A NEBRASKA SENATOR once said of a Supreme Court nominee, “So what if he’s mediocre? [The mediocre] are entitled to a little representation.” But in Mike Pence mediocrity is overrepresented. Not even Donald Trump commends this intellectually blinkered, right-wing provincial as America’s Savior.
He began as a talk show host in 1994 in small-town Indiana, fulminating about the global warming “myth,” the perfidy of Washington, and the verities of an evangelical Christianity menaced by cosmopolites. Piety swiftly merged with pragmatism: ambitious for office, Pence learned what worked — an antichoice, antigay agenda served up with reckless rhetoric couched in a pose of rectitude. He informed his audience that Clarence Thomas was being “lynched,” and that “despite the hysteria from the political class and the media, smoking doesn’t kill.” A quarter-century later, Pence remains as small as his beginnings.
The flexibility of his conscience surfaced in his first race for Congress. He used campaign funds to pay for his mortgage, car, credit card, golf, and groceries. To smear his opponent, he sent a mailer depicting lines of cocaine; ran an ad portraying an Arab sheik; and spread a story that the Democrat was selling his farm to a nuclear waste facility. Only after losing, did Pence deploy an ostentatious show of guilt.
Once in Congress, he joined the Tea Party and displayed a rigid intolerance for anything outside the crabbed confines of evangelical conservatism. He attacked sex education and reproductive choice with the zeal of Savonarola, decrying stem cell research, the use of condoms to prevent STDs, and organizations whose services included abortion. To further this agenda, he proposed changing the definition of rape to “forcible rape” and shutting down the government as a tactic to defund Planned Parenthood.