Mike Pence Poses His Own Unique Threat to Democracy
From the moment he was elected, liberals have clung to the possibility, however remote, that Donald Trump will be removed from office. They’ve fallen for the conspiracy theories of #Resistance hucksters like Louise Mensch, Claude Taylor and Eric Garland, and continue to hold out hope the Mueller investigation will bring his corrupt presidency crashing down. Just this week, law professor and short-lived presidential candidate Lawrence Lessig laid out a series of preposterous if/then scenarios explaining how Hillary Clinton could still become president, almost a year after her shocking defeat.
If Jane Mayer’s latest feature is any indication, the left should be very careful what it wishes for. In a detailed story for the New Yorker, the “Dark Money” author offers a sweeping profile of Vice President Mike Pence, from his days as a candidate for Congress to his disastrous tenure as governor of Indiana. And while much of her reporting is a matter of public record, her findings are no less revelatory. What emerges from her conversations with Pence’s family, associates and political rivals is a portrait of a ruthless authoritarian whose bigotry, homophobia and free-market radicalism supersede his Christian faith.
Ultimately, Mike Pence has more in common with his reality-show running mate than meets the eye; as his own brother is willing to admit, “he’s full of shit.” If his positions on key issues aren’t necessarily worse than Trump’s, they’re at least as reactionary—and far more rigid.
Here are five of the most distressing revelations from Mayer’s report.
1. He’s in the pocket of the Koch brothers.
The right-wing billionaires have donated hundreds of thousands to Pence’s gubernatorial campaigns, and their contributions are already paying enormous dividends. Thanks to the vice president, who effectively commandeered the transition team from Chris Christie, Trump has stocked his administration with Koch family favorites like Betsy DeVos (Secretary of Education), Don McGahn (White House counsel) and Scott Pruitt (administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency).
“If Pence were to become president for any reason, the government would be run by the Koch brothers—period,” Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) said. “He’s been their tool for years.”
Even Steve Bannon would appear to agree, admitting, “I’m concerned he’d be a president that the Kochs would own.”
2. He’s openly disdainful of science.
Not only has Pence dismissed climate change as an invention of environmentalists and a “Chicken Little attempt to raise taxes,” he’s largely responsible for helping kill a cap-and-trade bill that would have taxed major corporations for carbon pollution. During his time in Congress, he railed against the legislation as the “largest tax increase in American history”—a claim that was patently untrue. “His language,” Mayer notes, “echoed that of the Koch groups.”
During his time at the Indiana Policy Review Foundation, a right-wing think tank modeled after the American Enterprises Institute, Pence penned an essay parroting the talking points of the tobacco industry. “Smoking doesn’t kill,” he wrote. “In fact, two out of every three smokers doesn’t die from a smoking-related illness.” The country’s greatest hazard? “Big government disguised as do-gooder, health care rhetoric.”
Pence also believes that intelligent design is the only “remotely rational explanation for the known universe,” and that “educators around America must teach evolution not as fact but as theory.”
3. He’s a virulent homophobe.
Much has been written about Pence’s willingness to direct federal funds to anti-gay conversion therapy programs, but Mayer focuses on his support for the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which “essentially legalized discrimination against homosexuals by businesses in the state.”
When Pete Buttigieg, the gay mayor of South Bend, tried to confront Pence about the bigoted nature of the bill and its potential to harm Indiana’s economy, he was stonewalled. “He got this look in his eye,” Buttigieg told the New Yorker. “He just inhabits a different reality. It’s very difficult for him to lay aside the social agenda. He’s a zealot.”
Pence’s animus for the LGBT community has not been lost on the president. When the subject of gay rights was recently broached at the White House, Trump reportedly gestured to his VP, quipping, “Don’t ask that guy—he wants to hang them all!”
4. He’s determined to roll back women’s rights.
Pence has made a name for himself as an anti-abortion crusader, backing “personhood” legislation that would ban abortions unless a woman’s life is at stake, even in cases of rape and incest. He sponsored an amendment to the Affordable Care Act that would have legally allowed hospitals to turn away dying women before terminating their pregnancies. And at the Indiana Policy Review Foundation, he advocated that married women be denied access to birth control.
Vi Simpson, the former Democratic minority leader of the Indiana State Senate, told the New Yorker she believes it is Pence’s “mission” to “reverse women’s economic and political advances.”
5. His economic ideas are a proven disaster.
Trump has called Indiana a model for his forthcoming tax plan, “a tremendous example of the prosperity that is unleashed when we cut taxes.” But like Sam Brownback’s Kansas, the Hoosier State has offered yet another cautionary tale for the dangers of trickle-down economics. According to Mayer, the tax cuts Mike Pence imposed have saved his constituents a grand total of $3.50 per month.
“Pence claimed that the cut stimulated the economy,” Mayer writes, “but John Zody, the chairman of the state’s Democratic Party, told me, ‘Our per-capita income is thirty-eighth in the nation, and not climbing.'”
Read Jane Mayer’s entire piece at the New Yorker.