Mike Pence

Mike Pence’s Fugue State

Indiana Governor Mike Pence appears to have been walking around in a fugue state for the last week. Somewhere between my empathy and my thirst for comeuppance lies a certain curiosity about what it must be like to be in his shoes these days. His world – or at least his political world – has turned upside down and back again in record time.

Between his bumbling appearance on This Week with George Stephanopoulos and his wheezing press conference the following day, the governor has received more national attention than he has ever dreamed of having, most of which has been exceedingly negative.

Pence is certainly no political neophyte. Far from it. He is what most observers would refer to as a seasoned politician. So why, then, has he appeared to be at such a loss for a solution to his (and Indiana’s) mounting public relations nightmare?

The most logical hypothesis is that he has managed to surround himself for years with people who either agree with his positions or who are politic enough not to challenge them too sharply.

The positions he has taken and the values he has held have generally fallen on the spectrum somewhere between conservative and off-the-charts right wing. This is particularly evident when you review his record on LGBT issues.

  • In 2006, he voted in favor of a federal constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage
  • In 2007, he voted No on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act while in Congress
  • In 2010, he voted No on President Obama’s proposed repeal of DADT, arguing that “unit cohesion” would be affected.

It’s not just LGBT issues where he’s taken the most right-leaning positions. He’s voted against the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act and he opposed a similar state act in Indiana.

While there may have been viewpoints expressed that were different from his own, Pence pretty much skated by both in Congress and as Governor without having too much opposition aimed directly at him.

Suddenly this week, Pence faced genuine pushback – both in Indiana and across the country – the likes of which he’s never experienced after signing the state’s so-called Religious Freedom Restoration Act, surrounded by a gaggle of nuns and his most devotedly anti-LGBT cronies. To say that he reacted to that pushback like a deer in the headlights drastically underestimates headlights.

He first denied that the bill had anything to do with discrimination, and then spun on his heels almost immediately to request that the law be changed.  On Thursday of this week, Pence signed the hastily cobbled-together amended version of the RFRA, under an even more secret veil of secrecy than he had signed the original version.

It remains to be seen how much additional blowback he’ll face and how much more political capital he’ll lose. But one thing is certain: even if he regains his equilibrium, his political world will never be quite the same.

A Preview of Things to Come

The nutjobs on the “religious” right are coming out in full force. The age of reason apparently hasn’t reached this constituency yet.

Given the heat that the President’s endorsement of marriage equality is generating, we can expect more of this irrational, fact-free rhetoric coming from the right. The fear that the world is changing around them seems to have provoked Perkins and others to behave in even more absurd and backwards ways.

Fortunately, there are folks like Barney Frank who can approach subjects logically and rationally. Is it wrong for me to giggle when Barney Frank makes mincemeat out of Tony Perkins?

If we’re lucky, Congressman Frank will be even more outspoken when he’s no longer in Congress. And if we’re really lucky, Tony Perkins and his kindred spirits will just go away.

America’s Gay Rights Patchwork

Those who are in favor of small federal government often espouse that states can handle legislation more efficiently.

If you ever encounter someone who uses that line of reasoning, please direct them to the interactive graphic that The Guardian published today.  It identifies what laws are in effect to protect LGBT folks on a state-by-state basis.  It’s the most convoluted patchwork of laws that would take a social scientist to decipher.

Click on image to view interactive graphic

It’s mind boggling to think of the legal costs associated with all of the possible cases that might arise from this byzantine mess of legislation.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen a better argument in favor of a legislating marriage equality, as well as other human rights issues, at the federal level.

View the interactive graphic and the analysis:

Punishing the Victim in Indy

At Arsenal Technical High in Indianapolis, Indiana, bullying is OK but standing up against bullying isn’t.  In its infinite idiocy, the school expelled Darnell “Dynasty” Young when he fired a stun-gun into the air after being surrounded by six people who were bullying him.  The bullies became afraid and left the scene, and Young was safe.  No one was injured.

Young had reportedly been bullied repeatedly since the start of the school year.  When he and his mother reported the bullying to the school authorities, he was told that the bullying basically was his own fault because he was so flamboyant.  If he wanted the bullying to stop, he could adjust his behavior.

So far, none of the bullies has been expelled.

The callousness of the school authorities is stunning but not surprising.  In so many places in the nation, bullying is ignored or tacitly sanctioned by schools, churches, and other institutions who consider bullying to be merely a part of growing up. It’s a pretty safe bet that these institutions are run by people who weren’t on the receiving end of bullying when they were growing up.

There may be Pink Houses in Indiana, but there sure isn’t a pink consciousness.

Read more:

Biden Endorses Marriage Equality

The Vice President, in an appearance on today’s Meet the Press, became the highest ranking U.S. official ever to have endorsed marriage quality. He described himself as “absolutely comfortable” with gay marriage.

The right wing is undoubtedly going to twist Biden’s words around and have a field day with this, but Biden describes the issue in the most understandable way possible.

Shopping for Groceries at the Hardware Store

When it’s really clear that one is looking for the right thing in the wrong place, I often use the metaphor of shopping for groceries at the hardware store.  Your intentions might be good, but no matter how hard you look, you’re not going to find ketchup in the plumbing aisle (except, perhaps, as a stain on the shirt of the hardware store clerk).

The most recent example of this disconnect is documented in today’s New York Times.  The gist of the article is that a considerable number of influential Conservative Republicans are boycotting the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) because the unfortunately-named GOProud political action committee was co-sponsoring the event.  Although I’m sure including gay people chafed, this breach of Republican tenets was somehow able to be overlooked by the other more conservative participants of that conference for GOProud to participate in the conference.  After all, there are all those supposed gay dollars to be raised.  But, for venerable institutions like Concerned Women for America, the Heritage Foundation, and all those other rabid right leaning groups whose names sound like they were created by some Internet conservative organization name generator, the fact that GOProud participated in the planning of the conference was too much for their weak little hearts to take and, thus, the boycott.

If you truly want pay to listen for three non-stop days to the vitriol of the likes of Ann Coulter, Jim Demint, Michelle “Vacant Stare” Bachmann, Wayne Lapierre, Liz Cheney, and a whole host of others, I fully defend your right to waste your money.  Go ahead.  Knock yourselves out.

But what I can’t get my brain around is that, somehow, certain gay people still believe that the Republican Party has carved out a viable little niche for them.  They seem to believe that there’s actually seat at the table for them.  But clearly, as evidenced by these recent reports, the best that the Republicans can come up with is a seat at the children’s table.  The GOProud folks don’t seem to understand that, unless there’s a tectonic shift in the underlying philosophy of the Republican party, they will always be shopping for groceries at the hardware store if they choose to align themselves with this socially conservative crowd.

In some way, I suppose it should be no surprise that GOProud finds this arrangement acceptable; the group has already fully embraced second-class citizenship.  Their platform wants no federal involvement in gay marriage, although it has been proven time and again that there is no way to achieve true parity without a federal standard.

For those of us unwilling to settle for the crumbs, perhaps it would be helpful for these conservatives to agree upon and publish the hierarchy so that we know just how much or how little citizenship they think we deserve.  But they can’t even seem to agree among themselves.  But it’s really clear that even so-called moderate Republicans don’t want gay people to be full citizens.  And, perhaps, that’s because there is no good answer, except for full equality.

But this kind of clarification of their narrow-mindedness – a concrete definition of just what the Republicans expect of gay people – would be good for all of us.  It would help Republicans define their platform.  It would help the GOProud folks see exactly who they were in bed with.  Most of all, it would save all of us so many trips to the wrong aisle of wrong store.

Cured!

It’s amazing. The beloved Pastor Ted Haggard is claiming that he has been “cured” of his homosexuality. In a mere three weeks, Ted and his posse have been able to do what scientists, theologians, philosophers, doctors, and psychologists have never been able to do, as Reuters and other sources have reported.

If you had any uncertainty how out of touch Haggard and his cronies are, this most recent assertion should help clarify things.

I guess we’re s’posed to believe that he was getting busy (for pay) with a male hustler for three years for the purpose of religious and spiritual research.