For the past four years, Mike Pence has flown – for the most part – under the radar, a quiet acolyte to the President. Now that Trump has tested positive for Covid-19, however, and finds himself in a high-risk group, as well as the fact that the V.P. debate with Kamala Harris is only hours away, all eyes are on Pence as successor in a way perhaps not seen at any point since Trump’s election.
Although not as outwardly ostentatious as Trump, Pence – a former Governor of Indiana – needles the left just as much as his boss with outspoken conservative views on abortion, LGBTQ rights and religious freedom. And for the right he is a darling of the evangelical set, as authentic a Christian – in their eyes – as there is out there, referring to himself, in fact, as a “Christian, a conservative and a Republican, in that order.”
The brass tacks of the life are that Pence was raised by Catholic parents and graduated from Hanover College with a BA in History. Throughout the 90s, Pence hosted his own radio show where he spoke about wide-ranging topics within politics, from an evangelical perspective. He ran unsuccessfully for the U.S House of Representative in ‘88 and ‘90, and finally won in 2000 where he was a member from 2001 – 2013. Beyond the religion, Pence is known for his strong stances on health and economic issues, opposing medicaid and supporting low taxes, but his views on social and civil rights seem to draw the most attention, with his overt support for the traditional and religious family, sexual and reproductive rights. “I long for the day that Roe v Wade is sent to the ash heap of history,” he has been quoted as saying, a position which endears him to the Christian right just as it makes him a hate figure to the secular left.
Planned Parenthood, an organization that has been on the chopping block for the entirety of the Trump presidency – being a central source of legal abortion for women – has long been a keynote target for Pence. The organization, which provides a slew of medical services such as STD testing and treatment, HIV services, birth control and general health care, is the bête noire of traditional politics in the US, and has been for many years. Pence, in fact, has voted numerous times to defund Planned Parenthood, which liberals take as a direct attack on women’s personal and reproductive rights.
In February of 2020, as Coronavirus slid into view, Pence became the head of the government’s task force for handling the pandemic – one of his biggest tests yet – but the President’s inability to allow others to lead meant that it felt like a pyrrhic appointment, designed more to make him feel part of the administration than giving him any real power or responsibility. As such, the V.P. debate and the concerted unyielding spotlight it will bring is an unusual, untested spot for Trump’s deputy, one in which all eyes would be upon him to gauge what his appointment would bring to a second term, but now – even more viscerally given Trump’s positive Covid diagnosis – these same eyes are looking directly, unwaveringly at what a Pence presidency would look like.
For Pence and his potential future career at the apex of the US political system, this is the moment his star starts gathering unstoppable momentum, or falls out of the sky.
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