*Piety and Power: Mike Pence and the Taking of the White House*

PenceJournalist Tom LoBianco has published a religious biography of Vice President Mike Pence.  I have not read the book, so I cannot endorse it.  But I can say that I spent significant time on the phone with LoBianco as he conducted research for the book.

He writes:

As part of my general research for this book, I relied on a handful of insightful books (and highly recommend them for anyone interested in understanding Mike Pence better).  I’ll start with Pence’s two favorite books: the Bible, and Russell Kirk’s The Conservative Mind.  Additionally, I relied on John Fea’s tour of evangelical history and the Trump campaign, Believe Me; The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump, as well as Cal Thomas and Ed Dobson’s review of the start and disbanding of the Moral Majority, Blinded by Might.  And for all Hoosier-philes, I highly recommend James Madison’s The Indiana Way.  I also feel like I found my own  bible in this process, Jon Franklin’s Writing for Story.

Would Pence Be Worse?

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Historian Neil Young does not think so.

Here is a taste of his Huffington Post piece, “No, President Mike Pence Would Not Be Worse Than Trump“:

…But pretending this would amount to a greater danger than Trump poses to American democracy and global stability is foolish alarmism disguised as rational diagnosis. Unfortunately, it’s perfectly in line with the sort of nihilistic cynicism that has taken over American politics and not dissimilar to the pessimistic fatalism that Trump stokes and enjoys.

An outlook that can’t distinguish the political challenge of a possible Pence presidency from the very real existential threat to the republic that Trump poses is useless for guarding against the disaster taking place in Washington right now.

The American presidency has never been inhabited by the likes of Donald Trump. He constantly and increasingly imperils our system of democracy. His flouting of the Constitution sets hazardous precedents that weaken the rule of law. His volatile and irrational temperament, combined with his disregard for international alliances and friendliness with autocrats and dictators, jeopardizes the safety of all of us.

Pence’s politics, while thoroughly conservative, fall in line with the basic Republican orthodoxy of the last 40 years. That’s an agenda worth resisting, for sure, but it’s one that Democrats will be well equipped — even emboldened — to block, especially if they claim a majority in the House this fall, as appears likely.

Read the entire piece here.  I am mostly with Young here, although I do think Pence is more conservative than Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and George W. Bush.  All of these presidents, to varying degrees, held some views that were compatible with the Christian Right and they appealed to this wing of the party.  But none of them were products of the Christian Right.  On the other hand, Pence’s entire political agenda seems driven and informed by the Christian Right.  He is one of them.

The 25th Amendment

 

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Yesterday’s anonymous op-ed in The New York Times noted that some of Trump’s senior staff have talked about the 25th Amendment in the context of his inept presidency.

If you are unfamiliar with the 25th Amendment, I recommend this piece at National Public Radio.

Here is the text of the amendment:

Section 1.

In case of the removal of the President from office or of his death or resignation, the Vice President shall become President.

Section 2.

Whenever there is a vacancy in the office of the Vice President, the President shall nominate a Vice President who shall take office upon confirmation by a majority vote of both Houses of Congress.

Section 3.

Whenever the President transmits to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives his written declaration that he is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, and until he transmits to them a written declaration to the contrary, such powers and duties shall be discharged by the Vice President as Acting President.

Section 4.

Whenever the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive departments or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall immediately assume the powers and duties of the office as Acting President.

Thereafter, when the President transmits to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives his written declaration that no inability exists, he shall resume the powers and duties of his office unless the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive department or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit within four days to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office. Thereupon Congress shall decide the issue, assembling within forty-eight hours for that purpose if not in session. If the Congress, within twenty-one days after receipt of the latter written declaration, or, if Congress is not in session, within twenty-one days after Congress is required to assemble, determines by two-thirds vote of both Houses that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall continue to discharge the same as Acting President; otherwise, the President shall resume the powers and duties of his office.

Who is Mike Pence?

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Over at Religion and Politics, Max Perry Mueller of the University of Nebraska has an excellent piece on the religious world view of Donald Trump’s running mate.

Here is a taste:

Pence’s measured public demeanor, traditional family values, as well as his long political career, present a study in contrast with Trump, the bombastic, thrice-married, political-novice, who brazenly talks about forcing himself on women. And yet, Pence’s first—and primary—identity as a conservative Christian and the governing worldview that it forms in many ways aligns with Trump’s own view of seeing the world divided starkly into allies and enemies, good deals and bad deals, security and menace.

In this sense, both Trump and Pence are restorationists. And their restorationist visions for America are complementary. Trump’s is racial; Pence’s is religious. Together, their ticket embodies a “white Christian America” in decline, as Robert P. Jones has powerfully described it. In a Trump-Pence ticket, white Christian America not only hopes to resist the forces demographic and cultural change, but to restore white Protestant Americans (especially men) to their place of unchallenged preeminence.

According to a Pew Research survey in June, more than 94 percent of white Republican evangelicals were supporting Trump over Clinton, up from 44 percent in April during the primary contest. Picking Pence was the result, not the cause, of Trump’s growing evangelical base. Perhaps it’s fair to think of Pence as part of the political branch of Trump’s evangelical outreach, which includes leaders like Liberty University Chancellor Jerry Falwell Jr., Focus on the Family’s James Dobson, and Faith and Freedom Coalition founder Ralph Reed, who all serve on Trump’s evangelical advisory board and who have continued to stand by him after the video’s release.

Pence and these leaders have served as Trump’s Christian witnesses, and Pence continues to do so for the many everyday evangelical Christians to whom he has spoken over the last few months in churches throughout the country. Since many Americans don’t know exactly where Trump stands on the issues, Pence reassures them. As he told a town hall gathering last September at a church in Meza, Arizona, “All you need to know about Donald Trump is he loves his family and he loves his country.”

Pence’s place on the ticket mollifies some evangelical concerns over Trump’s past, his inconsistent policy positions, and his temperament. And yet for many other constituencies within the American electorate, Trump’s choice of Pence as running mate presents another set of worries. If Pence becomes the vice president, just a heartbeat—or impeachment—away from the Oval Office will be a politician who, as Pence himself implied at the vice presidential debate, believes it his “calling” to legislate his religious views into public policy.

Read the entire piece here.

Three Scenarios for Mike Pence

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Here is Mike Pence’s statement concerning Donald Trump’s 2005 remarks about women:

So what happens next?  Trump says he will not quit the race.  So here are three scenarios:

  1.  Pence, disgusted by Trump’s lack of Christian character, quits the ticket
  2.  Trump, disgusted by Pence’s lack of support, dumps Pence and picks another running mate
  3.  Pence stays on the ticket, ruins his career after Clinton wins, and has to live with his decision for the rest of his life

Will Mike Pence Leave the Ticket?

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Thomas Eagleton and George McGovern in 1972

No one knows what GOP Vice-Presidential candidate Mike Pence is thinking.  He will not be appearing today in Trump’s place at Paul Ryan’s GOP unity rally in Wisconsin.  The Hill is reporting that Pence was “beside himself” when he heard the tape of Trump degrading women on an “Access Hollywood” bus in 2005.

Pence is a devout evangelical Christian.  So far, I know of no evangelical Trump supporters who have changed their mind about the candidate.  (See my next post).  I will be surprised if Pence drops out of the race, but I will have more respect for him if he does.

But let’s talk history for a moment.  Has a VP candidate ever dropped out of the POTUS race this late in the campaign?  I don’t think so.  My friend Kelly Phipps just reminded me on Twitter that in 1972 George McGovern’s running mate Thomas Eagleton dropped out of the race in August (he was replaced by Sargent Shriver) after the press learned he had been treated with electric-shock therapy for mental illness and stress.

So if Pence drops out this late I think it would be unprecedented.

What Pence Could Have Said in the VP Debate When Asked About Faith and Policy

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Evangelical Protestants don’t struggle with how to apply their faith to matters of public policy.  Or at least they don’t talk about such struggles.  Evangelicalism is a religion of certainty–a lot of black and white, not much gray.

Catholics are pretty certain about things too.  But they also tend to feel more comfortable with mystery and struggle.

I am probably doing some pigeonholing here.  But I thought about this during Tuesday night’s Vice-Presidential debate when the candidates–Tim Kaine and Mike Pence–were asked, “Can you discuss in detail a time when you struggled to balance your personal faith and a public policy position?”

As Mark Silk notes at Religion News Service, Kaine answered the question, but Pence did not.  I am not sure if Pence’s evangelical faith and/or Kaine’s Catholic faith were behind their responses to the question, but it was interesting to see how they both approached the question.

Here is a taste of Silk’s post

Democrat Tim Kaine, first up, answered the question by talking about his struggle as governor of Virginia to carry out the death penalty, which he opposes in line with his Roman Catholicism.

“It was very, very difficult to allow executions to go forward,” he said, “but in circumstances where I didn’t feel like there was a case for clemency, I told Virginia voters I would uphold the law, and I did.”

Republican Mike Pence, by contrast, veered away from the question: “And with regard to when I struggle, I appreciate, and — and — and — I have a great deal of respect for Senator Kaine’s sincere faith. I truly do.”

He then proceeded into a discourse on his opposition to abortion, a mainstay of his evangelical faith. He never got around to saying anything about when he struggles.

Which was a shame, given what happened last year with Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act. That act, you’ll recall, allowed businesses to discriminate against same-sex couples — albeit Pence, as governor, insisted it was only about guaranteeing religious liberty.

Read the entire post here.