might think. Studies show that historically, the choice of running mate has very little effect on the outcome of an election (see Politico article). Temperamentally, Pence is more of a smooth talker, less given to bombastic rants and theatrical babblings than da trumpeter, which explains why some GOP leaders may like him, hoping that he will tone down the message to be acceptable to the average Joe. However, his message is very similar in many ways to da trumpeter. Trump’s selection as running mate is a motion of appeasement, but ultimately Pence will likely end up a puppet on the string of da trumpeter, and it really changes nothing. While the GOP may be appeased, I doubt the same can be said of the voters he is hoping to sway.
Those who fear the radicalism and bigotry that is encountered in Trump’s message, will still be fearful. For make no mistake, Trump is still the ringleader of this circus and Pence will be his right-hand clown, nothing more. His choice of running mate, in my opinion at least, was somewhat anticlimactic. Ho-hum.