President Donald J. Trump's biggest critics dream of a day when he will be impeached. Unfortunately, his successor, Vice President Mike Pence, isn't the savior they're hoping for — just look at his opinions on everything from reproductive to LGBTQ rights.
Compared to other members of the Trump administration, Pence has kept himself relatively far from the spotlight (with the exception of walking out of an NFL game as a political stunt). However, The New Yorker gave him a 16-page treatment in a piece by staff writer Jane Mayer; "The Danger of President Pence" is a deep dive into the VP published on Monday.
During the presidential campaign, Pence didn't receive a whole lot of media attention, so little was reported on his background or his track record. (To be fair, he was competing with Trump for eye-popping headlines.) There have been a few profiles, but Mayer's piece is perhaps the most careful examination we've seen of Pence's past and potential future since Trump tapped him to be his running mate.
"Pence’s odds of becoming President are long but not prohibitive," Mayer writes. "Of his 47 predecessors, nine eventually assumed the Presidency, because of a death or a resignation."
Critics on the left and right have floated the idea of a "President Pence." To some, the former U.S. representative and Indiana governor seems more reasonable than the reality-TV star currently in the Oval Office. But one has to ask: Would he really be better than President Trump? Judging by his record on a series of social issues, the answer should be a resounding "No." Ahead, we highlight the most concerning tidbits from Mayer's piece:
"When the conversation turned to gay rights, Trump motioned toward Pence and joked, 'Don’t ask that guy — he wants to hang them all!'"
It's no secret Pence has a terrible record on LGBTQ rights. When he ran for the U.S. House of Representatives in 2000, he did so on a platform that included opposing “any effort to recognize homosexuals as a discrete and insular minority entitled to the protection of anti-discrimination laws.”
And while he was governor of Indiana, he signed the "Religious Freedom Restoration Act" in 2015, which critics said effectively legalized discrimination against LGBTQ people by businesses in Indiana.
Pence has also been accused of supporting "conversion therapy," the long-discredited psychotherapy method used in effort to change someone's sexual orientation or gender identity.
"His radicalism, however, only boosted his national profile. Pence became best known for fiercely opposing abortion."
Pence has been an outspoken opponent of abortion for decades. In the early 1990s, he was a board member of the Indiana Family Institute, which supports the criminalization of abortion. And once he joined the House of Representatives, he backed "personhood" legislation banning abortion procedures under all circumstances, except danger to the mother's life. He also tried to add an amendment to the Affordable Care Act that would have allowed government-funded hospitals to deny attention to a dying woman in need of an abortion.
As the governor of Indiana, he continued his crusade against reproductive rights: He signed a bill into law prohibiting women from seeking an abortion in the case of a fetal abnormality. The legislation also required a fetus to be buried or cremated, including in cases of miscarriage. (The law was recently found to be unconstitutional by a federal judge.)
"Pence also began observing what’s known as the Billy Graham rule, meaning that he never dined alone with another woman, or attended an event in mixed company where alcohol was served unless his wife was present."
This past spring, it was reported that Pence doesn't dine out alone with women or attend events where there's alcohol and there are women unless his wife Karen is with him. Which, if he becomes president, would present a little bit of a problem when he needs to meet with female leaders like German Chancellor Angela Merkel or U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May.
But the New Yorker article includes some important insight about the company he does keep: Pence is close with David and Charles Koch, the billionaire brothers who have financed everyone from candidates to political operatives who champion their anti-tax, anti-regulatory agenda. (In fact, former chief strategist Steve Bannon told The New Yorker: “I’m concerned he’d be a President that the Kochs would own.”)
And while being bankrolled by the Koch brothers (who aren't religious), the vice president has also kept close relationships with folks like evangelical pastor Ralph Drollinger, a far-right and anti-LGBTQ minister who currently leads regular Bible meetings for Trump's Cabinet members. According to The New Yorker, Drollinger has said it's a "sin" for women who have children to work — which means less chance of interaction with male colleagues with whom they could (gasp) have dinner.