Watching Indiana Governor Pence frantically trying to save his political skin may be the best show in town.
We’ve had the announcements spinning Indiana’s lackluster economic performance. We’ve had the new state slogan, proclaiming that Indiana is “a state that works.” (A former student asked the pertinent question: who, exactly, does it work for? Certainly not for ALICE, or for Hoosier working families.)
However, these fairly typical campaign efforts are unlikely to overcome the “Pence Must Go” sentiment that has continued to grow in the wake of the RFRA controversy.
So over the last few days, we’ve also seen determined efforts to pander to his (declining) base.
Pence has been positively salivating over the heavily doctored video attacking Planned Parenthood. (See yesterday’s post.) He immediately ordered Indiana’s Attorney General and its Department of Health to investigate, to “make sure” Planned Parenthood wasn’t “trading” in fetal tissue.
Indiana citizens will recall that the Governor spent most of his time in Congress fighting the culture wars, and especially trying to defund Planned Parenthood. (Perhaps that’s why he was responsible for passing exactly zero pieces of legislation in his eleven years in Congress.) Planned Parenthood has vehemently denied the allegations, and the Indiana Department of Health recently inspected and recertified Planned Parenthood’s facilities. Attorney General Greg Zoeller, of course, has his own culture war history….In any event, Pence clearly sees the emergence of this phony issue as a gift.
I assume the Governor also sees it as a golden opportunity to mend the rift with his Religious Right supporters, who have been angry about what they view as his “capitulation” on RFRA. (Honest, guys, I’m still the radically theocratic guy you used to love….)
Then there was his ostentatious arming of National Guard troops at recruiting centers in the wake of the tragic shooting in Tennessee. I’m sure he thinks the NRA, not to mention the anti-Muslim and/or anti-immigration members of his base, will respond positively to this display of unnecessary machismo. (He’s probably right about that.) And just in case we missed the symbolism, there was Tuesday’s order to fly flags at half-staff in Indiana, and the declaration of a period of mourning for those killed in Tennessee (a gesture of respect not accorded to the many Hoosier soldiers who died in Iraq).
Will any of this work? Will Pence be able to eke out an electoral victory now that more Hoosiers have seen the real Mike Pence? Or will Indiana’s often-feckless Democrats fail to take advantage of the political opening they’ve been handed?
Pass the popcorn. The show’s starting.