Sunday, July 17, 2016

Pensive choice

Despite asking right up until midnight the night before his announcement if he could change his mind about his choice for a running mate, Donald went ahead and picked Mike Pence, the current Governor of Indiana. Large parts of America promptly said, “WHO?!”, and the people who actually know who Pence is rolled their eyes. For a man who constantly tells us over and over and over again how he’s highly intelligent, Donald made an incredibly stupid choice. Or, did he?

Pence, who has all the charisma of a rubbish bag sitting on the kerb waiting for collection, has been described as “the decaf Trump” because his politics are every bit as extremist as Donald’s in nearly every respect, but next to Donald’s bizarre public histrionics, Pence’s demeanour is positively soporific.

Donald’s advisers probably thought that would be a good thing, that Pence could balance Donald’s public excesses with tedium. The problem is, you can’t win over audiences if they’re asleep.

Those same advisers probably thought that Pence’s extensive political experience as a career politician at various levels and status as a Washington insider would balance Donald’s total lack of any relevant experience. The problem is, Pence was a lousy governor, and had become so unpopular that it looked quite possible that even in a solidly Republican state he could lose re-election. At least he doesn’t have to worry about that now.

In addition to offering no sparkling personality, and having no marketable electoral experience, Pence also brings no political advantage. He’s from a solidly Republican state that will certainly vote for Donald, giving him a whopping 11 Electoral Votes—with or without Pence on the ticket. Despite being a far right Christian, Pence was spurned by that same demographic because, in their wild eyes, he backed down on legalising anti-gay discrimination in Indiana.

For all those reasons, Pence looks like a stupid choice, and Donald must have sensed that if he was trying to back out of it at the last minute, right?

Ah, but there’s far more to this than it would appear at first glance.

Pence really is as stridently anti-gay as he seems. For examples, see “Ten Times Mike Pence Worked to Defeat the LGBT Community” for a partial list of his anti-LGBT antics. Included in that post is a video from the Human Rights Campaign showing Pence deliberately avoiding and ducking and flat out refusing to answer simple and direct questions on whether it should be legal to discriminate against LGBT people (you can also watch the video on YouTube).

Pence is most notorious for being willing to destroy Indiana’s economy in order to make sure that discrimination against LGBT people would be legal in the state. Pence repeatedly lied about the law, while steadfastly refusing to back legislation to protect the human and civil rights of LGBT people.

Obviously, Pence’s radical rightwing ideology doesn’t just attack LGBT people, as the graphic up top shows. The graphic below highlights the ways that Pence and Trump have the same radical rightwing positions on various issues: Two peas in an extremist pod.

So, Pence has the credentials and record as a career-long extreme rightwing crusader. The ideologically flexible Donald totally lacks any such credentials, and THIS is what Donald wants to tap into.

Pence’s temporary spat with Christian extremists is long over. They’ve come to realise that the revised Indiana “religious freedom [sic]” law didn’t really protect LGBT Hoosiers, as they’d been led to believe by the mainstream news media. Since then, Pence has signed extreme controls on abortion into Indiana law, cut education funding to give tax cuts to the rich, among many other extreme rightwing agenda items.

Picking Pence was a way for Donald to further pander to extreme rightwingers, Christian radicals in particular. As part of that effort, Donald and the Republican Party are pushing for a repeal of the Johnson Amendment, a provision in the US Tax Code that prohibits tax-exempt non-profits, including— but not limited to—churches, from endorsing partisan political candidates or campaigns. The extreme rightwing hates this law, and every year they organise a stunt in which their preachers deliver expressly partisan political sermons to goad the USA’s Internal Revenue Service into prosecuting them. The IRS, which isn’t stupid, has never risen to the bait, and has never prosecuted any of the participating churches or preachers.

The Big Lie being told by Republicans is that the Johnson Amendment restricts the free speech of churches, which is absurd: ALL tax-exempt non-profits are treated equally. Moreover, this merely prevents expressly partisan organising and support, and doesn’t restrict their right to speak out on public issues in any manner, shape, or form—which they all know, of course.

However, they’re not really trying to make a rational argument: Instead, this is merely another attempt to pander to the extreme rightwing base of the Republican Party, people whose votes will be critical if the Trump-Pence (T.P.) ticket is to win the White House, given how Donald, Pence, or both, have already angered women, Black people, Hispanic people, LGBT people, and the families and friends of all those voters.

In addition to shoring up the far-right base of the Republican Party, Trump is looking for the other thing Pence has connections to: Money—lots and lots of money.

Pence has connections to rightwing billionaires, including the notorious extreme rightwing Koch Brothers, and since the brothers’ chosen candidate, Scott Walker, crashed and burned early on, they’ll be happy to transfer their pledged billion dollar campaign spending to the T.P. ticket, particularly if it advocates strongly for the coal and oil/gas industries—which they’re certain to do, of course.

To sum up, then, Donald has chosen as his runningmate a career politician of middling ability, who has made a career out of fighting against the majority of Americans, especially targeting brown people, women, and LGBT people. But his connections to billionaires and extremist Christians means that Pence may turn out to be Donald’s trump card. (sorry)

Yes, Mike Pence is terrible, an extremist determined to turn the USA into a theocracy serving only the interests of billionaires. Teamed with the narcissistic Donald, the two could indeed destroy the country, especially if Republicans retain control of the US Congress.

What happens next is up to voters. If they elect the T.P. ticket, either directly or by casting some sort of “protest vote” against Hillary Clinton and the Democrats, then they’ll prove that Donald really is very, very, very intelligent after all.

Image Credits: The two graphics in this post were posted by the Hillary Clinton campaign to their Facebook Page: “Five things you should know graphic” (at top), and the checklist graphic (at the bottom of the post).

No comments: