The Very Scary Mike Pence

The former vice-president has been making the media tour these past several days, touting his new book So Help Me God and sticking his toe in the water for a possible run for the presidency. His appearance in those media events reflects the nature of the man—somber, speaking in controlled low tones, and wearing a dark gray suit. He didn’t once crack a smile (ABC interview) nor did he show any emotion, although when asked about his feelings regarding Trump’s inciting remarks during the January 6 insurrection that he lacked courage, he did duck his head briefly before changing the subject.

We were left to assume he became emotional over the betrayal by his commander in chief. Instead, he seemed an automaton, not truly human but rather a creation of his own religious obsession.

While we can be thankful that his determination to “do the right thing” prevented him from aiding Trump’s attempt to overturn the 2020 election, that same determination drives Pence toward goals that violate the freedoms of Americans. Just because he kissed Trump’s ass for four years then refused his last most important command doesn’t mean he has given up his religious beliefs.

Never forget. Mike Pence is an extremist evangelical, modeled on the Pilgrim mindset that God reigns in all things. His interpretation of God’s rules bears closer examination if we are to understand exactly how well he fit into Trump’s presidency. He, not Trump, attracted the votes of the many evangelical voters responsible for Trump’s election. Finally, evangelicals had a man who shared their point of view on virtually every issue.

Pence has repeatedly fought against abortion rights and has pursued all possible channels to block financial support for any entity which provides abortions. He has criticized sex education and supports promotion of abstinence. He has also voiced opposition to embryonic stem cell research. He supported the overturn of Roe v Wade but when asked in the 2020 vice presidential debate what he would do if it was overturned, he refused to endorse criminalizing abortion—yet another example of his fishtailing in the face of reality.

Pence is staunchly anti-LGBT rights. He has opposed non-discrimination legislation and allowing gays to openly serve in the military. He opposes same sex marriage and civil unions.

Pence has proposed a flat federal tax rate, opposed the auto industry bailout of 2008-09, and voted against raising the federal minimum wage from $5.15/hour to $7.35.

Voting against the Medicare Part D that helped provide prescription drug coverage, Pence continues to reveal his lack of medical knowledge with such assertions as “smoking doesn’t kill.” He came out firmly against needle exchange programs as a method of decreasing spread of AIDS.

Pence is opposed to the birthright citizenship policy wherein children born in the United States to non-citizens automatically become citizens. He also promoted an immigration plan that would have increased border security and implemented strict enforcement of laws against hiring undocumented immigrants.

Pence supported a 2005 plan to partially privatize Social Security but since has backed away from any specific plan, saying only that cuts to Social Security would need everyone at the table.

After many years of denying that human activity is the primary driver of climate change, in 2016 Pence stated that there was no doubt the human activity “affects” the climate. Despite this equivocation, “While in the House, Pence ’voted to eliminate funding for climate education programs and to prohibit the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating greenhouse gas emissions.’ Pence also ‘repeatedly voted against energy efficiency and renewable energy funding and rules’ and voted ‘for several bills that supported fossil fuel development, including legislation promoting offshore drilling.’”[1]

Pence is a hardliner on drugs, protesting any steps to decrease penalties for low-level marijuana offenses. He worked to reinstate mandatory minimum sentences for drug crimes. He supports federal restrictions on online gambling.

Mike Pence has been one of the most public voices in asserting that ‘All Lives Matter’ rather than supporting the understanding that ‘Black Lives Matter’ addresses specific problems faced by formerly enslaved people. He supported the Citizens United ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court which allowed corporations to act as individuals in donating to political campaigns. He supported the impeachment of President Bill Clinton.

Pence imagines himself as an upright Christian man, what an observer might consider as ‘smug’ in his satisfaction with his rigid stance on all the above-named issues. His primary role in the Trump White House was to uphold the pretense of religiosity that kept evangelical Christians firmly in support of Trump while simultaneously ignoring Trump’s many and repeated violations of the Ten Commandments and common decency. Pence was willing to scorch his coattails with his proximity to Trump because he, like so many other evangelicals, believed that their conservative agenda would be fulfilled through the presidency of a ‘flawed vessel.’ In their view, God made Trump president largely because Pence was there quietly steering policy toward a Christian nation.

Whether or not Pence seeks the Republican nomination for president, his dogmatic stance on so many important issues is not his alone. Rather, he epitomizes the increasingly familiar face of the Republican Party as one of extremist religious objectives. In embracing his faith, Pence (and others like him) plod toward the seditious goal of enforcing Christianity in U.S. laws and policies.

The entire extremist belief system Pence embraces ignores the reality of our evolution as humans, moving toward greater knowledge and understanding of processes that previously seemed magical, from the hand of God. As our scientific advancements allow us to develop vaccines against viruses, travel in motor vehicles, and interact with people anywhere in the world via the Internet, we gain greater opportunity and willingness to improve human life in every way. We are learning every day to become more humane, more tolerant. Yet despite appreciating the benefits of these technological advancements (pretty sure Pence uses a cell phone and the Internet), the collateral expansion of understanding and tolerance escapes the evangelical.

The deal Pence and his fellow religionists have made with God is a simple quid pro quo. We’ll do everything we can to force people to see it our way and in return, God will grant us a place at his right hand in Heaven. This magical thinking follows in a direct line from the most primitive religious practices wherein sacrifices were made to a god in order to improve some aspect of existence—fewer earthquakes, the withdrawal of enemy troops, release from slavery, relief of illness, et cetera ad infinitum. Sacrifice of pleasure, of our most valuable foods or assets, even of our children, has been the key element of religion.[2] Whatever has been a trial upon human life was within the power of a god to mitigate if only the people could hit on the best method of pleasing that god.

While the Constitution of the United States assures that church and state are to remain entirely separate, written as it was by those who knew the history of unending wars caused by religion, the evangelicals of our country either choose to ignore or ignorantly second guess the basis and importance of this provision. They will not stop their attempts to make the nation a manifestation of Christianity. The appearance of decency and patriotic intent in Pence’s refusal to grant Trump his wish to overturn the 2020 election is a throw-away relic of Pence’s true motivation, which was and remains his ‘duty’ to do right, thereby pleasing his god.


[1] This quote and much of the preceding information gleaned from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mike_Pence

[2] It can be argued that Christianity is itself a carryover of primitive death cults whose sacrifices ensured God’s benevolence. The crucifixion of Christ and the practice of communion in which the faithful partake of bread and wine as symbols of Christ’s body and blood is a direct link to the ancient belief that a life had to be sacrificed in order to please the god.

Obsessed with the Fetus

This week, my 97-year-old mother received a packet of mail from Republican senator Rand Paul. The cover letter begins: “For 47 years, nine unelected men and women on the Supreme Court have played God with innocent human life. They have invented laws that condemned to painful deaths without trial more than 62 million babies for the crime of being ‘inconvenient…’”

The propaganda continues over four pages. Along with the inflammatory letter, Sen. Paul included pre-printed petitions to both Arkansas senators and all four representatives as well as Sen. Mitch McConnell, calling for the passage of the Life at Conception Act. All my mom needed to do was sign on the bottom line and send them off in the enclosed envelope addressed to Sen. Paul in care of the National Pro-Life Alliance.

I was relieved that my mom said I should take the mail. It was a “bunch of crap,” she said. I agreed.

She’d beyond the point of arguing the finer points of politics or political issues. But it’s easy to see how this mail-out and its provocative rhetoric is meant to stir up Trump’s base right here before Election Day.

Americans should never lose sight of the fact that Trump and Pence were elected because of fetuses. Other supporter ‘causes’ are secondary, among them rabid racism and fundamental ignorance. But the driving force and the majority of their 32%-43% approval rating is based in their core support of evangelicals who are obsessed with fetuses.

No matter how many sexual assaults, adulteries, or episodes of blatant bullying, no matter how many lies and incidents of gaslighting, no matter the total incompetence of Trump’s service as president, his abuse of power, his disrespect for tradition and honor, no matter how many young immigrant children have been kidnapped from their families, no matter how many tens of thousands of our neighbors and countrymen die from a virus Trump failed to properly manage, no matter how much we as a nation plummet in the eyes of the world as we abdicate any possible claim of leadership, we can rest easy because fetuses will be saved.

Since Roe v Wade, Republicans have honed their primary strategy for political ascendance – not balancing the budget, not maintaining and improving the nation’s infrastructure, not caring for the average citizen – by fomenting outrage about abortion. Never mind that in heralding the ‘murder’ of embryos, evangelical conservatives have obfuscated and ignored the many legitimate medical reasons women terminate pregnancies. Never mind that women have always aborted unwanted pregnancies for countless legitimate reasons to which no one else is – or can be – privy. Never mind that Roe v Wade simply allowed women to access proper medical care for such procedures. Only the fetus matters.

Remove the fetus issue and evangelicals no longer have a clear-cut reason to slavishly follow the Republican Party. There may be seasons of drummed-up hate for the sexually-different or same sex couples who dare to fall in love. There may be outrage against government-funded programs that seek to improve opportunities for low-income children through programs like Head Start and school lunches. There may be simmering prejudices against non-whites for whatever derogatory stereotypes can be successfully slapped on them by insecure racists. But the one sure-fire button Republicans can count on to get evangelicals to the polls on Election Day is fetuses.

Odd that in all their crusade on behalf of God’s will in His miracle of fertilized eggs, none of these well-intentioned voters find issue with defying God’s will by artificially fertilizing eggs for those who can’t conceive. Does God really want them to have a child?

Odd that other ‘acts of God’ are defied as we rush onward with medical science to cure cancer and invent vaccines to protect ourselves against God’s will. If it is God’s will that we suffer those ailments, why are we curing them?

You can see where this rabbit hole leads. Either we have an innate right to intervene in our biological processes or we don’t. Pregnancy is a biological process. The egg donor (and usually the sperm donor) possess the innate right to intervene. Not a religious group. Not the government.

It’s not like we need more people. The world’s population has shot up from one billion to 7.8 billion in just the past 200 years. That’s despite virus and influenza epidemics, two world wars, and multiple other small wars around the globe. We have invented vaccines and antibiotics and pesticides in order to attack disease and increase the food supply. We’ve succeeded in doubling life expectancy since 1900. Global population is projected at 8 billion in 2023 and from there will double again by the end of this century.

But let’s cheer on the evangelicals and their great moral sacrifice in electing Trump to save the fetuses. Let’s put government in control of reproduction with laws regulating women’s bodies in order to save more fetuses. Because the fetus is the most important consideration.

Without question, children are our future. They should have the best we can give them both in the womb and after they’re born. But most importantly, each child should be wanted by its parents, not forced to a life of possible abuse, neglect, or a miserable existence shuttled from one foster home to another.

This is the insidious threat religious extremism poses to any nation. Religion inspires single-minded fanaticism that ignores personal rights, common sense, and the freedoms enshrined within a democracy. This is exactly the problem our Founding Fathers sought to avoid when they wrote the First Amendment to our Constitution prohibiting the government from establishing any religious doctrine.

Can we please honor our Founder’s vision and keep religion OUT of government? And keep government control out of human reproduction.

Trump — It’s About Jesus

Make no mistake. The whitewash of Trump’s many sins is not just about Republican power madness or foreign influence or money. It is those things, but mostly this is about Jesus. Finally the evangelical voter bloc can fulfill its forty-year wish list to do away with all liberal advances. No more abortion, no more gay rights, no more talk about climate change or pollution. No more mingling of the races or giving those colored folks a place at the table. No more helping hungry people with a handout they don’t deserve or helping sick people pay their medical bills.

Evangelicals — a term that today refers to people who believe that Jesus died for their sins, that the Bible is the word of God, that every believer has a “born again” or salvation moment, and that the good news of Jesus should be widely disseminated — make up as much as a quarter of the country, or close to 80 million people. Around 60 percent vote, more than any other demographic, and among white evangelical voters, more than three-quarters tend to go to Republicans, thanks to wedge issues like abortion, same-sex marriage, and transgender rights.[1]

During the last days of Trump’s 2016 campaign, he met with “Robert Jeffress, the head of 14,000-member megachurch First Baptist Dallas, a contributor to Fox News, and one of the earliest evangelical leaders to support Trump, presided over the meeting.

“I usually stand when he [Trump] comes in the room as a way of showing respect — he doesn’t ask that, but that’s just something that I’ve normally done,” Jeffress explained to the assembled, who included Wayne Grudem, a well-known theologian and co-founder of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood; Eric Metaxas, a bestselling Christian author and radio host; Ryan Anderson, a senior fellow at the Heritage Foundation; and Jay Richards, a philosopher and senior fellow at the Discovery Institute, a conservative think tank that campaigns against teaching evolution in school.”

At this meeting, Trump, no doubt coached by his Republican handlers, promised to fulfill the evangelical agenda: He would end the contraception mandate of Obamacare; select only anti-choice judges; do away with the Johnson Amendment, which prohibits tax-exempt entities from endorsing politicians; support prayer in school; oppose any bill that pulled funding from Christian schools that were charged with discrimination; keep transgender people from using the “wrong” bathrooms and locker rooms; and protect Israel.

It’s been a long time coming, ever since the incestuous relationship between Republicans and Christian extremists joined forces under the benevolent guidance of Ronald Reagan. The power brokers behind the Republican Party figured out that if they could gain a voting block as widespread and fervent as evangelicals, they could turn back the tide of progressive change. They’d been slammed on all sides – the ‘60s generation had turned its back on the corporate agenda, passed laws forcing dirty manufacturing to clean up its messes, and was working hard to put women and minorities on an equal status with white men.

Casualty of the U.S. abandonment of Syrian Kurds, 2019.

This unholy coalition of conservatives, evangelicals, and racists developed a strategy that finally paid off with the election of Donald Trump. Now they had the whole government in their control. They quickly began reversing rules and laws and appointing federal judges who would abide by the coalition’s view of the world:

  • eliminating voting rights for blacks and the poor
  • packing the courts with extreme conservatives
  • allowing unlimited gerrymandering of voting districts
  • barricading U.S. borders against refugees (but only those who aren’t white)
  • reversing pollution controls in order to ‘ease’ the regulatory burden on corporations
  • promoting any and all efforts to reverse Roe v Wade
  • chewing off vital parts of the Affordable Care Act until they can shoot the entire act in the head
  • destroying the U.S.’s standing on the world stage, betraying allies, and doubling down on military force as the only viable foreign policy
  • accepting murderers as friends (such as Mohammad bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, who in absentia murdered Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi and war criminal former U.S. Navy SEAL Eddie Gallagher)
  • ignoring the public health crisis while ending school lunch programs that sought to reduce the nation’s childhood obesity problem

And much more, most of which serves the corporate agenda more than the evangelical. But who’s counting?

The ‘see no evil, hear no evil’ mindset of the unholy Republican coalition demonstrated its determination to push its agenda at any cost by its election of Trump despite (or because of) his racism, his corruption, his sexism, and his utter disregard for standards of personal honor or morality. The idea that Trump was God’s chosen messenger despite his history of multiple sins appealed to the evangelicals. After all, who among them had not sinned? Their entire religious outlook is based on the idea that God will forgive sin. Lo and behold, God had forgiven Trump, made him King (er, uh president), in order for him to work God’s will on the wayward United States of America.

Trump, on the other hand, knows he’s not forgiven nor has he ‘gone forth and sinned no more.’ Trump hungers for power and adoration, and he’ll say and do anything to keep that juice coming. Honest public servants who attempted to serve in his administration held onto their posts despite Trump’s tantrums and verbal abuse out of a sense of duty to the nation. The landscape is littered with their empty desks.

An overcrowded fenced area holding families at a Border Patrol Centralized Processing Center is seen in a still image from video in McAllen, Texas, U.S. on June 11, 2019 and released as part of a report by the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General on July 2, 2019. https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2019/07/border-facilities/593239/

Trump has no conscience, no agenda, and no principles. He does what he’s told by advisers who put up with his out-of-control behavior because they have their own agendas. For Stephen Miller, the agenda is making America white again. There’s Jarrod Kushner, a Jew, who quietly works as ‘strategic planner’ to advance Israel at the expense of Palestine and of U.S. security in the Middle East. There’s Trump’s daughter Ivanka, possibly the only person who can actually exert some small amount of control over her father, acting as a so-called adviser for women’s issues while in reality maximizing profits for her family’s financial interests.

For Mitch McConnell and other elected lackeys, the agenda is to hang onto their elected seat in districts where the majority of voters are either evangelical, racist, or otherwise drinking the Kool-Aid so freely dispensed by the party. Going against such constituents is simply too big of a risk to take even though the 2018 congressional elections should have warned them their hold on power had become tenuous.

The Republicans cling to their long-game strategy in the belief that evangelicals will continue to sleep with the morally corrupt. Evangelicals rush along in their cognitive dissonance to embrace the idea of end times, eager to do what they can to trigger the promised apocalypse which will bring Jesus back. In this mindset, they alone will be ‘saved’ while the rest of those libtards burn in hell. So why should they listen to anything progressives might say?

Science, as always, is not to be trusted even though every day evangelicals depend on the advances science has brought to modern society. Antibiotics, x-rays, MRIs, organ transplants—nothing is too ‘modern’ to ignore when an evangelical is fighting disease and death. Cell phones, DVRs, GPS, air conditioning—nothing is off the table when it comes to comfort and entertainment even if those terrible atheist scientists might have invented it. But when the science doesn’t fit into their religious view, forget about it. God is the only one who can change the weather. God assigns gender and never intended same sex love. God favors white people—that’s the reason He blessed the United States and gave whites dominion over those red-skinned heathens who were here first.

What evangelicals fail to see through their rapturous haze is that once Trump and his enabling Republicans have broken the Constitution in order to fulfill their agenda, they and their agenda will no longer matter. With the failure of the Republican-controlled Senate to hold Trump accountable, the executive branch of the government is without limits. What that might mean for the future of our nation is too terrible to contemplate.

The unholy alliance of religion and politics has been the source of the world’s worst evils since the beginning of time. That reality was fresh in the minds of the Founding Fathers. That misguided zealots now work to overturn that understanding and the protections written into our Constitution cries out for correction. It remains to be seen whether the correction will come in the 2020 election or if it will come only with another civil war.

 

~~~

Further reading: “Trump is an anathema to everything I was taught to love about Jesus, everything I was taught about how to live out my faith. His disdain for decency, disrespect toward basic tenets of right and wrong and complete disregard for the most vulnerable among us could not be more fundamentally un-Christian. To vote for him because he sees the political expediency of supporting restrictions on abortion is a Faustian deal with the devil that is ultimately more likely to exact greater cost than reward.” https://time.com/5775440/donald-trump-evangelical-opposition/

[1] https://www.rollingstone.com/politics/politics-features/christian-right-worships-donald-trump-915381/