Thursday, April 16, 2015

Rant Follow-up – Dear Governor Pence, Save $2 million, Resign Now

The people who make up the largest percentage of this blog’s readership aren’t from from Indiana.  In fact, there is a huge block from Russia and another from Europe. And for the most part, my posts focus on writing crime fiction and film. So why am I fixating on the ignorant Governor of one-mid-sized state?

Dear Lt. Governor, Why So Quiet?
I’m sorry.  He’s like a stone in my shoe.  He is a prime example of what I like least in human behavior – bullying. He is making his personal fundamentalist religious beliefs law and says he is doing so for the cause of “religious freedom.”  There is, of course, no freedom, religious or otherwise, when one’s religious freedom trumps another’s.  

While a congressman, Pence voted against the notion that women must be paid the same as men when they do the exact same job and was consistently anti-gay. As governor, he disliked the results of the school superintendent election so he created a new state office to which newly elected superintendent must report, essentially putting himself in charge despite the electorate. No one is less qualified to run any educational program, which is why the electorate ignored his candidate in the first place He’s not particularly fond of any class that teaches the world is older than what the creationists’ believe. He doesn’t believe in evolution or climate change. And he has strange notions about being poor. “We’re ‘ennobling’ poor people by cutting off food stamps,” he said.

Unsatisfied by how the largely conservative Hoosier press was treating him – apparently they had the audacity to ask him questions – he tried to set up his own news agency. That didn’t go well.  Then the tsunami hit. He had proposed and the gerry-mandered state legislature agreed to legislation that would permit if not encourage discrimination against LGBT people and by logical extension would also revive all sorts of discrimination. This upset a lot of people, not only in Indiana, but elsewhere.  Businesses threatened to move.  Other states instituted boycotts. Performers cancelled concerts. Conventions threatened to move. Corporations delayed expansion plans.  Lost business hit Indianapolis big time, and it had begun to affect other Indiana cities, Fort Wayne, South Bend and Bloomington to name a few.

What did Pence do?  He stood firm.  The law wasn’t intended to discriminate, he insisted, despite the fact that that the bill signing took place in a private ceremony attended by the most rabid anti-gay leaders the state could produce. He denied the obvious and stood firm as the state began to fall apart. Five mayors of Indianapolis, four former and four of them Republican, wrote to express their outrage. He squared his jaw and tightened his lips. He was standing his ground.

Indiana was getting the reputation of being the most confederate state north of the Mason Dixon line. Even Arkansas, which considered copying the law, backed off.  But not Governor Pence.

The state legislature folded and Pence relented, finally signing a “fix.”  Pence went off to Europe, perhaps to clear his head or negotiate a deal with a P.R. agency.  Once touted as a presidential possibility or, at minimum a VP candidate, Pence was now in trouble.  No one expected a Republican to be progressive on social issues, but they were supposed to be good for business.

Pence’s penance turns out to be $2 million of Indiana taxpayer money to hire a P.R. firm to improve Indiana’s image, which was actually pretty good until Pence became governor. The money went to the departments of Business Development and Tourism. No fan of his privatizer-in-chief predecessor, Mitch Daniels, Daniels nonetheless manufactured the perception that Indiana was a great state for business and a great place to live. Indianapolis, in particular, was and is seeing a kind of renaissance, no thanksto the governor. Pence and his inability to manage a crisis of his own creation, destroyed years of hard work. His incompetence was broadcast nationally not by opinionated pundits, but by Pence himself.

Dear Pence, Save $2 Million:" Resign
There are many questions here. What does all this say about the man’s competence, let alone intelligence?  Perhaps more important, is the expensive, tax-funded P.R. campaign designed to restore Indiana’s image or Pence’s? First you beat up the citizens and then ask them to pay the hospital bills and buy you a new suit and a haircut. 

There are those in Indiana who think Hoosiers should move on, that continued attention to Pence’s folly only further embarrasses the state. It’s also true: If he were to resign, the lieutenant governor (a person of similar political persuasion) would take over and be in a position to go after the seat herself, unless, of course, she was complicit.  Though constitutionally in charge of the Department of Commerce, to which business development and tourism, usually report, Lt. Gov. Sue Ellspermann has been strangely quiet. Is she in hiding?

Meanwhile Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard may consider a gubernatorial run during the GOP turmoil. Another connected Republican has quit his day job and hinted he might challenge Pence who only a short time ago was invinceable. Now, a battle for Indiana’s top job – between pro-business and socially conservative Republicans – may ensue. The Grand Old Party’s Good Old Boys suddenly have to deal with a restless herd.

Whatever happens, a bully like Pence should not be allowed to skate, though I worry that his new $2 million connection to a gigantic international P.R. firm could net him dividends in his golden years or keep him afloat during his potential exile.  He has made, some might consider, a substantial down payment on an office with a K Street address.

What he really deserves is to be ennobled. Really, a Pence resignation would do more to restore Indiana’s image than a $2 million P.R. campaign. They would make a big deal of it on the evening news.  There would be a big sigh of relief and we could again think about other things: Chris Christie in a revival of “The Sopranos,” for example.

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