Never means never. Not even with Mike Pence.
On this site, I actually recommended Pence as a presidential candidate. I saw him as a good conservative, only mildly tainted by the trappings of power and his years in Washington. I defended him during the RFRA debate, and I still believe (actually, I know—because I understand how that law works) he pulled a fast one on gay activists, while preserving RFRA intact.
However, I am not convinced to vote for Trump by Pence’s presence on the ticket. I am #NeverTrump, and have been since before it was a thing one could officially be. Moreover, I think Pence is a cynical choice that proves Trump himself simply has no political core, and no principles beyond winning at all costs, no matter how many lies you have to tell to get there.
And before we go any further, let me just say, thanks Trump/Pence, for screwing over Indiana Republicans by wrecking the governor’s race. Now I may not only end up voting for the Libertarian at the top of the ticket, but for governor, as well. You better be something special, Rex Bell (he actually has a pretty impressive website, and I’ve never seen a politician who looked so much like a “Hoosier.”) After years of excellent governance from Mitch Daniels and Mike Pence, God only knows what Indiana will end up with this year. Perhaps Mitch Daniels could be persuaded to return—but then I would lose him as President of Purdue, where my husband works.
When Bobby Ewing comes out of the shower, could it be 2004 again?
So, why isn’t picking Pence a deal-maker for me, and perhaps for the millions of Republicans who will be voting “Leave” on the GOP before the end of next week?
To begin with, Trump’s picking Pence shows he doesn’t mean any of his anti-immigration, anti-trade bluster. Pence is a free-trader, and—like Scott Walker—has used international trade to grow the state economy. Moreover, he favors the trade bill Trump publicly, vehemently despises. In addition, he has called Trump’s Muslim ban (the sine qua non for Trump’s altright fandom) “offensive and unconstitutional”.
Pence also undermines Trump’s (false) narrative that he was always against the Iraq War, and it was only the dummies and morons that were for it. Pence was for it. From conception to unnatural death (as far as we know, he still is). So, either Trump literally cares nothing about what his Vice-President believes in (in which case, we can assume he also probably doesn’t believe all that social conservatism stuff, either), or he managed to “vet” candidates without bothering to find out what their policy positions are.
So, why would Trump pick Pence?
Because he knows he is still not winning the base. Pence is seen (except by those angered by their misinterpretation of RFRA) as a stalwart social conservative—a group that makes up a large part of the #NeverTrump movement. They are not appeased by the on-again, off-again claims of Dr. James Dobson that Trump has (maybe, he heard) become a born-again Christian (or not). They are also not reassured that the original claim came from multiple-divorced Prosperity Gospel charlatan Paula White, whose statements about Trump sound like she’s auditioning to become his fourth wife (though she might be too old for him.)
Pence is a political advisor’s idea of a Vice-Presidential pick to appease the conservative base. He does not—as a Gingrich pick would have—present the family values set with its first 6-wife ticket. Nor does it offer–as a Christie pick would have–the optics of two angry white men screaming about things—because Pence is a gentleman with an even temperament. In fact, Pence’s congenital inability to make up names for and taunt his opponents makes his choice as an “attack dog” (as Trump claimed to want) even more transparently cynical. Unlike most candidates, Trump clearly intends to keep being the “bad cop” all the way through the general election.
“But Hillary!” the Trump supporter continues to shriek (I can hear the dulcet tones now.) The problem with the Trump faction’s attitude to the #NeverTrump movement is that they don’t understand that our rejection of Trump has nothing to do with anyone but Trump. He is simply unacceptable. Period. His unfitness for office—any office, by the way, or any position of power or responsibility—is not changed by Hillary’s total horrendousness. There is no lesser of two evils. Evil is evil, and we are not voting for it.
Pence doesn’t make Trump better. Trump makes Pence—as he does anyone who is foolish enough to approach his orbit—exponentially worse. He makes Pence a hypocrite and an opportunist, calls the sincerity of Pence’s own claimed beliefs into question, and renders him little more than Trump’s new Christie—an obsequious lick-spittle, serving at the pleasure of his master.
To be Trump’s number two, Pence must accept the “unconstitutional and offensive” Muslim ban, his serial adultery, and his claim that Planned Parenthood (which Pence defunded) does “wonderful things” for women. He must spend the next several months explaining Trump’s Bidenesque-level gaffes, insults, errors, and outright lies. He will never get back the voters he betrayed, and if the Trump/Pence ticket crashes and burns, his political career is over.
It is still possible that a floor fight at the convention next week could derail the entire Trump train, taking Pence with it. If so, he will have nothing to come home to. Whatever happens from here on out, however, as a smart-aleck on Twitter put it today, “Mike Pence has a promising career behind him.”