After Trump was elected, one sentiment that other students often expressed was that we were “lucky” that Mike Pence would be doing most of the political work of the presidency, rather than Donald Trump. This sentiment was echoed by a Saturday Night Live sketch that aired after the election. In the sketch, Pence visits Trump’s office to congratulate him, and Trump reacts by turning to him and asking, “You’re going to do everything, right?” Many anti-Trump voters are relieved at the notion that Pence might “do everything.” They suppose that Pence, because of his political experience and professional demeanor relative to Trump, would make a more effective leader. I would urge these voters not to be comforted by Pence’s lack of Twitter rants and misogynistic outbursts, since a quick look at Pence’s actions during his tenure as governor of Indiana reveal that he has the same backward views as Trump. If anything, Pence’s relative professionalism means that he can better advance his problematic views in Washington.
In terms of his behavior, Pence is a more “normal” politician than Trump. The Internet alt-right does not have the same excitement for and loyalty to Pence that they do for Trump. This is because Pence presents himself as the establishment counter to Trump’s firebrand persona, which the alt-righters find comforting and compelling. Anti-Trump voters, on the other hand, tend be comforted by Pence’s establishment familiarity. He behaves like any other conservative politician, speaking in a polished manner and avoiding the havoc of the political Twitterverse.
Although his behavior is antithetical to Trump’s, Pence’s beliefs match the worst views expressed by Trump throughout his campaign. It is fairly clear that most Trump voters are anti-LGBTQ, excluding Milo Yiannopoulos and his disciples. However, Trump has gone back and forth regarding the issue of LGBTQ rights. Specifically, he and his supporters tend to lean on America’s “tolerance” toward LGBTQ people when it benefits their anti-immigrant agenda. The alt-right, when justifying their bigotry against Middle Eastern people, often cite anti-LGBTQ policies in nations like Iran. This pro-LGBTQ right stance immediately evaporates when applied to issues like discrimination and marriage equality in the United States.
Pence, on the other hand, is unilaterally against LGBTQ rights. This is most evident in his support of the Indiana RFRA, or Religious Freedom Restoration Act. This law allows businesses to turn away LGBTQ customers in order to preserve the religious freedom of business owners, mandating that serving pizza to a gay couple or baking cake for a same sex wedding somehow offends the religion of the server and the baker. This act had disastrous implications for both Indiana’s LGBTQ community, who felt deeply unsafe and unwanted in their own state, and the Indiana economy, which lost investments from Yelp and Salesforce due to the bigoted law. Pence’s professionalism and polished vocabulary did not soften the burden of the RFRA for Indiana’s economy and LGBTQ community. As Vice President, it will not soften the burden of his homophobia either.
Another trait that Pence and Trump have in common is misogyny. While Trump’s misogyny is more crude and obvious than his vice president’s, Pence’s sexism is arguably more dangerous. Pence’s firmly anti-choice platform has been extremely dangerous for women in Indiana, blocking access to necessary and life-saving reproductive health procedures.
Most notably, Purvi Patel, a woman who suffered from a miscarriage after a botched abortion attempt, was sentenced to 20 years in jail for feticide and child neglect. Patel attempted to perform an abortion by herself without medical care or assistance, since she could not access an abortion in her home state of Indiana. The abortion was not successful, but she ended up having complications with her pregnancy that caused her to miscarry. Patel’s conviction held that she was a murderer because she did not have access to safe and affordable abortion. This all happened under the governorship of Mike Pence. After a massive outcry, an appeals court overturned Patel’s conviction, but nothing can erase the psychological damage and fear associated with Patel’s imprisonment for Indiana women with unwanted pregnancies.
Pence’s dislike for women’s health and homosexuality extends into Indiana’s AIDS crisis. During Pence’s governorship, a massive AIDS outbreak, due mostly to opioid use, caused a massive public health crisis in Indiana. This crisis was exacerbated in large part by the fact that Pence cut health funding in such a way that every Planned Parenthood in Indiana closed. These Planned Parenthood clinics provided affordable HIV/AIDS education and testing that Indiana residents with opioid addictions no longer had access to. Once the AIDS outbreak exploded in Indiana, Pence failed to declare any kind of health crisis for 65 days, which delayed much-needed education and health care for HIV/AIDS patients in Indiana. Many Americans believe that Pence’s malicious negligence regarding the AIDS crisis has to do with the antiquated association between AIDS and gay men. His negligence regarding the AIDS crisis endangered the lives of many Indiana residents, especially those who were poor and had no access to affordable care.
Do not be comforted by Mike Pence’s professionalism. He is just as dangerous, if not more dangerous, than Trump. His policies in Indiana, especially those regarding women’s health and HIV/AIDS, have undoubtedly killed people. If Pence “does everything” for Trump, thus giving him de facto presidential power, he could extend his bigoted and dangerous policies to the entire country, and possibly even to those countries with which the United States has close relations, just as Trump could. While Pence does not have the alt-right-ish fervor associated with Trump, his policy platform is just as violent.