You Think Trump is Bad? Let Me Tell You About Mike Pence
While the exact date of special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 US election is yet to be confirmed, a CNN report quoting acting US Attorney General Matt Whitaker last month suggested that it was close to being completed.
So, what happens IF the Mueller probe concludes Trump is guilty of collusion, and Congress impeaches him? Well, his second-in-command will take over the presidency... and that’s Mike Pence.
But what do you really know about Mike Pence?
A ‘Full-Spectrum Conservative’
An oped in The New Yorker called Pence a “full-spectrum conservative”, and the "connective tissue between the Trump Administration and the most conservative wing of the Republican establishment.”
Where Trump has shifted violently rightwards throughout his campaign and presidency, Pence is the man with the real connections within the right-wing, with big-time political donors like David Koch, the richest resident of New York City; Harold Hamm, founder and chairman of Continental Resources; financier Wilbur Ross, whom Trump later appointed his Secretary of Commerce and others taking out their cheques on Pence’s guarantee, not Trump’s, the report said.
During his time as the Governor of Indiana, the position he occupied from 2013-2017, he was involved in encouraging legislatures which were highly conservative - such as the Indiana Senate Bill 101, the Religious Freedoms Restoration Act, which according to a report by The Guardian - “prohibited a governmental entity from substantially burdening a person’s exercise of religion, even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability”.
How His Faith Influences His Policy
Pence has often believed himself to be acting on the direction of Jesus Christ after "dedicating” his life to Christ as a young boy, kickstarting his “embrace of embrace of evangelical Christianity”, a detailed account by The New York Times claimed.
Pence has vocally been against abortion and Planned Parenthood. A New York Times report from 2016 quotes him as saying: “I sign this law with a prayer that God would continue to bless these precious children, mothers and families,” before signing an anti-abortion Bill during his time as Indiana governor. According to this law, which is now rendered out of effect, abortion on the basis of gender, race or disability of the fetus, such as Down Syndrome, was not allowed.
The law also entailed that the remnants of the aborted fetus was to be interred or cremated.
Pence had infamously once declared: “I long for the day that Roe v Wade is sent to the ash heap of history,” The Washington Post reported.
(Roe v Wade was a landmark legal case in US history, where the Supreme Court on 22 January 1973, ruled (7–2) that abortion would be legal.)
Pence, along with his wife Karen and President Trump, even made a surprise appearance at one of the largest anti-abortion rallies which took place in the US last month, where he spoke about how the administration was working to implement measures that would limit abortions – including the reinstatement of conservative judges to the top benches of the Supreme Court – USA Today reported.
Defunding Planned Parenthood
Back in March 2017, Pence cast a tie-breaking Senate vote to pass legislation which would allow states to withhold several federal funds to Planned Parenthood, a report by USA Today cited.
“I was honoured to cast the tie-breaking vote in the Senate to send a Bill to Donald Trump’s desk to allow states to defund Planned Parenthood,” he had famously said, crediting the move to having worked in creating 2.5 million jobs and the destruction of the Islamic State, The Observer reported.
On the LGBTQ+ Community
Pence attracted international criticism when he passed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act in 2015, which according to members of the LGBTQ community, was a green signal inviting greater discrimination against them.
The Act allows individuals, businesses, employers, etc to discriminate against homosexuals under the protection of ‘religious freedom’.
Faced with massive backlash, Pence was forced to sign an amendment for the Act a few months later, Time Magazine reported.
Ever since this Act was passed, and even before, Pence earned himself an “anti-LGBT” tag. Pence is also known to associate with extremist LGBTQ groups and conversion therapists that advocate for ‘curing’ homosexuality through various means.
Pence also seems to base a great deal of his foreign policy on his faith.
For instance, when tensions eased between USA and North Korea, with even Trump clamping down on his ‘anti-Kim’ tweets, Pence kept up a criticism of the Supreme Leader, calling him out for persecuting Christians and subjecting the people of North Korea to “unparalleled privation and cruelty”, The Atlantic reported.
“Throughout the world, no people of faith today face greater hostility or hatred than the followers of Christ,” he had famously said, The Atlantic report added.
‘Give Me Your Tired, Your Poor... But Not Too Many of Them’
While claiming the US to be “the most welcoming home for immigrants in human history”, Pence, in the same breath, also issued a warning to immigrants saying, “Don't risk your lives or the lives of your children by trying to come to the United States on the road run by drug smugglers and human traffickers. If you can't come legally, don't come at all,” ABC News reported.
Times Pence Made Headlines
Pence has been stuck in the midst of his fair share of controversies, usually due to his orthodox stands or contentious speeches.
Nostalgic for the Confederacy
Appearing in an interview with Fox & Friends, Pence was asked about his take on local municipalities around the country attempting to remove Confederate statues in order to avoid more incidents like the Charlottesville attack of 12 August 2017, where protesters demanding the removal of a statue of Confederate Robert E Lee, were mowed down by a car driven by an alleged white supremacist. Pence, in response, shocked many by stating his wish for more Confederate statues to be built across the country.
Black Lives Matter, But Not at NFL
Pence made headlines in October 2017 when he walked out of an NFL game in protest of a protest. Things got heated when the players knelt during the National Anthem – to protest against police brutality against black Americans – a rampant issue leading to the creation of the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement. Pence staged a walkout from the game and later put out a tweet condemning the players for their protest, paying no heed to their cause of fighting racial injustice.
No Women Unless Wife Is Present?
Pence has been accused of promoting gender segregation, by his rule of not attending any event where women were present, unless his wife accompanied him. While many may claim that this was out of pure devotion for his wife, the greater problem lies with the message it sends out, especially considering his influence. The Washington Post, in an opinion piece, writes: “...He obviously thinks that every interaction he has with a woman is so sexually charged that it’s safe to be around them only if there are other people there, too.”
While it may yet to premature to prepare for Trump’s impeachment and a Pence presidency, knowing what lies beyond impeachment does offer some perspective.