Mike Pence selected by Trump

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Confirming what many people knew for the past two days, and every pundit endlessly pontificated on for weeks, Donald Trump made it official: he has selected Indiana Governor Mike Pence to be his running mate. He is the “safe” choice.

Pence spent 12 years in Congress before he was elected governor and before that Pence was a hard core conservative radio talk show host, so he’s been a reliable hard core conservative with proven bona fides when it comes to being pro gun, pro Bible and anti-gay and anti-reproductive rights for women. The Trump campaign hopes Pence’s record will shore up the Tea Party base of the GOP, which in effect controls the party.

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There are the “however” points in Pence’s resume. When business leaders and LGBTQ activists challenged Indiana’s “religious liberty” law, the governor backed down and he expanded government-financed healthcare for the poor. Apparently taking care of the poor isn’t the Christian thing to do anymore. As Jesus said (according to Matthew), “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.”

Unlike Trump, Pence is not a flame-throwing blowhard who will blurt out crazy comments in front of cameras or on Twitter. Pence’s crazy comments will be primarily delivered by press releases or in carefully planned speeches, and they will be measured and almost palatable to some voters.

And he is sure to offend many other voters. He is all for the anti-LGBTQ “religious liberty” legislation (he just wasn’t willing to go to court over it) and is extremely anti-reproductive rights (can we say anti-women’s healthcare?).

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Then there are Pence’s disagreements with the presumptive nominee. Pence chastised Trump for attaching Indiana-born Justice Gonzalo Curiel because of his ethnicity, he’s for the free trade agreements Trump opposes and Pence was in favor of the Iraq War, which Trump opposed. During the primaries the governor supported Trump’s main opponent, Senator Ted Cruz of Texas.

Mike Pence’s views on political and social issues have always been far to the right of Middle America and Hillary Clinton, the Democratic presumptive nominee, was quick to point it out in an email she sent to her supporters. “If there was any doubt about Trump’s intentions — if you ever thought maybe he was just grandstanding about his anti-equality, anti-woman, anti-immigrant policies and his commitment to an economy that favors millionaires and corporations over working families — well, with Pence as his vice president, we know exactly what to expect.”

Governor Pence opposes comprehensive immigration reform, birthright citizenship and abortion for any reason. He gave corporations massive tax cuts and paid for it by slashing funds for higher education.

The big questions are: 1) Will the addition of Governor Pence be enough to unite the GOP behind a Trump candidacy? 2) If they get the party united, will Governor Pence be able to draw in swing voters in the crucial battleground states? Usually a presidential candidate chooses a runningmate that can help the campaign widen the appeal beyond the base of the party, especially in the swing states. If Trump is just trying to shore up his base with Governor Pence, that leaves a lot of “what if’s” to be answered once both the Republicans and Democrats get into full campaign mode.

Dragon-CrossActually, there is one, even more pertinent question — or two: Can the addition of an extremely right wing governor to the ticket overcome the future absurdities and downright offensive things Donald Trump is sure to say or do between now and November 8? And does Governor Pence have the fortitude to defend Donald Trump when he insults entire voting blocks with racist and bigoted comments about religion or offensive comments about women?  The next time Trump refers to some women as “pigs,” or refers to Jews as “good negotiators” and “political masterminds,” will Pence defend those and other like-minded comments?

On the other hand, despite all the wonderful things we can say about Indiana, for a few decades it was one of the most reliable strongholds of the Ku Klux Klan. The state has a long history of racial animus and that seems to fit well with the man at the top of the ticket. If you want a good history of the Klan in Indiana — and a blueprint of how and why Donald Trump is such a popular political figure — read Richard K. Tucker’s book, The Dragon and the Cross: The Rise and Fall of the Ku Klux Klan in Middle America.