The Corner

Politics & Policy

Mike Pence Changes A Lot In Indiana, But Nothing Nationally

Mike Pence as Donald Trump’s running mate seems like a peace offering to Beltway Republicans, but one that is likely to satisfy few of Trump’s critics. The Pence choice has a huge impact – on Indiana politics. But it’s not reassuring to conservatives.

The Trump and Clinton Veepstakes are being closely watched for different reasons. In Trump’s case, because he’s such an unorthodox candidate, people wanted to know what kind of political figure he’d be comfortable running with – and because Trump shows so little interest in the day-to-day job of the presidency, there’s reason to think that if he won the election, his VP could potentially have an outsize role in the many areas of the job that Trump finds too boring to bother with. In Hillary’s case, because she’s likely to win, old, and the Democrats have such a thin bench (Elizabeth Warren, at 67, is the youngest of the party’s big star-power names who could be eligible for the job), her selection could instantly elevate her choice from relative obscurity to heir-apparent status.

In traditional ticket-balancing terms, Pence offers nothing – he’s 59, white, male, white-haired, Protestant, Midwestern. He’s a competent speaker, rarely tongue-tied but also rarely eloquent or inspiring. He’s undoubtedly qualified to take over the big job if needed, having served as a Governor, a Congressman and  a member of House leadership, the coveted executive/legislative and inside/outside Beltway resume (two 2016 contenders, John Kasich and Bobby Jindal, had also been both Governors and Congressmen). To Trump supporters who see their guy as a revolutionary against “globalists” and “neocons,” Pence is exactly what they claim to hate – he was an outspoken supporter of the Iraq War, an ardent free trader who backed the Trans-Pacific Partnership and has sung the praises of NAFTA’s benefits to his state, he angered a lot of immigration hawks with his “compromise” proposal during the 2006 immigration debate, he’s a supporter of entitlement reforms who voted against Medicare Part D, and he has criticized the Muslim-immigration ban that Trump sometimes floats. While many of Trump’s fans are dismayed, the combination of Pence’s serious experience and Trump’s willingness to pick a running mate who’s a more conventional Republican will undoubtedly reassure some Beltway GOP elites.

Grassroots conservatives who dislike Trump and were already mistrustful of Pence will be a tougher sell. The problem isn’t Pence’s ideology, which in general is full-spectrum conservative, but courage: his record as Governor of Indiana has been almost a textbook illustration of everything conservatives find infuriating in DC Republicans, and raises further red flags that Trump would be more of the same. Just as Pence’s immigration plan was viewed by some as an amnesty that claimed not to be an amnesty, his healthcare and education plans in Indiana amounted to a Medicaid expansion that claimed not to be a Medicaid expansion, and Common Core that claimed not to be Common Core.  And worst of all was his approach to religious liberty: he pushed a state Religious Freedom Restoration Act that was exceptionally tepid in content, then folded meekly when the social-activist Left launched a national pressure campaign (complete with corporate boycotts) that was completely predictable but for which Pence was totally unprepared. Pence’s combination of proclaiming strong conservative principles yet delivering a series of humbling defeats makes him the perfect poster boy for what Beltway Republicans think a conservative is, and why so many voters are contemptuous of the party: speak loudly, carry a small stick, convince centrists you’re a right-wing madman while convincing conservatives you’re a squish, and never have a workable strategy to win as opposed to a strategy to tell people you tried. It’s precisely these tendencies that signal to conservatives that Pence – while capable of being a steady and responsible VP – would never have the strength of personality or character to meaningfully influence Mr. Trump.

But if Pence is an uninspired pick for the national ticket, his selection on the very day of the filing deadline for state and federal offices in Indiana (where state law bars pursuing two offices at once) is totally scrambling the state’s politics. Pence dropped his re-election bid, and three Republicans – Lt. Gov. Eric Holcomb and U.S. Reps. Susan Brooks and Todd Rokita – all dropped out of their own re-election races to fight for the chance to succeed Pence. It’s hard to predict so far how that impacts the Governor’s race, as Pence was in a dogfight due to his unpopularity at home and the drag from the national Trump campaign (taking the running mate slot gives him a face-saving exit), but it could put two GOP House seats at risk in an election year when the party needs all the strong candidates it can get.

Most Popular

U.S.

Baby Please Come Back, Says Andrew Cuomo

Then-Mayor Mike Bloomberg famously described New York City in 2003 as a “luxury product,” and therefore priced accordingly. The price hasn’t changed, except to go up slightly — taxes, rents, everything. But few would argue that the product New York offers remains first-rate. The theaters are closed. The ... Read More
U.S.

Baby Please Come Back, Says Andrew Cuomo

Then-Mayor Mike Bloomberg famously described New York City in 2003 as a “luxury product,” and therefore priced accordingly. The price hasn’t changed, except to go up slightly — taxes, rents, everything. But few would argue that the product New York offers remains first-rate. The theaters are closed. The ... Read More
Law & the Courts

New York’s Lawless NRA Lawsuit

The latest bananas news from the banana republic that is the State of New York: The attorney general, a political enemy of the National Rifle Association, is seeking to have the advocacy organization legally dissolved. The pretext is financial corruption and self-dealing on the part of the NRA’s ... Read More
Law & the Courts

New York’s Lawless NRA Lawsuit

The latest bananas news from the banana republic that is the State of New York: The attorney general, a political enemy of the National Rifle Association, is seeking to have the advocacy organization legally dissolved. The pretext is financial corruption and self-dealing on the part of the NRA’s ... Read More
Elections

Joe Biden’s Authoritarian VP Finalist

Last year, Senator Kamala Harris may have become the first presidential candidate in history to laugh derisively at the idea that the Constitution limits what a president can do. When former Vice President Joe Biden said that her plan for gun control by executive fiat didn’t pass constitutional muster, she ... Read More
Elections

Joe Biden’s Authoritarian VP Finalist

Last year, Senator Kamala Harris may have become the first presidential candidate in history to laugh derisively at the idea that the Constitution limits what a president can do. When former Vice President Joe Biden said that her plan for gun control by executive fiat didn’t pass constitutional muster, she ... Read More
World

The ‘Rough Sex’ Problem

John Broadhurst, a 41-year-old multi-millionaire from the United Kingdom — convicted of “manslaughter by gross negligence” after he killed his 26-year-old girlfriend Natalie Connolly during so-called “rough sex” — will walk free after serving only half of his 44-month sentence. Like many countries, ... Read More
World

The ‘Rough Sex’ Problem

John Broadhurst, a 41-year-old multi-millionaire from the United Kingdom — convicted of “manslaughter by gross negligence” after he killed his 26-year-old girlfriend Natalie Connolly during so-called “rough sex” — will walk free after serving only half of his 44-month sentence. Like many countries, ... Read More
Law & the Courts

Government Misconduct Frees Cliven Bundy

Politically charged prosecutions — even ones that are thoroughly justified — often end badly for the justice system. So it appears with the federal prosecutions of Cliven Bundy and his sons. The government blew its case against Bundy's sons by overcharging them, resulting in a jury acquittal in 2016. Today, ... Read More
Law & the Courts

Government Misconduct Frees Cliven Bundy

Politically charged prosecutions — even ones that are thoroughly justified — often end badly for the justice system. So it appears with the federal prosecutions of Cliven Bundy and his sons. The government blew its case against Bundy's sons by overcharging them, resulting in a jury acquittal in 2016. Today, ... Read More
Politics & Policy

The Misguided Attempt to Dissolve the NRA

Closing out the week with some variety: The evidence of mismanagement and wasteful spending at the NRA is real, but New York State attorney general Letitia James is on a vendetta against the organization in just about the worst possible way; an eye-opening question about Susan Rice perhaps having undisclosed ... Read More
Politics & Policy

The Misguided Attempt to Dissolve the NRA

Closing out the week with some variety: The evidence of mismanagement and wasteful spending at the NRA is real, but New York State attorney general Letitia James is on a vendetta against the organization in just about the worst possible way; an eye-opening question about Susan Rice perhaps having undisclosed ... Read More