There’s a difference between being a representative and being a governor.
As a representative, you push for your special interests.
As a governor, you do what’s best for your state.
Pence got the endorsement from the much-liked former Republican governor Mitch Daniels (now president of Purdue) basically with the promise that he wouldn’t pursue a social agenda. Mitch Daniels was liked because he focused almost exclusively on the economy and government efficiency. He seemed to care little about social issues, and it was implied that Pence, as the successor of Daniels, would set aside the social dogmas that he was known for and govern a state that was on a very good path, economically, after Mitch Daniels’ two terms.
He didn’t do that.
From day one, Pence didn’t govern, he played national GOP politics. Whatever the big fiery debate of the day was among the national GOP, he grabbed ahold of it and pretended to be its conservative crusader, even if it had absolutely zero relevance to the state of Indiana. He spent time, money, and resources on championing issues that the majority of Hoosiers didn’t care about or didn’t support, because he wanted to pander to the National GOP’s ultra conservative base for his future career. Essentially, he was using Indiana as a stepping-stone. He never cared about being governor. He always had higher aspirations, and the governorship was a stepping-stone to a higher federal office. Most Hoosiers, left or right on the political spectrum, espouse this opinion about him.
As I said before, Mitch Daniels cared nothing about social issues. Indiana is generally a conservative state, but it’s never been a state particularly hung up on social issues, and it’s never been a state that follows the national GOP’s social platform. Indiana, as it turns out for as long as I’ve been alive, has been a business Republican state that supported politicians like the Bushes, Mitt Romney, etc. We voted Obama into office, and prior to Mitch Daniels in 2005, we had 16 straight years of Democratic governorship. Indianapolis, the capital and largest city in the state, routinely switched between Republican and Democrat mayors, and it has managed to have long-term plans and continue its momentum regardless of which party is in office.
So Pence, with his national conservative GOP politics, has been an aberration that has directly harmed Indiana’s image and its pocket book.
In the three years since Pence took office, he:
- Pushed through legislation making harsher penalties for drug crimes against the protests of numerous major legal organizations including the Indiana Bar Association, as well as most Hoosiers
- Inherited a phenomenal state balance sheet from Mitch Daniels and used it as an excuse to push tax cuts so extreme (would have caused a tremendous deficit) that the Republican-controlled Congress shut him down
- Tried and failed to amend the Indiana constitution to ban gay marriage, despite widespread polling that showed that Hoosiers didn’t support it, and despite the vociferous condemnation of virtually every major business in the state
- Since his gay marriage amendment failed, as payback (not exaggerating, the signing ceremony was invite only, no media was allowed or invited, but someone leaked a picture that showed Pence surrounded by well-known anti-LGBT extremists), came back with the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which was a genuine political circus. It humiliated Indiana on the national stage, directly harmed the Indianapolis area, and was met with, perhaps, the fiercest backlash by the people of any state in the Union. The extraordinary protests of Hoosiers and businesses allowed the state GOP leaders to basically coerce, to his visible chagrin, Pence to amend the law and “fix it.”
- The RFRA was such a debacle that Pence ended up hiring an expensive out-of-state public relations firm to heal Indiana’s national image. He couldn’t answer why he chose an out-of-state firm. He couldn’t answer why he chose such an expensive firm, when there are many firms in Indiana that could have done the job. It was eventually canceled, and was yet another waste of taxpayer money. To date, the RFRA has cost Indianapolis (a city that fought against it, changed the official tourism website to rainbow colors, and hung a huge rainbow banner at the airport) $60 million, and the total cost–to the economy and reputation–to the rest of the state is unknown.
- During the gay marriage supreme court fight, he sent the Indiana attorney general to other states to advise them on how to craft their laws and fight gay marriage nationally. He did this on the taxpayer dollar. He continued to spend taxpayer money fighting gay marriage in the courts and with lawsuits despite, at the time, everyone knowing what the Supreme Court decision was going to be. It was basically a political stand by Pence; an expensive political stand that Hoosiers didn’t support.
- He fought to pass a law preventing cities from passing their own minimum wage statutes. Is this “small government”?
- He has acted like a strongman (think Turkey’s Erdoğan), doing everything in his power to make Glenda Ritz, the state superintendent and an elected official, quit her job, and barring that, stripping her of the power given to her by the Indiana constitute and the Hoosiers that elected her through backroom deals, conspiracy, and highly technical legal challenges. Just Google “Mike Pence Glenda Ritz.” You could write a thesis on it.
- He also froze teachers salaries. This means that starting teachers cannot get raises and that all people graduating with an education degree are better off leaving Indiana. Unless they want to work in a private school or have a trust in their name.
- Everyone was on board for receiving a huge federal grant for preschool funding. The Indiana Department of Education was in the final stages of the application process–and the federal government was happy with Indiana and going to give us an especially large chunk of money, when Pence came in and shut it down for no reason because accepting money from the feds became politically untenable among the national GOP tea partier crowd. Pence’s eyes were always on the future, and support from the GOP’s far right base. After shutting down the process, he has recently been opining that it would be a good idea to get federal money to fund preschools… A year after he shut down the Dept of Education’s proposal to do just that.
- The HIV epidemic in southern Indiana is out of control and among the worst in the country. Of course, we could provide free needles for heroin addicts like has been done in many states to curb HIV problems, but that is politically repugnant to Mike Pence. He also managed to get the Planned Parenthoods in that part of the state shut down, eliminating the opportunity for poor people to get tested. The HIV epidemic, which never had to be an epidemic, continues, and Pence gets to push the problem on our future governor as he goes to join Trump on the national stage.
- Speaking of Planned Parenthood, Pence is highly proud of his accomplishment at passing the single most restrictive abortion law since Roe vs Wade. The law, HEA 1337 is far stricter than anything even in the Deep South and is almost certainly unconstitutional. He knows that it’s probably unconstitutional. Nevertheless, Indiana taxpayers will spend millions of dollars for our attorney general to fight the law all the way to the Supreme Court, just so Pence could make his political statement.
- He tried to make a state-run news agency that he would then give exclusive interviews and access to. I don’t even know if that’s legal, but he tried to do it and was promptly crucified by the media and even his own party.
- He asserted authority to ban Syrian refugees from being settled in Indiana. He has no authority. No governor does. He knew that, but he was planning to be a GOP presidential candidate, and he needed to show that he was strong and anti-Muslim refugee to appease the national GOP base. He took leadership role in this discriminatory crusade, appearing on national TV to preach this ignorance. This particular event managed to throw multiple refugee settlement organizations into disarray–which, by the way, actually include the Catholic Church of Indiana (the arch bishop of Indianapolis publicly criticized the governor)–and several Syrian refugees which were well into the process of moving to Indiana had to be relocated to another state. Pence didn’t back down until the courts affirmed that his order was unconstitutional.
- He shut down a highly successful energy efficiency program, one of the first in the nation, making Indiana a trailblazer initiated by the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission with the support of previous governor Mitch Daniels. He did this for no good reason, other than to signal to his far-right constituents that he was fighting against Obama’s evil despotic EPA.
This is all just in his three years in office. He is reviled across the state, and especially so in the Indianapolis area. There is (actually, was now that he’s the VP nominee, he can no longer be governor) a bipartisan Pence Must Go campaign to get rid of him, and there are literally billboards all over the state for this campaign, and yard signs plastered all over the state. Pence is, by virtually all objective measures, one of the worst governors in recent Indiana history, at least in terms of working for the benefit of the state. He has basically focused on far-right Christian social conservative interests to the clear detriment of all else, most importantly the current and future well-being of the state’s reputation and economy.