I’ve been told that Mike Pence’s law school nickname was “dense Pence.” Perhaps that was apocryphal–I wasn’t in school with him– but Pence’s entry into the Presidential sweepstakes suggests its appropriateness.
Allow me a couple of admissions.
I’ve known Pence ever since we were both losing Republican candidates for Congress. I was an occasional “guest” on his call-in show, trying–without much success–to defend those “un-Christian” First Amendment clauses mandating separation of church and state…
By the end of his embarrassing term as Indiana Governor qua Priest, I was the owner of several of those “Pence Must Go” signs that were widely displayed around Indiana prior to Trump’s rescue of Pence’s doomed candidacy for a second term.
So–as these admissions suggest–I’m not a fan.
That said, the media reaction to his Presidential candidacy has largely confirmed my belief that anyone who actually thinks Pence might be the eventual nominee is smoking something, and it’s very strong.
The New York Times polled the paper’s opinion writers. Let me share a few of their responses.
When asked how seriously a Pence candidacy should be taken, Michelle Cottle said: “As seriously as the wet dishrag he impersonated for most of his term as V.P.” Katherine Mangu-Ward contributed: “Mike Pence is a serious person. He is seriously not going to be president.”
Frank Bruni admitted to being “unsettled by how strongly Pence has always let his deeply conservative version of Christianity inform his policy positions.” Bruni noted that while he deeply respects people of faith, Pence “makes inadequate distinction between personal theology and public governance.” Bruni was far more polite on that subject than Cottle, who said that Pence “wants to ram his conservative religious views down the nation’s throat.”
Jane Coaston described Pence’s entry as “a candidacy no one wants.” Michelle Cottle offered backhand praise with “He’s a uniter: Everyone dislikes him.”
Coaston summed up the panel’s verdict: He might be the most uninspiring candidate currently running. (She did say he has great hair.)
Then there’s the Washington Post headline: “Mystery surrounds Mike Pence’s doomed presidential candidacy.”
Having spent the past 2½ years being booed by Republican audiences and mocked on social media, Mike Pence has decided that the American people are finally ready for him. So, with the obligatory period of prayer and contemplation out of the way, the former vice president has officially filed the paperwork to run for president.
There’s no mystery about whether Pence could overcome former president Donald Trump and seize the leadership of his party. The mystery is why he thinks he has any chance at all.
Pence is a photo negative image of contemporary political attractiveness, simultaneously repelling Republicans, Democrats and independents. In his bewildering belief that he might become president, he demonstrates the power of ambition to cloud the mind of even the most experienced politician.
The article describes Pence as someone who “reminds you of a regional manager at a midsize Indiana ball-bearing manufacturer.” And if that description isn’t sufficiently dismissive, the article points out that “there is almost no significant group of voters who does not already dislike Pence for one reason or another.”
In a general election, Pence would offer voters the worst of all possible worlds: an uncharismatic candidate advocating the GOP’s unpopular policies. Voters are not clamoring for someone to tell them why we need to cut taxes for the rich and outlaw abortion, delivered in the tone of a stepdad explaining why you’re being grounded for the rest of the school year….
Other long-shot candidates have something resembling a rationale. Nikki Haley paints herself as the leader of a new generation of conservatives. Tim Scott offers a conservatism that is hard right in substance but kinder and gentler in manner. But Pence — who at some point might have seemed as though he was constructed in a lab to become the GOP nominee (experienced! conservative! devout!) — is now exactly what no one wants.
If elections revolved around policy preferences, no GOP candidate would stand a chance; poll after poll confirms that a majority of Americans soundly reject Republican policies on abortion and guns, its wars on trans children, books and (undefined) “wokeness,” the party’s steadfast refusal to raise taxes on the obscenely rich …
What does appeal to today’s Republican voters is bigotry and White Nationalism. Pence’s original usefulness to Trump and the GOP was his ability to cloak racism, misogyny and homophobia in Christian piety–to pretend that he represented a party that hated the sin but loved the sinner.
In the intervening years, the GOP has thrown off the cloak, and thus no longer has any use for Pastor Pence. Why he doesn’t understand that is, as the Post says, a mystery.