Back in mid-July of 2016, following the revelation that Donald Trump had picked Mike Pence for his Vice Presidential running mate, I penned a piece detailing why this could be considered a bad omen. The article requested someone "Tell me it isn't so!" This was because many of us familiar with Pence viewed him as one of the most divisive and polarizing politicians in America. I explained that when the announcement was made a cheer rang out in the state of Indiana but that cheer did not signal approval but was rather a joyous celebration that Indiana would soon be rid of the unpopular Republican Governor who was running an uphill campaign to be re-elected.
The subject of Mike Pence and his influence on American politics and the Trump administration resurfaced recently when I read an article published on Viable Opposition concerning a recent speech given to graduates at the United States Military Academy at West Point by the Vice President. Mike Pence gives us a very, very clear idea of where Washington believes America and the world is headed. Remember Pence is part of a Washington-based leadership team that served no time in the United States military. Part of the speech that may of be most alarming was what could be considered his banging the "drums of war." Below are a few passages or should I say, bullet points from that speech;
- "Men and women of West Point, no matter where you’re deployed, you will be the vanguard of freedom, and you know that the “soldier does not bear the sword in vain.” The work you do has never been more important. America will always seek peace, but peace comes through strength. And you are now that strength.
- It is a virtual certainty that you will fight on a battlefield for America at some point in your life. You will lead soldiers in combat. It will happen. In the last two years, we’ve taken decisive action to rebuild our military and restore the arsenal of democracy. This President has actually signed into law the largest investment in our national defense since the days of Ronald Reagan. And as you accept the mantle of leadership, I promise you: Your Commander-in-Chief will always have your back. President Donald Trump is the best friend the men and women of our armed forces will ever have!
- Proving that, just a few months ago, your Commander-in-Chief proposed the largest defense budget in American history: $750 billion to ensure the strongest fighting force in the history of the world becomes stronger still. We fund an end strength of more than 2 million active and reserved military personnel. We’ll modernize w armored brigade combat teams, and we’ll also provide resources for 12 battle force ships, 2 large unmanned surface ships, and 110 fighter aircraft.
- And with that renewed American strength, the United States is once again embracing our role as leader of the free world. We’re standing with our allies and standing up to our enemies."
Sadly, this is not what many Americans voted for when America put Trump in office, we did not vote for a warmonger, many of us were seeking a world where the leadership in Washington would focus on bringing both jobs and money home rather than squandering it on foreign wars. What has been happening in Washington since he was elected and his selection of Pence with his "born again Christian" peace-waging instincts might be considered proof that the power of the swamp is very resilient and may not be able to be drained. Two things are certain, the first, this delights America's defense contractors, and second, while exploding the deficit it creates jobs.
|Pence Reelection Was Far From Guaranteed|
I suspect that Hillary Clinton and her supporters were downright giddy in 2016 that Trump vacated the middle ground and lessened his appeal to millions of independent voters by giving into the will of the hard-right conservative base of the Republican party. This left Clinton far more room to garner voters as a moderate and banishes Trump to the socially backward agenda that has split Republicans for years. The Republican tent remains closed and small, oblivious to the reality many Americans are fiscally conservative but socially liberal. Republicans must wake up to the fact today fewer Americans see themselves as unbending bible touting hardliners hell bent on making others adopt their rigid social values.
Any sane person might consider it a reach when one media spokesperson stated that Mike Pence is everything that Donald Trump isn't and by taking Pence on board Trump showed he can work with others and does listen. In some ways the two-party system has evolved into the "haves against the have-nots." It often pits those seeking more government and transfers of wealth against those wanting less intervention in our lives. Several years ago a book was written questioning why voters would ever vote Republican. It touted the idea that people were actually voting against their own interest because deep in their minds they held the misguided belief they were higher on the economic food chain than they really are or might someday be wealthy.
Even during the election, most Trump supporters recognized the Donald was flawed, inarticulate, and somewhat lacking, still, the hope existed that his ego would not allow him to fail us or at least give a go at changing our current path. Trump in many ways became the candidate considered as a rejection of mainstream politics, a rejection of Washington as well as the new face of the Republican party, a party accountable to the middle class. A catchphrase made popular from an old radio and television comedy, The Life of Riley, to describe events that turned sour, he would say, "what a revolting development," These few words in many ways summarized the feelings of many voters disappointed by the Pence selection.
To the voters that thought Trump represented an effort to take back the party from the hard right which had held it hostage for years and hopefully open the tent to moderate voters the Pence selection was a disaster. The "Make America Great Again" theme extended beyond debates about whether we are still great and cuts into taking back power from the Washington establishment that many Americans feel sold us out. While questions still exist as to just how important the Vice Presidential slot is to the average voter simply explaining away conflicts between the Trump we wanted and the Pence we knew on issues like free trade are a challenge.
Since both Trump and Clinton suffered high unfavorable ratings with voters, a wise choice might have been to choose a likable running mate to neutralize this issue. In an election where many voters held their nose as they entered the voting booth Pence had the potential to exacerbate this problem. His contentious relationship with women over reproduction rights, young people angered by his stand on marijuana, and recent uproars with the gay community galvanized liberals and motivated them to vote Democrat. As a resident of Indiana who remembers Pence campaigning for and endorsing Ted Cruz, this only appeared a good choice if Trump was actually seeking a mate with higher unfavorable ratings than his.
Trump's choice and how he arrived at it highlights the fact our flawed two-party election system is a big part of the problem that creates the gridlock polarizing our nation. In the general election, any third party candidate hell-bent on making a point can easily derail either party by drawing even a few votes thus having a major influence on who is elected. America’s presidential primary system is far from perfect and its flaws are magnified by the defective and obsolete Electoral College that takes over after the general election. Time will show if Trump has negotiated or cut a good deal by making Pence part of his team. After being forced to pick the “lesser of two evils” the ugly choice between a deceitful and dishonest Hillary or a candidate that I will simply refer to as him, we have elevated an undeserving Michael Richard Pence to within a heartbeat of the Presidency. Seriously, how appalling ironic is that?
Footnote; The links to other post related to the 2016 election can be found below.