So Mike Pence, governor if Indiana is thinking of running for president. This tells me that his political instincts spectacularly suck.
I’m sure everyone knows that he signed a ‘Religious Freedom Restoration Act’ (or RFRA) last week. We already have a federal RFRA, but that one doesn’t go far enough for Indiana republican legislators. It doesn’t allow business to discriminate against (for example) the LGBT community because of their religious beliefs. This law not only empowers businesses to refuse to serve, hire, rent to, and a whole slew of other things to a member of the LGBT community, but it also shields them from being sued if they do.
A little context: there was a law suit in New Mexico (who has its own RFRA) called Elane Photography v Willock. That was a case where a same sex couple sued a photography studio for refusing to photograph their wedding. The New Mexico RFRA protects a business from being sued by the government over their "free exercise" of their religion. The defendants tried to use the New Mexico RFRA as a defense, but New Mexico’s state supreme court ruled that RFRA didn’t apply since the government wasn’t a party in the suit. Indiana decided they weren’t going to make that mistake, so their RFRA includes language that bars someone who was discriminated against from suing the bigot that did the discriminating.
Why did I start this post off by saying that Mike Pence’s political instincts suck? Because a poll taken earlier this month has 40% of republicans supporting marriage equality. While that’s not a majority yet, the context is really important; two years that number was 27%. The tide is turning, and it’s turning fast. The republican presidential primaries don’t start for another eight months, and the general election is almost a year and a half away. What do you think the numbers are going to look like then?
Mike Pence is pandering to that charming republican base that the world is leaving behind. You don’t have to be a forward thinker to see that’s a bad idea. All you have to do is to look at the polls for today. But beyond that, the thing that really makes Pence a political idiot, is the fact that he hasn’t noticed that the only candidate who is officially in the race right now, is playing to the same base. So if no other republican comes into the primary by making a play for the dinosaur base, Pence is going to be splitting that vote with Cruz. That base represents roughly 24% of us. It’s that 24% that approved of Bush until the bitter end. The 24% that thought Sarah Palin was awesome even after it was clear that she didn’t know anything, and that English may well be her second language.
As if making a play for the base, when the only candidate in the race is going after those same people isn’t dumb enough, he hasn’t noticed something really relevant about recent history. No republican has successfully pivoted from the base to the middle for the general election. Mitt Romney certainly didn’t do it. His pivot turned into a spin, which turned into a face plant. McCain couldn’t pull it off either. He got a bigger ass kicking in the general than Romney got. That "bomb, bomb, bomb bomb Iran" idiocy wasn’t forgotten by the general electorate who were tired of war.
George W Bush didn’t run as a whackadoodle in the primary but then again, he didn’t have to. He had the Bush name. That’s something I will never understand either. Poppy is not a popular president among republicans. They never talk about his awesomeness. So why the hell would you vote for the idiot (it was clear he was an idiot in the primaries) son of a president you don’t hold in high esteem? And now they have to pretend like the son’s presidency didn’t happen either. W is persona non grata at the conventions and everywhere else. And now they’re thinking about voting for the brother and son of the two presidents they have to pretend never existed? How long do they think they can keep this up? I think that one hundred years from now, when republicans are still only acknowledging Ronald Reagan as their awesome president, someone is going to notice there’s something wrong with them.
But I digress. My point is that this mythological pivot from the whackadoodle right to the middle has never been pulled off. Anyone who thinks they can do it, isn’t playing the smart odds.
Signing RFRA was the dumbest thing he could have done at the very time he’s thinking about a presidential run. The legislature is going to have to go back to eliminate the really fucked up language in Indiana’s RFRA, and Pence is going to have to sign the amended version. Yes, they will try and save face by claiming that they basically changed some punctuation marks, but that won’t matter. The base will know.
Every move he made this week was a mistake. Running for president after this will be an eve bigger mistake. He royally screwed up because he has no political instincts to speak of.