Pence is Not Moderate

Moderate and Mealymouthed Start with M. That Is Not How Synonyms Work

The Religious Freedom Restoration Act, known in Indiana by its acronym The Bill That Cost Indiana Millions RFRA, was a disaster. Several of Indiana’s largest taxpaying entities announced they were going to consider their long-term relationship with the state. Other states refused to fund travel there. (This may not be much of a hardship for anyone; decades of brain-drain have not made it a travel destination.) It was so bad that Pence had to hire a PR firm to convince people that RFRA was not about discrimination. On taxpayer money.

His comments on the matter, in stark contrast with Trump, were: “There will be some who think this legislation goes too far and some who think it does not go far enough, but as governor I must always put the interest of our state first and ask myself every day, ‘What is best for Indiana?’ I believe resolving this controversy and making clear that every person feels welcome and respected in our state is best for Indiana.”

If you know a nothing about the RFRA controversy, this sounds reasonable. Donald Trump has said a few—and I do mean a few—things with lucid content during his run, but still manages to sound unhinged and scatterbrained as he says them. It is flat out the opposite of what the bill and its fix did, but Pence has mastered the art of saying one thing and doing another. He is an artist in the medium of comforting, contentless, calculated drivel. This is not the same thing as signing bills that are moderate.

Pence won the election in 2012 by about 3% of the vote and failed to secure a majority. He has been very unpopular, in part because he has pursued a radical education agenda. The only statewide election the Democrats won was State Superintendent of Schools, so Pence had her stripped of all but a few official powers so they could pass unpopular voucher programs, limit teacher bargaining rights, and weaken teacher licensing. Pence was expected, though hardly destined, to lose in November. Reliably Republican Indiana is in revolt against its governor for being too conservative and Pence is jumping ship rather than face the voters in November.

So, yes, he is no Donald Trump. For one thing, he has an actual record of mismanaging, rather the pervasive assumption that he will. Donald Trump, for example, cannot boast having presided over a teaching shortage and related brain drain. Trump, for all his swagger, has never enacted a law discriminating against minorities. Trump has not yet mastered the vital political skill of saying that he is doing the opposite of what he is clearly doing.

In the year 2016, that is what apparently passes for “moderation” and “good sense”.