Despite controversy-ginning to the point of absurdity, as it does unceasingly, a recent Politico Magazine article chronicling “The Week Mike Pence’s 2016 Dreams Crumbled” does the world a favor. It reveals how far down the rabbit hole our country has gone. Bleating Twitter mobs and leftist officials who can’t even read their own state laws aside, we have major Republican campaign donors and elected officials unashamedly carrying bribes and water for discrimination-wielding, stampeding mob-running big corporations rather than defending core protections for a free society. This is supposed to be the less-government party (ascribing limited government to their ideals certainly goes too far). The republican party, for pete’s sake. You guys ever heard of the First Amendment?
I’m not going to rehash the mountain of evidence showing how absurd it is for anyone, no matter his or her opinions on gay marriage or the place of religion in or out of government, to object to my state’s new religious freedom law. My colleagues have capably done so, including those who support gay marriage. I’m here to point out how this may be, not Gov. Pence’s Waterloo, but his Thermopylae and America’s Rubicon. In short, it could propel him to the big time.
Regular readers (and the governor’s staff) know I’ve done my share of Mike Pence-bashing in these pages. Despite his potential in entering the office, so far I’ve not been very impressed with his gubernatorial performance. The man with a strong record has gone weak. As the Politico article notes, “Since Pence resigned as chairman of the House Republican Conference in November 2010 to run for governor, conventional wisdom held that he would bide his time in Indianapolis, padding his résumé with executive experience before mounting a presidential bid.”
Seize the Day, Gov. Pence
Padding his resume has pretty much been it so far. As I’ve written, Pence has dodged on major policy issues such as Medicaid expansion under Obamacare and Common Core, weakening his congressional reputation as the man who voted against No Child Left Behind and Medicare Part D. Even the equal protection for religion bill that ignited this conflagration was meant to be an entirely vanilla law, basically nothing compared to giving Hoosiers the power to vote one-man-one-woman marriage into the Indiana constitution, which Pence’s conservative base has wanted and been denied since his election.
But it was the right law at the right time for liberal fascists to let everyone know our freedoms of association, speech, and worship are over. Any target is the right target when your goal is population control. In fact, appearing unhinged increases their power, because dangerous unpredictability scares people witless, like Heath Ledger’s depiction of The Joker. We’d rather conform than lose our livelihoods, friends, reputation, even families over an accidental remark, centuries-old understandings of the transcendent, or vote for an utterly innocuous law nearly identical to one Bill Clinton signed at the federal level and even blue states passed years ago.
Several Indiana lawmakers, who all have day jobs because we thankfully have a part-time legislature, have lost business contracts over their votes on this bill. It’s very, very personal now. And that’s frightening. People can get publicly tried by unknown mobs with no hope of defense and their family and friends jeopardized for thought crimes. In the United States of America. At that point, it’s really not America any more. Not the America that fights to the death for freedom of speech, of thought, of association, of worship. Not the America Pilgrims fled England to find and Englishmen fought their blood brothers to establish.
The Day First Freedoms Began to Die
What does this have to do with Pence’s shot at the presidency? It’s very simple. Circumstances have thrust upon him an opportunity shaped like a crisis, just as they did to Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker in an eerily parallel situation back in 2010. Walker also passed a relatively mild law and faced down hell for it. And standing firm made him a national hero with a presidential platform.
But unions are yesterday’s battle. They’re dying of their own obesity, everyone knows it, and no one but socialists feels sorry for them. That’s why President Obama felt free to give unions the finger during his presidential coalition-scrambling. Wisconsin’s battle was a swan song. Indiana faced a similar conflagration over an even bigger law (right-to-work) soon after Wisconsin, and it died down even faster. Unions are today sound and fury, signifying nothing. But the right to speak, think, and worship as your conscience commands: This is far more important, and inseparable from the American identity. We can sail along with unions carbuncled to our ship of state. But if we end our first freedoms, we end with them.
Pence didn’t ask for this story, but it’s his now. And it’s all of ours. It’s a more central story than Walker’s, and a more important fight to face, because it concerns our national soul. The question is: Will he face it? And will we?
Do not go gentle into that good night, my friends. Rage, rage, against the dying of the light.