Over the last year, nearly all eyes in the United States have been on one man — the loud, offensive billionaire with the fake tan and matching Velcro hair, Donald Trump. Throughout the duration of the election, Trump has been in the media again and again, continuously hogging the spotlight with a string of controversial comments and questionable politics. Now that Trump has been sworn into office as the 45th president, people are more worried than ever about what the former reality television star’s plans are for the country.
This entire time, Trump’s antics have served as a glaring distraction from the real threat in the White House, Vice President Mike Pence. Trump may be the man in charge, but Pence should be considered the devil sitting on his shoulder, whispering bigotry and hate in Trump’s ear.
The former governor of Indiana has a long-standing history of evangelical social conservatism, establishing himself as anti-gay, anti-women, anti-science and essentially anti-21st century. It seems as though his goal is to rewind the last 50 years and erase any progress that’s been made, allowing misogyny, racism and bigotry to prevail.
If that seems like an exaggeration, take a look at where Pence stands on some of the most relevant issues:
During his time as Indiana’s governor, Pence put in serious effort to block or limit the rights of the LGBTQIA+ community, women and refugees. Pence is responsible for Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), a legislation intended to allow individuals and corporations to cite their religious beliefs as a defense if sued by a private party for discrimination. The problem with RFRAs, according to a report from the Human Rights Campaign, is that they tend to be intentionally vague, thereby allowing businesses to discriminate against customers or employees based on religious differences.
“The evangelical owner of a business providing a secular service can sue claiming that their personal faith empowers them to refuse to hire Jews, divorcees or LGBT people,” said the report. “A landlord could claim the right to refuse to rent an apartment to a Muslim or a transgender person.”
Pence has asserted that the bill is not about discrimination, but based on his history working against LGBTQIA+ rights, that’s hard to believe. He’s often referred to homosexuality as a choice and that preventing gays from marrying is an enforcement of God’s law. Pence has also voted against prohibiting job discrimination based on sexual orientation and voted for a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage and an amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman only. He’s also opposed the repeal of the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy.
“We ought not to use the American military as a backdrop for social experimentation,” Pence said in a 2010 interview with CNN.
As far as the military is concerned, Pence not only takes issue with the LGBTQIA+ community, but with women in the service as well. In an op-ed piece from his time as a conservative radio talk show host, Pence purports that women in the military are incapable of serving in the same capacity as men, and that their sexuality serves as a distraction from good order and discipline.
“Many young men find many young women to be attractive sexually, many young women find many young men to be attractive sexually,” Pence said in the piece. “Put them together, in close quarters, for long periods of time, and things will get interesting … Moral of story: women in military, bad idea.”
Pence’s discrimination against women can also be seen in the war he’s waged against women’s reproductive rights. In fewer than four years as Indiana’s governor, he signed eight anti-abortion laws, the most recent of which was blocked by the U.S. District Court for being unconstitutional and violating women’s privacy rights. The bill would have required women seeking an abortion to view a fetal ultrasound before receiving the procedure, criminalized fetal tissue donation and research and enforced the burial or cremation of all fetal tissue, regardless of whether it was from a miscarriage or abortion.
“We’ll see Roe vs. Wade consigned to the ash heap of history where it belongs,” said Pence in a Michigan town hall.
Pence has also gone to great efforts to cut funding for Planned Parenthood and he’s voted against acts in favor of ensuring fair pay for women on three separate occasions.
Most recently, Pence stood by Trump’s side as the president signed an executive order banning visitors from Iraq, Iran, Syria, Yemen, Sudan, Libya and Somalia, and it wasn’t the first time Pence has opposed immigrants and refugees from settling in the U.S. In 2015, Pence filed an order attempting to block Syrian refugees from entering Indiana based on the fear of terrorist attacks, despite Syrian refugees having never committed any kind of terrorist act in the U.S.
Pence’s conservative beliefs extend far beyond just refugees, women’s health and LGBTQIA+ rights. He supports teaching Creationism in public schools, conversion therapy and the tobacco industry, and he opposes gun control, global warming and the separation of church and state. While Trump has been either vague or fickle when it comes to a lot of his political beliefs, Pence has consistently established himself as an evangelical extremist with no room for compromise. Unfortunately, Trump’s blatant inexperience and lack of political knowledge means that his ears are open to the advice of the people he’s chosen to stand beside him, namely Pence, who will use his extremist beliefs as grounds to achieve his own personal agenda. With Pence in Trump’s ear, America is likely to see a major regression in the rights of its people.
So for anyone who may be hoping something happens that would remove Trump as president before his four years are up, keep in mind the man who would take his place. President Trump is definitely bad, but “President Pence” might just be worse.