The bully picks a bigot

July 18, 2016

Wesley Bishop has the facts you need to know about Donald Trump's running mate.

DONALD TRUMP made it official on Friday, July 15, that he would make Indiana Gov. Mike Pence his vice presidential running mate--adding to the GOP ticket another right-winger who is, if possible, even more offensive to the majority of people in the U.S. who reject the bigoted and bullying politics of the Republican Right.

Appearing in Westfield, Indiana, a few days earlier, Trump surprised commentators when he failed to make the rumored announcement choosing Pence. Instead, Trump used the occasion to rile up the crowd over issues like immigration and trade, saying: "You want to see trade imbalance?...It's going to end, folks, we are going to have smart people now, we are going to make great deals, we are going to make fair deals...We are going to start winning again."

Trump concluded with more bizarre self-aggrandizement:

You're going to have your jobs back. You're going to have your pride back. I often joke, you'll be calling up Mike Pence--I don't know whether he is going to be your governor or your vice president, who the hell knows-- but you're call him and either say, "Governor or vice president, sir, please, please speak to Mr. Trump. We are winning too much. We, the people of Indiana, cannot stand all of these victories."

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (left) with Donald Trump
Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (left) with Donald Trump

ALL THIS talk of "winning so much" will sound strange to the ordinary people of Indiana, where a recent study found that one in five children in the state are living in poverty.

And it isn't just children. Indiana has experienced a 29.3 percent increase in poverty since 2007. A study from the Indiana Institute for Working Families uses graphics to show with stark clarity that the state's poverty rate took off with the Great Recession, rising far faster than the national average and by more than every neighboring Midwestern state, too.

Before Trump's on-again-off-again announcement, Pence's public standing in Indiana had dipped low enough that it seemed like he might face a significant challenge merely holding onto the governorship in the November election. He has been implicated in scandals, embarrassed by failed policy proposals--and caught in a popular backlash against his numerous right-wing initiatives.

Long an advocate for overturning the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion, Pence stated repeatedly during his career as a radio host and then member of Congress that legal access to abortion should be relegated to the "ashbin of history."

In March of this year, as governor, Pence signed one of the most restrictive anti-abortion laws in the country. It is the second law in the country, after North Dakota, to bar women from deciding to have an abortion based on the race, gender or disability of the fetus. The first two factors are, of course, a non-issue, but barring women from considering symptoms of severe deformities or disabilities in fetuses makes a difficult decision worse.

The law holds doctors legally responsible if an abortion is carried out for any of the three reasons--and in a further cruel twist, it requires health care facilities to inter or cremate the remains of an aborted fetus.

Pence has proved himself ready and willing to prosecute and even imprison people over issues of reproductive choice.

In March 2015, 33-year-old Purvi Patel was sentenced to 20 years in prison for "feticide" and child neglect. Despite evidence that she had suffered a miscarriage, prosecutors used text messages from Patel's phone to charge her with breaking Indiana's "feticide" law, even though toxicologists found no evidence of abortion medications to terminate a pregnancy in Patel or the fetus.

According to reports, Patel comes from a conservative Hindu family and panicked when she realized she was pregnant. There is no clear evidence that Patel obtained the banned medication misoprostol from overseas, as prosecutors claimed. Somewhere in the second trimester of the pregnancy, Patel endured a stillbirth. When she continued to suffer from bleeding, she went to an emergency room.

Instead of receiving medical care and support for her ordeal, her actions were criminalized. Patel's imprisonment marks the first and only instance of a woman charged, convicted and sentenced under a "feticide" law.

Yet Pence claims to be proud of the state's record of persecuting women and taking away their rights. When he signed the latest anti-abortion legislation into law earlier this year, he proclaimed "that a society can be judged by how it deals with its most vulnerable--the aged, the infirm, the disabled and the unborn."

PENCE'S CONCERN evidently doesn't extend to others among the state's most economically exploited and disenfranchised.

In October 2014, Pence's administration, unexpectedly and without explanation, refused to pursue a nearly $80 million federal grant that would have expanded preschool education for Hoosier children, providing services for some of the state's most vulnerable kids.

Then again, Pence's refusal to seek federal aid isn't surprising considering his commitment to a right-wing legislation, including a right-to-work law passed in Indiana in 2012 under Pence's predecessor, former Gov. Mitch Daniels. As reported, an estimated 20,000 workers protested at the statehouse in Indianapolis as the legislature considered the right-to-work legislation, but Daniels--acting as unaccountably as Pence has since then--got the bill rushed to a vote and signed it into law.

Pence has been just as determined to do the dirty work of the corporate world, which has led unions to criticize the now-presumptive GOP vice presidential nominee for undermining the economic well-being of Indiana residents.

Among those unions is United Steelworkers Local 1999, which represents workers at a Carrier air conditioning factory in Indianapolis that management announced earlier this year would close. On the campaign trail for the Republican nomination, Trump criticized the layoffs at Carrier, which wants to move the Indiana jobs overseas.

But the Steelworkers point out that Trump's selection of Pence exposes his supposed concern for working people. "If you want to take credit for all those jobs coming to Indiana, and we're losing jobs due to corporate greed--I've got issues with that," Local 1999 President Chuck Jones told an Indianapolis television station.

Pence has been on board with another reactionary obsession of the Trump campaign: anti-Islam bigotry.

Last fall, after the deadly attacks in Paris, Pence joined governors from more than a dozen other states in suspending the state's participation in a federal program to resettle refugees coming from Syria. He likewise argued that present Muslim refugees should have government aid taken away from them. A judge eventually overturned Pence's decision, citing it as a clear case of discrimination. Nonetheless, it provided further evidence of Pence's willingness to fan the flames of xenophobia and bigotry toward an entire group of people based on religion.

Yet perhaps Pence's biggest policy disaster was his support for and eager endorsement of the misnamed Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) in 2015. The law, which permits businesses to deny service to customers on the basis of sexual orientation and gender expression, quickly led to mass protests in Indianapolis and a nationwide boycott after it was enacted.

Angered over the loss of profits, corporate leaders publicly criticized Pence's actions, calling them bigoted and discriminatory, and putting pressure on the legislature to repeal and/or amend the law. Before the bill could be changed, however, Indiana lost an estimated $60 million in investment and economic growth due to the boycott.

Pence's intolerant actions toward LGBTQ people were completely in character. After winning the governorship in November 2012, he moved to strip power from the only Democrat elected to statewide office, Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz, because of her opposition to Pence's cherished school privatization agenda.

So much for "winning so much" that "the people of Indiana can't stand all of these victories."

Pence's selection as the Republican vice presidential nominee is Trump's sop to the party's Religious Right. For everyone else--workers, women, LGBTQ people, teachers and public school students, and more--his career has been a disaster.

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