THE ELECTION OF Donald Trump has sent shockwaves through the souls of compassionate, humane people across the country and the world. Horror that a candidate who ran on a platform of open bigotry, threats against immigrants and Muslims, and blatant misogyny will soon be president is now sinking in. Trump appointed a white nationalist, Steve Bannon, as chief White House strategist — which was promptly celebratedby the American Nazi Party and the Ku Klux Klan. Bannon and other possible extremist Trump appointees, such as John Bolton, a neocon who believes the U.S. should “bomb Iran,” and the authoritarian Rudy Giuliani, are now receiving much deserved public scrutiny.
The incoming vice president, Mike Pence, has not elicited the same reaction, instead often painted as the reasonable adult on the ticket, a “counterbalance” to Trump and a “bridge to the establishment.” However, there is every reason to regard him as, if anything, even more terrifying than the president-elect.
Pence’s ascent to the second most powerful position in the U.S. government is a tremendous coup for the radical religious right. Pence — and his fellow Christian supremacist militants — would not have been able to win the White House on their own. For them, Donald Trump was a godsend. “This may not be our preferred candidate, but that doesn’t mean it may not be God’s candidate to do something that we don’t see,” said David Barton, a prominent Christian-right activist and president of Wall Builders, an organization dedicated to making the U.S. government enforce “biblical values.” In June, Barton prophesied: “We may look back in a few years and say, ‘Wow, [Trump] really did some things that none of us expected.’”
Trump is a Trojan horse for a cabal of vicious zealots who have long craved an extremist Christian theocracy, and Pence is one of its most prized warriors. With Republican control of the House and Senate and the prospect of dramatically and decisively tilting the balance of the Supreme Court to the far right, the incoming administration will have a real shot at bringing the fire and brimstone of the second coming to Washington.
“The enemy, to them, is secularism. They want a God-led government. That’s the only legitimate government,” contends Jeff Sharlet, author of two books on the radical religious right, including “The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power.” “So when they speak of business, they’re speaking not of something separate from God, but they’re speaking of what, in Mike Pence’s circles, would be called biblical capitalism, the idea that this economic system is God-ordained.”
One of Trump’s sons, Don Jr., reportedly said that his father’s vice president would be in charge of domestic and foreign policy, while Trump would focus on the vague mission of “Making America Great Again.” Trump’s campaign subsequently claimed the story was “made up,” though Trump has consistently denied saying things he is on record as saying, so who knows? In any case, the implications of a Pence vice presidency are vast. Pence combines the most horrid aspects of Dick Cheney’s worldview with a belief that Tim LaHaye’s “Left Behind” novels are not fiction, but an omniscient crystal ball.
While Trump has flip-flopped on a variety of issues, Pence has been a reliable stalwart throughout his public life in the cause of Christian jihad.
How the GOP foisted Pence on Trump is undoubtedly a fascinating story that hopefully will some day be revealed. Obviously, Pence gave Trump badly needed credibility with evangelical voters and the GOP establishment, but Pence’s selection portends a governing apocalypse. While Trump has flip-flopped on a variety of issues, from abortion to immigration to war and health care, Pence has been a reliable stalwart throughout his public life in the cause of Christian jihad — never wavering in his commitment to America-First militarism, the criminalizing of abortion, and utter hatred for gay people (unless they go into conversion therapy “to change their sexual behavior,” which Pence has suggested the government pay for).
He supported making the Patriot Act permanent and wants to ban the burning of the U.S. flag. Pence does not believe federal law enforcement agencies should have to get a FISA warrant to conduct domestic surveillance and voted against requiring any warrant for domestic wiretapping. As governor of Indiana, he did quietly sign a bill to limit the use of Stingray devices by local law enforcement, though it was during the early stages of the Snowden revelations and the public concern about government surveillance was intense.
Pence supported giving retroactive immunity to telecom companies implicated in warrantless surveillance. He does not want congressional oversight of CIA interrogations — which Trump believes should include waterboarding and other torture “a hell of a lot worse than waterboarding.” Pence has paid lip service to the illegality of torture but said that “enhanced interrogation” has saved lives. He has characterized relationship-building, non-coercive interrogation strategies as “Oprah Winfrey methods.” Pence isagainst whistleblower protections that would prohibit retaliation for reporting crimes or misdeeds. In 2002, the ACLU gave him a 7 percent ratingon civil rights.
He wants the U.S. to resume the practice of holding new prisoners at Guantánamo Bay or, as Trump put it, they plan “to fill it up.” Pence also supports expanded use of the military tribunal system.
Pence has claimed that he wants to “economically isolate” Iran rather than engage in a military attack. But should Israel decide to conduct pre-emptive strikes against Iran’s nuclear facilities, he said in 2010, “if the world knows nothing else, let the world know this: that America will stand with Israel.” He supported a failed legislative effort to make it U.S. policy “to use all means necessary to confront and eliminate nuclear threats posed by the Islamic Republic of Iran, including the use of military force.” Both in rhetoric and policy, Pence has compared “radical Islam” to the “evil empire of the Soviet Union” and said that he and Trump will “name the enemy” and “marshal the resources of our nation and our allies to hunt them down and destroy them before they threaten us.”