Political Gamesmanship from Indiana’s Governor?

As regular readers know, I posted a critical review of Governor Pence’s “State of the State” address. I certainly wasn’t alone–editorial writers and columnists around the state panned the presentation.

Critics focused particularly on the Governor’s unwillingness to endorse civil rights protections for LGBT Hoosiers, and his declaration that he “would not sign” a bill he considered insufficiently protective of religious liberty.  Like most critics of that pronouncement, I assumed that the lack of specifics–the Governor certainly didn’t say what provisions he would or would not accept–was tantamount to a veto threat.

We may be wrong—but not for reasons that are particularly comforting to those on either side of this debate.

Over the past two days, in separate conversations, people with broad political experience observing Indiana government have parsed the Governor’s language and arrived at a different conclusion. They point out that what Pence said was “I will not sign a bill…” He did not say “I will veto a bill.” Under Indiana law, the two are not the same thing.

In Indiana, when the state legislature passes a bill and sends it to the Governor,  there are three actions that Governor can take: 1)he can sign the bill, after which it becomes law; 2) he can veto the bill and send it back to lawmakers, who can then sustain or override the veto;  or 3) he can allow the bill to become law without his signature.

Politically, as everyone has pointed out, Pence is between a rock and hard place. His reelection prospects are utterly dependent upon the loyalty of his base of “Christian Soldiers.” He cannot afford to lose them, and they will leave at the slightest sign that Pence is softening his stance against equal rights for LGBT Hoosiers (and that would include any statement suggesting that he might allow an expansion of civil rights to become law).

Unfortunately for Pence, the number of these religious warriors is steadily declining, so he also needs significant support from the business wing of the Republican Party— and the business community is virtually unanimous in its support for civil rights expansion.

As the Democrats have pointed out (almost daily), Pence spent some 175 days avoiding taking a position—desperately trying to placate those on either side of the issue.

As one of the lawyers I talked with observed, the “non-position” communicated to the legislature in Pence’s State of the State address had two possible interpretations: 1) please don’t send me anything that will force me to decide what to do; or 2) if you send me a bill, I won’t sign it–but I won’t veto it, either. It will become law without my explicit endorsement.

The carefully noncommittal framing of the Governor’s statement in the State of the State was even more cowardly than it appeared in the moment, because it allows people on both sides to believe that he shares their concerns–that he is “with them.”

Disingenuous as it may have been, however, it gives some small measure of hope to those of us who want to see genuine civil rights protections for LGBT Hoosiers enacted in Indiana.


  1. What popular musical group from years past had a hit song with these lyrics?

    “Oh, the games people play now,
    every night and every day now,
    never meaning what they say now,
    never saying what they mean.”

    If memory serves me; they were referring to politicians from those days which we have been returned to against our will. They referred to different issues at that time because LGBTs were still hidden deep in their closets.

    “The carefully noncommittal framing of the Governor’s statement in the State of the State was even more cowardly than it appeared in the moment, because it allows people on both sides to believe that he shares their concerns–that he is “with them.”

    Do you believe Pence knew or understood what he was saying or did his speechwriters insert the “noncommittal framing” of the statement, believing the general public wouldn’t know what he actually said…and didn’t say? I don’t believe he is overly-intelligent but had the money of the GOP buying him the governor’s seat to continue Daniels’ pseudo religious misguidance of Indiana residents.

  2. What kind of government and leadership can Indiana expect from a candidate who plays those kind of games? The problems Indiana faces are real: infrastructure, health care, education, and more. But the governor and most of the republicans in the legislature seem hell-bent on continuing their intrusive social engineering policies, pushing aside the tasks they were ostensibly elected to perform. They want everyone, armed, under educated and distracted from the real problems by whatever straw man they can create.

    It’s past time for a change, but as I watched Marlin Stutzman’s senatorial campaign commercial last night, I couldn’t help but think he’s a lock to win the senate seat. Sad but true.

  3. daleb: regarding Marlin Stutzman – Jim Banks is also running for the same office and he has a lot of financial backing. They are both extremely right wing members of the tea party. In addition, Kip Tom (very right wing) is running for the position that Stutzman currently holds. Those of us in northern Indiana are being held hostage by the tea party.

    Marv – thanks for the heads up. I will read it later today.

  4. It’s not like the veto is a huge stumbling block if the General Assembly actually wants a piece of legislation. They can pass it again with a simple majority and override the veto.

  5. Wouldn’t it be nice is our public servants would realize that we also expect them to be LEADERS?

  6. I would not go so far to say religious warriors is steadily declining. The Right has wrapped itself up with Religious, Guns for all, and fear of fill in the blank. The Right cannot reverse same sex marriage, but they can continue to push forward the Right to discriminate by the cook, the baker and candlestick maker.

    Recently I read an article in the recently Guardian. http://www.theguardian.com/society/2016/jan/14/judge-sides-with-catholic-hospital-fight-contraceptive-healthcare-california-aclu
    >> A San Francisco judge on Thursday refused to order a Catholic hospital to allow an obstetrician to use its facility to sterilize a woman just after the birth of her third child. Rebecca Chamorro plans to deliver her baby by cesarean section in Redding, California, at the end of the month and would like her physician to tie her tubes immediately following the birth. “The religious beliefs reflected in their operation are not to be interfered with by courts,” Goldsmith said during an hour-long hearing in San Francisco. “There’s no law that says that hospitals are mandated to perform sterilizations.”
    The hospital’s policy says: “Tubal ligation or other procedures that induce sterility for the purpose of contraception are not acceptable in Catholic moral teaching even when performed with the intent of avoiding further medical problems associated with a future pregnancy.”
    I grew up a Catholic so I know the Church is in essence run by a bunch of old men, who will never risk their lives having a child, or have to deal with economic risks of having another child you cannot afford. Yet these old men will determine that sterilization is wrong. Message from the Bible Thumpers is a woman is just an egg factory, like a chicken in cage.

  7. Much of the problem that we liberals have with this debate over LGBT rights and our conservative government is the fact that we have allowed them to frame the debate by labeling the issue. It is not “religious liberty”. It is not “religious freedom”. It is RELIGIOUS PRIVILEGE for Christians only that they want. And make no mistake about it; they will stomp all over the Constitution to get it. They will tell lies, they will connive, and they will use fear to get it.

  8. It’s past time for Americans to grow up. So called religious freedom really means freedom FROM religion, be that freedom from religiosity in general or freedom from having the religions of others imposed on you.

  9. Americans used to value freedom but that has largely morphed into control led by the extremists of control.

    Hoosiers should not have to care which of the myriad flavors of religion the governor chooses to follow. Not in the least.

    The brokers of control though have changed America to make his religion a major issue.

    And they claim to be on our side?

  10. The Republican version of Thugs on Parade last night:

    They deny any connection between expenses and taxes and debt. Their promise is to be Cheney. Credit card war lord tax Santas giving guns to everyone.

    We all know how that worked out.

    It was a two hour advertisement for fear.

    Live free, informed and unafraid. Turn off TV.

  11. Sheila, I think it’s probably wrong to attribute such subtlety of thought and language to Pence, since there has been no evidence of that in the past.

    On the other hand, you can buy a lot of advice with regular $100,000 infusions of cash from the Koch brothers . . .

  12. Most people who watched Republican thugs on parade last night were told that it was a political debate. It wasn’t. It was well designed herding of their base into the meat packing plant.

  13. I hope that many of you take the time to read Marv’s Democracide thesis. It’s not really conspiracy theory but rather a historical record of the viral spread of culture by those who prefer control of others to freedom.

    It is something that ought to become well known as we turn around the greatest threat to American freedom since the Confederacy.

  14. Pete,

    “…a history record of the viral spread of culture by those who prefer control of others to freedom. It is something that bought to become well known…”

    “Democracide: The Far Right’s Path to Power” is offered to be a part of the “public domain” by The Political Epidemiology Institute, I have no desire to restrict its distribution.

    Thanks for the endorsement,

  15. One other artifact from last night’s national Thugfest was the discussion of regulation. Regulations are we the people’s specification of our expectations for the environment, for safety, for health, for efficacy, for quality, for value, for efficiency, for fiscal responsibility, for service and for truth in advertising. Republicans think that they should be sacrificed and we should rely only on make more money regardless of the cost to others.

    Why do you suppose that is?

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