As The New York Times recently reported, there are an awful lot of social issues in which Donald Trump doesn’t now or didn’t in the past line up with his new vice presidential running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence. These range from abortion and gay rights to whether smoking kills people. Considering that Trump has flip-flopped on a number of issues in this election cycle alone, it may not seem particularly noteworthy that he has chosen a veep whose views are so out of whack with what he used to believe.
Nevertheless, the Pence selection forces us to confront a very unsettling reality about how Trump would govern as president – namely, that he would move to the hard right, with all of the base hatreds to be found in that movement.
Think about it. When a presidential nominee chooses his or her running mate, they do so to benefit from the foremost assets that individual will bring to their ticket. When Barack Obama selected Joe Biden in 2008, it was because the latter’s 36 years of experience as a United States Senator was a great antidote to the charge that Obama himself was inexperienced; John McCain, by contrast, chose Sarah Palin because her youth and charisma would supercharge his flagging political brand; and Mitt Romney tapped Paul Ryan to solidify his credentials as a thoughtful conservative alternative to the Obama administration’s policies.
By focusing his presidential campaign on hoary stereotypes about Mexicans and Muslims, Trump has effectively declared that he would marginalize individuals within those groups if he ever rose to power. Now that he chosen Pence to be his vice president, he has said the exact same thing about homosexuals and women (at least those who want to control their own bodies).
Pence, on the other hand, only brings his longstanding reputation as a right-wing firebrand. Sure, he has a decade of experience in the House of Representatives and a single term as Governor of Indiana, so he fulfills the “political experience” requirement that Trump declared would be such an important consideration for him (though not more so than many of the other options he had considered). That said, Pence is best known to the political world for his support for Indiana’s notorious and toxic so-called Religious Freedom law, which allowed business owners in his state to deny service to LGBTQ individuals. Beyond that, Pence developed a reputation as a particularly rabid opponent of abortion rights, not only leading the crusade to defund Planned Parenthood but even comparing American abortion practices to the September 11th terrorist attacks.
It is important to note that when I bring up these stances from Pence’s past, I’m not cherry-picking random positions that he has happened to take. These policies are central to Pence’s political brand, just as much as Trump’s political brand depends on his opposition to illegal immigration and free trade policies. While politicians will obviously need to take a wide range of policy positions throughout their careers, they usually select a handful that ultimately define them. For George W. Bush, it was tax cuts and (later on) the war in Iraq; for Obama, it’s been health care reform and economic stimulus; and for Pence, it’s been his opposition to the rights of homosexuals and women.
This speaks volumes not only about the type of campaign that Trump is prepared to wage, but the manner in which he would plan on governing. Whatever his past positions may have been, Trump has now aligned himself with the hard right, a movement that in turn depends on asserting the superiority of white conservative Christians over the rest of us. By focusing his presidential campaign on hoary stereotypes about Mexicans and Muslims, Trump has effectively declared that he would marginalize individuals within those groups if he ever rose to power. Now that he chosen Pence to be his vice president, he has said the exact same thing about homosexuals and women (at least those who want to control their own bodies).
Needless to say, this clears up any confusion as to whether the Trump who used to be pro-choice and pro-gay rights bears any resemblance to the man now running for president. Moreover, it establishes that the stakes in this presidential election couldn’t be any higher. Whatever else you might think of Trump’s (incredibly inconsistent) policy positions, the main message of his campaign is that he and his team are driven by a multitude of hatreds. If you vote for Trump-Pence, you are electing a ticket that would roll back all of the progress America has made in the past few years at becoming a more pluralistic society.
There can be no doubt what we’re up against.