In their debut as running mates on 60 Minutes, Donald Trump and Mike Pence looked like giddy frat bros suffering from mutual man-crushes; two men meant for each other, politically. Both Trump and Pence have shown contempt for immigrants, expressed support for enhanced interrogation (torture), and made the argument that the issue of Marriage Equality should have been left to the states to decide, despite the historic Supreme Court decision.
Donald Trump is clearly willing to adopt ludicrous policy positions if he sees a political gain, and Mike Pence will be happy to oblige. Pence seems to have the ability to take Trump’s gut feelings and turn them into poll tested Koch Brothers axioms. He brings Trump’s bullhorn of bigotry down to a much more acceptable dog-whistle. Pence is the Trump that Trump always wanted to be. If reports of his governing plan are true, Mike Pence will be the de-facto President and Trump the propagandist-in-chief.
Mike Pence has an even more concrete record of malicious legislation and political hackery than Mr. Trump does. In 2015 Governor Pence and the Republicans in the Indiana General Assembly passed a mean-spirited law of religious refusal called RFRA. This law was born out of the fear that Christian bakers, wedding industry services, and a slew of other “conscietious objectors” might be compelled to serve the LGBT community. Let’s be clear. If your business is open to the public, you must serve ALL of the public regardless of reservations based on religious faith. Your right to deny service to any segment of the public ends the moment you flip the “Open” sign. Any further parsing is discrimination, plain and simple.
Gov. Pence has also proven himself the worst kind of political hack, compromising the future of Hoosier children to achieve his political and ideological ends. He launched a relentless assault on the only state-wide elected Democrat, Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz, attempting to strip her of all power. Gov. Pence also signed into law a school voucher program that has diverted millions to private religious schools in Indiana. Furthermore, Pence cannot even claim to be a good steward of public funds. After the RFRA debacle, he hired, then fired a high-end PR firm to clean up his mess and repair the state’s image, costing Hoosier tax-payers $365,000 for nothing. Governor Pence further demonstrated his commitment to right-wing ideology when he signed one of the most restrictive abortion bans in the United States, which was later struck down by a Federal Judge. Frighteningly, Gov. Pence is in lock-step with his political party as well. The 2016 Republican Party Platform includes a refusal to accept the Supreme Court’s decision on Marriage Equality, defends laws of religious refusal like Indiana’s RFRA, devalues same-sex parenting, and seeks to preserve the practice of conversion therapy.
Mr. Trump sought to strike a softer tone in his RNC acceptance speech, claiming that he is against any group or person who advocates violence against the American people, only months after suggesting and congratulating violence at his own political rallies. Mr. Trump then attempted to scare the LGBT community into supporting him by promising a tough response to events like the Pulse Nightclub shooting, purposefully pitting us against other minorities in a naked appeal to our very well-founded fears of violence. Politicians who lie so effortlessly and play on voters’ anxiety are unfit for the Presidency.
Sadly, this short list of grievances only scratches the surface, but it does demonstrate the brotherhood shared by these two men. Donald Trump and Mike Pence represent the Worst Kind of Reality T.V.: a xenophobic and ideological political actor hiding behind a dangerous demagogue, both masquerading as policy-minded public servants. America is about to get “catfished”.
It is our job as Hoosiers to take this critique of Mike Pence national and make sure all Americans know him the way Hoosiers do. How, you ask? Peer-reviewed scientific studies have shown that the most effective way to influence voting behavior is to have conversations by phone or at the door with potential voters. Sick social media burns and protests are fun, but only concrete political engagement can stop Trump/Pence and only electoral victories can change the tone used by our institutions and politicians. Find a candidate you believe in and make phone calls or canvass for them. Talk to your neighbors and family about why Gov. Pence was bad for Indiana and why together they represent a step back for America and our community. If you are unable to do field work, write letters to the editor or write a check to an ally of the LGBT community. Finally, make sure you and everyone you know votes on Tuesday, November 8th. In fact, stop what you are doing right now, open your calendar, and set a reminder to vote! And you know that group text all of your friends are on? Make sure you remind them to vote too!
Donald Trump and Mike Pence cannot be allowed so close to institutional power. Our community cannot lose ground on important quality of life issues like marriage, adoption, workplace discrimination, and access to services. So if you value the gains made by the LGBT community to date, you better work!