Saturday, January 15

You Asked For It!

I spent an hour watching Mike Pence on CSPAN yesterday morning and I still haven't recovered from it.

How did the people of your state manage to elect this besuited senescent lake trout? He stammered through a series of talking points, repeatedly and without any apparent enthusiasm, sounding like Bush Pere in his Halcion days. He's be asked a question by some earnest college kid and evade it for two minutes before answering it anyway, generally with a sigh and an expression that suggested he knew no one was really listening anyway. 

What kills me is, he doesn't even have good hair. So why the hell does this guy get elected?

Don't get me wrong, my own state seems to go into a vegetative state when handed a ballot as well, which is how Dave Reichert keeps getting elected, that and promising to keep us all safe from sex predators unlike his opponent, etc, and also he'll let us lick the bowl when his wife makes the victory party cake. 

So what's the deal with Pence? Is he, you know, cool, nudge nudge? Does he have blackmail pictures of everybody in his district? Are people just hypnotized by his voice?

I will also accept, as an explanation, "El Nino."

Which is probably as good an explanation as any.

Let me say, first of all, that I really don't know shit about Mike "Choirboy" Pence, and I like it that way.

Second, the short answer, such as it is, is that the artificial restriction of House seats (on the grounds that it's supposed to be Crazy but Workable, goddamit) has caused Indiana to lose two seats over my lifetime, causing an almost tectonic collision of soybean fields and truck stops, with exposed plateaus around Indianapolis, Ft. Wayne, and the Chicagoland area like islands of Not Sanity, But At Least Some Small Improvement. Pence represents the 6th--almost perfectly represents, aside from the fact that he's nominally college-educated--which includes basically all of the border with Ohio westward until it spies the multicultural enclaves of Indy and The Fort, and shrinks back like it had been singed. The 6th, like Danny Burton's 5th and Steve Buyer's 4th, all of them skirting the urban jungles of Circle City, is as reliably Republican as a Baptist potluck supper. So all Pence had to do was get himself nominated.

Muncie, Anderson, and Richmond are the major metropolises. In other words, Muncie, Anderson, and Richmond are the major metropolises. Nice enough spots, assuming you just can't get enough corn in your beer. (Aside from Muncie, which is home to Ball State University, so it's nice enough assuming you like beer on your cornflakes at breakfast. And dinner.) The major cultural attraction of the 6th is the Edinburgh Outlet Mall. I'm actually not making this up.

(Anderson, Indiana, by the way, is quite possibly the most depressing place on earth not in Oklahoma. It was part of the Gas Boom in Central/Eastern Indiana in the 19th century, which went Bust in about ten years because They Used All The Gas Up, meaning the fact that we'd just finished defoliating the place and Using All The Lumber Up made no impression whatsoever. The local population has not grown noticeably more intelligent since. Then Anderson became an auto-parts manufacturing town, an industry it mostly lost to Kokomo as that market contracted beginning, coincidentally, I'm sure, at the exact moment union workers decided to vote Republican because, you know, America. Anderson now lives, as a sort of seedy uncle the rest of Indiana slips a few bucks from time to time, on horse racing, which we legalized in 1994, casino gambling, which we had to allow the horse track to get into ten years later so it wouldn't go belly up, and a giant Nestlé plant that sits at the curb of Interstate 69, one of those monuments to a multi-state competition over who could give away the most public monies to lure one of those marvels of the Free Market, which then sprawl like kudzu across land that used to be productive.

(In young adulthood I was the passenger in a vehicle returning to Indianapolis after a louche weekend in Ft. Wayne, which stopped for gas, or a bathroom break for one of the surviving women, in Anderson. Our attempt to get out of town as quickly as possible was thwarted by a freight train which, through a well-known optical-slash-weather phenomenon I don't know the name of, appeared to be moving. We were quickly socked in. Not knowing the area, the driver took the fact that no one pulled out of line to find some way around as a clue that there was none, or none which was practicable, and there we sat, until, twenty or thirty minutes later, we learned from a fellow strandee who'd been attracted by the piquant aroma of burning vegetation, that, no, in fact the locals just considered this a form of theatre.)

The 6th does not include Columbus, which is where Pence is from.

As for the man himself, well, he's religious. He's apparently religious about everything. This leads some people, many of them voters, evidently, to suppose that he has principles, or, more exactly, that he has a set of principles which guide his beliefs, rather than having a set of beliefs that he ascribes to his superior, and metaphysically unassailable, principles. The latter seems more likely to me, but what do I know? Similarly, Pence seems to have impressed his Republican colleagues with his piety through the simple expedient of Keeping It Up When The Cameras Ain't Rolling.

How he got there in the first place is a complete mystery to me. He ran two losing Congressional campaigns in the 80s, backed by the James Watt brigades of the Reagan administration. A quirk in Constitutional law required the Indiana Republican party to wait until 1991 to redraw the Congressional map, despite the fact that the party had elected Evan Bayh in 1989; Pence was required to cool his heels for another decade because the equally infallible and Crazy-Eyed Rotarian David McIntosh held the seat. (It's instructive to note that McIntosh's political career ended when he left Congress and ran for Governor; a contemplated run four years later ended when Mitch Daniels slammed McIntosh's fingers in the door. It's the Daniels campaign which is now trying to insinuate Pence into the Governorship, and away from a run for President, by, among other things, simply shoving aside Lt. Governor Becky "Unspecified Illness" Skillman.)

The larger question, really, is how Pence rose so quickly to prominence among Congressional Repbublicans. It can certainly be noted that having the intellectual prowess of sludge is not exactly viewed as a handicap in the Party, but the exact process by which that contingent is whittled down remains a mystery. He is, as I've noted here before, an almost perfect admixture of the Judeo-Christian, Economic, and Incontinent Militarism crackpottery of which the modern Republican edifice is constructed. It's apparently more difficult to pull this off than it would seem to the casual observer, who reasonably considers all those little, if anything, more than wardrobe. Consider, though, that the rank-and-file hated every last candidate in the 2008 primaries, until Palin came along after the fact. It seems likely to be a matter of one's comfort level with the percentage deals of what the Supreme Court calls Speech and the rest of us call Cash. Palin, obviously as big a religious whacko as you can be and remain unencumbered by charges involving the sexual or physical abuse of prepubescents, is more than happy to take any amount of money from anyone, for anything, or was until the pile got big enough. Pence is perhaps more levelheaded, or maybe his saturation level is yet to be reached. He seems to me to be the perfect Republican presidential candidate: more religious than George W. Bush, more economic "conservative" than George W. Bush, and even less intellectually distracted.


heydave said...

While I find the perspectives amusing to read from a distance, you still haven't made the case for me to move there.

Of course, I live in the land of Chuck Death Panels Grassley and Steve I Can Be Just As Bugfuck Crazy As Bachmann King.

timb said...

I went to Pence's undergrad alma mater a few years after he left and he was still famous for being a lackwit and a great ass-kisser. He was the protege of a man who believed the Constitution was perfectly applied some time in the post-Reconstruction era and that Wilson ruined America (America becoming a greater world power afterward is a coincidence).

Pence is a preacher and an ambitious one. He speaks in a faux-earnest voice and behind the scenes, hands out the tax breaks and corporate favors any good Congressman does.

I think the only difference between Pence and Burton is that Pence knows when to leave his zipper up, he knows what NOT to say on TV, and he is slightly less corrupt. He spent a decade after showing pictures of abortions in his commercials (i.e. the aforementioned "Congressional losses) sucking up to Indiana Republicans, starting a talk radio show, and getting his beclowned successor to be fellow half-wit Greg Garrison. From there he is able to proxy voice 15 hours a week of sludge into his district, convincing my uncles and parents that the reason the country is in dire straights is that the Mexicans keep coming, the taxes are too high, and the "minorities" don't know their proper place.

I hope he runs for President, as the comedy will be wonderful. Besides, in this craphole of a state, he could win the governorship!

bjkeefe said...

How I wish I could embed an image in Blogger comments.

This is nonetheless the best political profile I've read maybe ever.

D. Sidhe said...

I am suddenly far less sanguine about the man than I was. What you seem to be telling me is that, despite lacking credentials other than a willingness to pander to the base while shoveling cash to the interests, Pence is basically the Last Man Standing.

I worry that we're looking at a cycle where the earnest crazies will overstep the bounds of what you really can say even when talking to the social maladroits of the Teaparty, and the GOP will begin casting around for anyone who is still sane enough to be electable. Which I suspect is where the boring guys step in.

And Pence has got boring down. Even as he answered questions he seemed to know he should be evading, he never said anything that didn't sit well with the theoretically omnipartisan crowd. Which might be because they were drifting off like college students tend to do as soon as a prof starts droning, but I suspect most of us have somewhere a scarring memory of a teacher or father figure lecturing us, and what we probably take from it is that this person represents Virtue or at least Sensibility, and while we are not interested in listening, we recognize that he is probably right on some level.

Which, again, kind of worries me. You can picture Mike Huckabee saying something dingbattedly sincere about his religion that creeps everybody out, you can picture Palin saying something so transparently mercenary that it creeps everybody out, and Pawlenty seems to be determined to string together an entire campaign out of Al-Gore-kisses-his-wife moments.

But on some level, I suspect the republicans, or at least the Teaparty wing, resents how badly Bush turned out and would like a do-over. Pence seems like a less flamboyant, and therefore by default more sensible--at least in appearance--version, and I wonder if they'll realize he can finish what Bush started in terms of lassaiz-faire.

In exchange for actual electability, they would have to give up the ability to drive liberals batshit every time he opens his mouth, but I suspect the non-Teaparty wing would consider that the perfect trade-off.

He seems, in other words, to be a republican ecumenical, which is probably what they will need when the enthusiastically crazy implode.

And thanks, Doghouse, for actually thinking about and attempting to explain the guy. These are brilliant insights, even though you claim not to know anything about the man, especially the second half, and especially, especially, the part about his multi-directional religiosity.

(It took me a couple days to dial back the migraine enough to comprehend it, and a belated thank you.)