By Emmett Baumgarten, Columnist
Since he was announced as Donald Trump’s choice for vice president, Mike Pence has withdrawn from the spotlight. He has largely been overshadowed by the loquacious Trump and, perhaps prudently, has not sought to be noticed. However, given the current scandals involving the Trump administration, it is increasingly important to take a critical look at Vice President Pence.
Pence is most commonly described as a “mild-mannered Midwesterner,” and true, this is the guise he dons. Beneath his exterior, however, hides a spineless, pandering politician, someone who is unable to compromise for the greater good. This is a man who banned Syrian refugees from Indiana. This is a man who signed the Religious Freedom Act, which effectively allowed discrimination based on sexual orientation. This is a man who allowed a huge HIV outbreak in Indiana because he resisted authorizing a temporary needle exchange. None of these actions come off as “mild-mannered” to me.
In terms of education, Pence made a big push for voucher programs and touted himself as a proponent of charter schools. I went to a charter high school in Indianapolis; it was one of the best charter schools in the state. It might make sense that Pence would be appreciated there. That was not at all the case. He allotted us such a small budget that our teachers made less than public school teachers, who have less-than-adequate salaries themselves, and then he attempted to use our success to generate political approval. He had nothing to do with our success, and thus we were not obliged to help inflate his public image. In fact, he was so abhorred by the entirety of the school — administrators, faculty, students and parents — that when he came for a visit, all the doors were locked so that he could not get a press photo with students.
The miraculous thing about Pence is that it is not only the “city liberals” who have grown to deprecate him; prior to the 2016 election, “Pence Must Go” signs adorned the streets throughout the heart of Indianapolis and spread out like veins across the state. Pence — n a solidly red state — was poised to lose his gubernatorial run for reelection to a Democrat. If he had not accepted Trump’s call to be vice-president, I do believe that he would have lost. The reason for his unpopularity was that as a state Indiana realized that he was not “mild-mannered,” and that we were ashamed to call him a Midwesterner. He lacked common compassion for refugees, HIV victims and for most people different from him.
It is hard to dislike Mike Pence as much as someone from Indianapolis does. I certainly do not like him at all, to put it kindly. However, I have restrained my invective with the hope of being able to appeal, in some way, to an audience that does not share this view of Pence. Had I been someone from the LGBTQ+ community of Indianapolis, it surely would have been even more scathing. Pence’s legacy is so disdained in Indiana that House Republicans have even taken steps to dismantle it, a fitting end to such a terrible legacy.