With a little over a month to go, we’re mercifully entering the home stretch of an election season that could be considered farcical if it didn’t potentially portend the actual, Biblical apocalypse. And while it’s clear that most of America doesn’t want Donald Trump to be president, a bafflingly similar number of Americans don’t want Hillary Clinton to be president; they’re going to vote for her anyway, I think, because, despite the moaning, groaning and truly legitimate gripes they may have about Clinton and the way the Democratic Party seemed to favor her throughout the primary process, the idea of an honest-to-God white nationalist rising to the highest office in the land scares them stupidly straight.
By the time this goes to press, the vice presidential debate between Tim Kaine and Mike Pence will be over, most of the think pieces and spin room flotsam will have been released, and Donald Trump will probably have alienated the remainder of his supporters by calling Hitler fat. But it got me thinking about how this election could have turned out differently and, in some ways, so much worse.
I don’t mean the election season, per se; I sincerely hope that, now that we as a nation have — though a depressingly large minority — chosen to coddle and court an unhinged, unqualified demagogue, we have nowhere to go but up, and that we will indeed begin the long, slow trudge to higher ground instead of digging ourselves straight to hell.
No, I mean the results. For whatever reason, the country that elected Barack Obama, by fairly large margins, to two straight terms seemed primed for a rightward swing; I’m sure it had nothing to do with latent resentment at having a black man in charge. Whatever the case, Hillary Clinton, though she is literally the most qualified candidate for the presidency, comes with a metric ton of baggage, and would have been ripe for the picking by someone who knew what the hell they were doing. She may still have won, but it would have been by much narrower margins; and she may have lost.
Which brings me to Mike Pence. Usually the role of the vice president, or vice presidential nominee, has been to act as a sort of attack dog surrogate to the president. The VP nominee is held under less scrutiny than the president, and so is typically able to get away with a little more. But since Trump is a sack of primordial goo with hair, teeth and an inferiority complex, he’s got no need for such a surrogate. Hence, Mike Pence has been relegated to using his well-honed political manner to try and deflect Trump’s gaffes and outbursts; it’s usually pretty ineffectual, but he’s giving it a shot.
But Pence — a long-tenured politician — is almost more worrying than Donald Trump. Whereas Trump is both a horrible politician and a horrible person, Pence is a lethal combination of savvy politician and horrible person. I’m not just spitballing here, either. Here are some of Pence’s greatest hits:
- During a 1990 congressional campaign, Pence used political donations to pay off his mortgage, car payments and golfing fees. The spending was not illegal at the time, but still, Pence should have known it was ethically tenuous at best, and that it would undermine the legitimacy of his campaign. Something else that undermined his campaign? Running a television ad that parodied and racially stereotyped those of Arab descent.
- In 2007, Pence began introducing legislation to defund Planned Parenthood, trying to pass a bill that would bar any organization that performed abortions from receiving Title X funding. It bears repeating here that most of Planned Parenthood’s services revolve around reproductive health and cancer screenings for those hovering around the poverty line, but those lives don’t matter to a monster like Pence.
- In 2009, he opposed birthright citizenship, a law set in place by the 14th Amendment way back in 1868 that guaranteed citizenship to all persons born or naturalized in the United States. Essentially, Pence’s bill would demote many American-born minorities to second-class citizens.
- He opposed the raising of the minimum wage from $5.15 to $7.25 an hour back in 2009, stating that it would “hurt the working poor.” I’ve got nothing funny to say in response to this, because it’s completely hateful and stupid.
- Pence also believes that global warming is a myth, that the theory of intelligent design is the only logical explanation for existence, and has voted against regulating tobacco products, even though Indiana has one of the worst smoking problems of any state, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. He has opposed sex education, advocating instead for the proven-to-be-ineffectual abstinence education, and opposes all forms and representations of homosexuality, including the practice itself, lawful marriage and civil unions.
Despite all of this — or, rather, perhaps because of the combination of all of this and his being a generally polite dude to his GOP colleagues — Pence is a much-respected politician within party circles. So while we’re all wringing our hands over Donald Trump, keep this in mind: if Trump is elected, Pence would likely be the one truly running the show while Trump’s army of handlers spend their every waking hour keeping his phone away from him.