Rich James: Getting used to Vice President Pence
Thursday, January 05, 2017 9:59 AM
MERRILLVILLE – I guess the reality hasn’t set in. For the life of me, I still can’t embrace the fact that Indiana Gov. Mike Pence will soon be vice president of the United States.
After all, it was a mere eight months ago that Pence launched his campaign for reelection as Indiana’s governor. And, at the time, things didn’t look especially promising for Pence, who had drawn the ire of a number of groups around the state.
Among those groups was the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. Pence denied state civil rights protection to the LGBT community. Pence’s stand set off a firestorm across the nation as several organizations cancelled conventions in Indiana. That national response drew the ire of the Indiana Chamber of Commerce, which issued a rare criticism of Pence.
Pence’s stand on a number of pieces of legislation also drew the wrath of the state’s teachers and labor organizations. And, in Northwest Indiana, Pence was widely criticized for not directing enough money to that corner of the state, especially in terms of road projects, including the rebuilding of the Cline Avenue Bridge.
It had reached the point by mid-year that Pence’s chances for reelection were waning. Statewide polls were showing Democrat John Gregg narrowly leading Pence in the race for governor.
Despite Pence’s lack of popularity in the governor’s race, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump announced on July 15 that Pence would be his running mate. That was made official a week later at the Republican National Convention. It turned out that Pence’s extreme conservatism is what Trump decided that he needed to garner the backing of the party’s far right. In news clips during the presidential race and since the election, Pence wears a continuous smile and applauds widely whenever Trump enters the room.
Almost two weeks ago, Pence was in Chicago to raise money for the Republican National Committee. The cheap seats cost $2,700 per person, while those who wanted to be up close to the future vice president of the country paid more than $30,000.
It all still has me shaking my head.
So, we have a sitting Indiana governor who was trailing in the polls for reelection and was elected vice president four months later. And now, people were paying more than $30,000 to have lunch with the guy Hoosiers were on the verge of rejecting. I guess that’s politics.
Rich James has been writing about state and local government and politics for more than 30 years. He is a columnist for The Times of Northwest Indiana.