Dem 51
image description
GOP 49
image description

Mike Pence Reminds Us Why He'll Never Be President

As we noted on Monday, former VP Mike Pence gave a speech at this weekend's black-tie Gridiron Club dinner. The big news was that he took a direct shot at his former partner in... well, whatever they were partners in, namely Donald Trump.

That said, there is another element to the story that's worthy of some attention. These sorts of speeches are supposed to be fairly breezy, and to have a few laugh lines. And so, among his other bits, Pence uncorked this snide remark at the expense of Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg:

When Pete's two children were born, he took two months' maternity leave whereupon thousands of travelers were stranded in airports, the air traffic system shut down, and airplanes nearly collided on our runways.

Pete is the only person in human history to have a child and everyone else gets postpartum depression.

We can't find video of the speech, and we believe the Gridiron Club prohibits recordings. But the crowd was reportedly underwhelmed by that particular bit.

It's remarkable, but in just 51 words, Pence managed to squeeze in the four biggest things that make him unelectable as president. To wit:

  1. He's anti-LGBTQ: The meat of the joke, of course, is that Buttigieg, as a gay man, behaved more like a woman than a "real man." Ho, ho! When Pence was governor of Indiana, his signature "accomplishment" was securing passage of a bill called the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. As is generally the case with bills that have names like that, the legislation was meant to give Hoosiers the right to discriminate in the name of freedom of religion. In particular, the bill was carefully worded in a manner so as to allow discrimination against LGBTQ people. Pence gaslighted for a couple of months, insisting that the bill did not sanction anti-LGBTQ discrimination. Nonetheless, the blowback was so great (very similar to the blowback to the North Carolina "bathroom bill") that it became necessary to pass an addendum that specifically prohibited anti-LGBTQ discrimination.

    In short, Pence was anti-LGBTQ 10 years ago, and he's still anti-LGBTQ. That attitude didn't play in ruby red Indiana in the 2010s, and it's definitely not going to play with a national electorate in the 2020s. And there's no way that Pence could ever convincingly change course on this; his whole persona is rooted in his evangelicalism, and it's not a secret that evangelicals of his type are almost invariably anti-gay.

  2. He's anti-woman: Pence's "joke" was nominally about paternity leave. But we have a sneaking suspicion that women voters who hear about it are also going to see it as pooh-poohing maternity leave. What they will definitely hear is that Pence is a man very much invested in traditional gender roles—man work, woman barefoot and pregnant, grunt. His unwillingness to dine with other women if his wife is not present, which is rooted in the notion that women are all teases and men are beasts who cannot control their sexual urges will not help dissuade folks from this perception.

    Oh, and Pence's other signature legislation was a series of bills that significantly restricted abortion in Indiana. That position isn't going to play with a national electorate either.

  3. He's a hypocrite: Pence's brand, like all evangelical politicians, is that he's about family values. But someone who is actually family values does not shame a father (or a mother) who chooses to prioritize their premature infant over their job.

  4. He's terribly media unsavvy: We have pointed out before that Pence brings to mind Alica Roosevelt's observation about Thomas Dewey, that he looks like "the bridegroom on the wedding cake." The former VP is truly plasticine, and is utterly lacking in charisma. If he and Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) somehow end up on the same debate stage, it's entirely possible that the charisma void will be so profound that it will spontaneously trigger a black hole.

    Beyond that, however, is the fact that the Gridiron Club dinner attracts a huge media contingent, in part because it's in Washington, and in part because each year some politician says something really outlandish. Pence knows full well that it's a media-heavy event; that's why he chose the occasion to slam Trump. And when you know full well the media is sitting there, ready to pounce, how stupid do you have to be to say something offensive?

Note that all of this is in addition to the fact that most Republicans hate Pence, either because he "betrayed" Donald Trump or because he hasn't been sufficiently fanatical about the religious stuff. We've already pooh-poohed Nikki Haley's chances in 2024, but she's gotta be 10 times more likely to be elected president than Pence is. (Z)

This item appeared on Read it Monday through Friday for political and election news, Saturday for answers to reader's questions, and Sunday for letters from readers.                     State polls                     All Senate candidates