Turning Our Attention to the Real Threat – Mike Pence

I’ve used most of my recent essays to consider various actions and statements by Donald Trump, and the horrendous HB1523 that’s now law in my home state of Mississippi. With his preposterous public relations stunt of Sunday, I’ll now use a few words for Mike Pence.

I’ll start with a general look at Pence, and end with Sunday’s planned “protest.”

Mike Pence has always been the more dangerous of the Trump/Pence ticket.

Trump is a largely failed businessman, a public buffoon (a persona he embraced on The Apprentice), the subject of hundreds of lawsuits (both business and professional), known for sexual assault, bankruptcy, and civil rights violations (see aforementioned lawsuits)…and the biggest waffle not in Congress. Is the wind blowing? Trump is moving that direction. Anything for a buck and piece of the proverbial pie. He’s been laughed at in his hometown of New York City for decades. No one took him seriously – at least not until the presidential election of 2016.

The Republican field was rife with mediocre politicians, none fit to front a presidential campaign. In steps Trump – the hair, the spray tan, bravado and all. It mattered not that he wasn’t really a Republican. It mattered not that he had no ideas for positive growth in any sphere of American life. He had the few things that mattered, that eventually won him the electoral college (not the biggest victory there, and a solid loss in popular vote) – a political outsider who hated Obama, was supported by the alt-right, had money, and seemed somehow ‘genuine’ because bad ideas fell easily from his mouth, unscripted and salacious.

He won – the perfect foil to Obama, from his ineptitude to his grammar to his love of Twitter.

And as foreseen, he’s been awful – bumbling through foreign affairs, failing to appoint competent people to crucial positions, trading nuclear war barbs with North Korea on Twitter, assaulting everyone from the LGBTQ community to the 1st Amendment to all women everywhere.

For all the failures, contempt, and maliciousness of Trump, Pence is far worse.

Pence is an experienced politician – he knows how to get things done politically. Why has Trump failed to pass any kind of significant legislation? One big reason is his political neophytism.

To ‘experienced politician who can get things done,’ with Pence we add also ‘man hell-bent on forcing his morals and ideals on a nation.’ Trump has no real ideas or beliefs – Pence does, and they are largely horrendous.

A few select examples:

  • wants to outlaw all abortions and overturn Roe v. Wade (once signed a law saying doctors could be prosecuted for abortions and requiring the burial or cremation of aborted fetal tissue, wants to “send Roe v. Wade to the ash heap of history where it belongs”);
  • his anti-women stance is shown even more in his refusal to meet with any woman aside from his wife alone, greatly reducing the chance that any woman would be hired for a job that required working very closely with him;
  • wants to defund Planned Parenthood;
  • is strongly against guaranteeing and protecting the civil rights of the LGBT community in America, since it’s against his Christian values, and worked as governor and in congress to limit the rights of the community;
  • has supported “conversion therapy,” saying on his website (in 2000) that “Resources should be directed toward those institutions which provide assistance to those seeking to change their sexual behavior,” right after stating “Congress should oppose any effort to put gay and lesbian relationships on an equal legal status with heterosexual marriage;”
  • would like even harsher immigration “reform” than we’ve seen out of Trump;
  • would be a nightmare for public education. As governor of Indiana he pushed for vouchers and tried to repeal Common Core, in addition to voting against “No Child Left Behind” as a congressman;
  • doesn’t believe in climate change;
  • opposes all efforts to reform gun laws;
  • opposes the free press at least as vigorously as Trump, having even tried to create a state news outlet while governor of Indiana (Just IN).

There are many other problematic stances and beliefs this man holds, but the small sampling above should suffice to demonstrate my main point – Trump is incompetent and therefore somewhat dangerous; Pence is experienced and therefore far more of a threat to America, and possibly the world, than Trump could ever be.

Anyone willing to use public office to force their own personal beliefs on others treads awfully close to authoritarianism, a trait we’ve seen with Trump and would see magnified many times under Pence.

And then we have Sunday. Mike Pence attended the Colts/49ers game in Indianapolis with his wife…until he walked out to protest football players exercising their 1st Amendment right to free speech. We soon found out, via Twitter, that Trump and Pence had discussed and planned this action beforehand, presumably to bring additional attention to a topic they’ve focused on more than hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico.

If he didn’t want to “dignify” the event, then he should have never attended the game. He knew with 100% certainty that players would take the knee, since the 49ers are the only team to have at least one player kneel at every single game since Kaepernick started the movement in 2016.

Sunday’s walk-out was a political stunt [press were even instructed to wait outside as Pence would be leaving shortly in protest], posturing to bring attention to a lie – a lie perpetuated continually by the administration – that the protests in the NFL (and expanding to other sports as well) are all about disrespecting some nebulous “America” ideal. In fact, both Trump and Pence and all of their advisors know that the kneeling players are bringing attention to the actions of police nationwide, particularly in minority communities. [More on this administration lie here.]

In addition to continuing to support a racist mischaracterization of professional athletes, Mike Pence wasted a significant amount of taxpayer money on this asinine trip, to the tune of approximately $250,000 (flights from Las Vegas to Indianapolis, then on to Los Angeles, plus the security and other apparatus traveling with a VP).

Even after the recent attention on wasteful travel practices in this administration, Pence felt it was somehow justified to blow through our hard-earned money to garner a few political points for his boss by assaulting the 1st Amendment and furthering an agenda that looks ever more authoritarian.

Mike Pence knows what he’s doing. Between his lack of charisma and his 18th century ideals, he knows he never could have been elected president in the 2016 election. But he’s placed himself in a position now of great power, and with the most inept person to ever sit in the oval office as his boss, the chances of his ascension to the presidency are greater than he could have ever hoped or imagined.

Just keep in mind, America, that Pence as president will be just as difficult, if not worse, than the mess we find ourselves in today with Donald Trump.

The “Pro-America” False Dichotomy: Do Not Fall Prey to Fallacy!

“Somewhere I read that the greatness of America is the right to protest for
right.” Martin Luther King, Jr., I’ve Been to the Mountaintop

Donald Trump has created, and is now perpetuating, a narrative around kneeling football players that is a false dichotomy. This logical fallacy is nothing new, and certainly makes frequent appearance in politics.

False dichotomy: When only two choices are presented yet more exist, or a spectrum of possible choices exists between two extremes. False dichotomies are usually characterized by “either this or that” language, but can also be characterized by omissions of choices*.

It’s not difficult to pull out the false dichotomy being perpetuated by the administration – first by Trump (in his speech in AL and especially on Twitter), and then continued Monday in the press briefing. The narrative being sold to the gullible is roughly this:

  • support America (flag, anthem, military, laws, etc.),
  • be unpatriotic and un-American.
    Two extremes have been presented to the American public, and unfortunately many people are falling for the logical fallacy. Many feel like they have to support anything “American” [as defined by the administration], or risk being called (or in fact, being) un-American traitors.

    Obviously, there are a myriad of positions one could take that fall between “agree everything I call American” and “hate America.” But none of those positions are currently being left open for our citizens under the pressure of POTUS. By shaming anyone who would dare side against him, a movement against free thought is mobilizing.

    So instead of dealing with crucial issues like Puerto Rican hurricane disaster recovery, North Korea, private emails again used for conducting government business, or running our crumbling country – over the weekend the White House set their sights on forcing American adults to pledge allegiance to a scrap of fabric and sing an anthem which in its later verses has an entirely revolting perspective on slavery. [It’s another great question…when can we look at getting an anthem that represents the people of the United States? But I digress…]

    The fallacy presented falls apart easily – a person can, in fact, disagree with a certain American governmental position or action and not place themselves as enemies of America. There is a long history in our country of disagreeing but not hating or disrespecting, and I won’t take to listing examples of various in-between positions since we all know of them and many of us have probably been in exactly that position! Love for America does not require acceptance of her failures.

    Beyond the logical fallacy of the false dichotomy we’ve been presented with, there are other concerns regarding Trump’s attack on football players and their peaceful protest. [I can’t believe I’m having to write this…a president bickering with sportsmen is beyond absurd…] A few of those concerns are:

  • Straw man logical fallacy [refuting an argument by attacking an unrelated argument]: the players have taken a knee during the national anthem in order to bring attention to unchecked police brutality, specifically against minorities and in minority neighborhoods. The strawman set up by the administration is that the players are disrespecting the flag/anthem/military/country. It’s simple then to attack and belittle that disrespect, except it has nothing to do with the situation at all. This straw man approach by Trump is unethical and wrong.
  • The First Amendment protects the rights of free speech, peaceable assembly, and petitioning for government redress of grievances. Peaceful protest by the people has been inferred from the First Amendment, and supported by the courts and our laws. The men attacked as “sons of bitches” by Trump are peacefully protesting, asking for the government to correct an egregious wrong, and exercising their right to freedom of speech. The unconstitutional approach by Trump is unethical and wrong.
  • The right to not stand for the anthem or salute the flag is well established by court precedent (West Virginia State Board of Education vs Barnette), which states, among other things, “no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein.” You cannot force people to participate in the pledge, anthem, saluting the flag, or anything else of that nature. The forceful approach by Trump is unethical and wrong.
  • The President of the United States has much more important work to do than sticking his nose into a conversation where he doesn’t belong or have any standing to comment on. The President of the United States has no business calling his constituents “sons of bitches,” nor calling for them to be fired from their jobs for actions that are entirely legal. The overall approach taken in this conversation by the President of the United States is unethical and wrong.
    At the end of the day, any flag is just color and design on fabric. No one fights to defend a scrap of fabric, they fight to defend the ideals represented therein. In America, when the ideals of our country are being trampled by the government, people protest. We call attention to the fact that what the flag stands for is being destroyed, whether by politicians, police, or even the president. This is what #TakeAKnee is all about, and the people perpetuating the dangerous false dichotomy of “you’re either for us or against us” know that full well. This is a distraction technique, or even worse.

    My greatest fear in this discussion is the false dichotomy America narrative looks toward the endgame of using bad logic to turn us against each other – to quelch freedom of speech, expression, and press; to create a mob mentality of unquestioning “American support” among the populace; to then use their creation to further autocracy in the United States of America. If it is unsafe to speak up, then our right to fight for right is greatly diminished. By further dividing the public and creating division among voters, the people are more concerned with the actions of their neighbor than potential treachery committed by their elected officials.

    Instead of allowing ourselves to be pitted against one another, our focus needs to be on making sure that our government officials are doing their jobs with the best interests of all American citizens as their primary objective.

    Do not fall prey to the pro-America false dichotomy fallacy – our democratic republic may well depend on it.

    Examples of perpetuating the false narrative:
    Trump’s speech at Luther Strange rally in AL:
    “Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now, out, he’s fired. He’s fired! You know, some owner is gonna do that. He’s gonna say, ‘That guy that disrespects our flag, he’s fired.’…They’ll be the most popular person in this country…But you know what’s hurting the game…When people like yourselves turn on television and you see those people taking the knee when they’re playing our great national anthem…”

  • Trump begins by misrepresenting what the players are doing, then sets the false dichotomy as “do American my way or you are un-American,” and then goes on to call for private business owners to fire their employees based on how he envisions being patriotic. He gets angry enough to curse about those who disagree with him. Dangerous and pathetic.
    Trump’s Tweets, a selection (@realDonaldTrump):
    ”If a player wants the privilege of making millions of dollars in the NFL,or other leagues, he or she should not be allowed to disrespect our Great American Flag (or Country) and should stand for the National Anthem. If not, YOU’RE FIRED. Find something else to do!…Roger Goodell of NFL just put out a statement trying to justify the total disrespect certain players show to our country.Tell them to stand!…If NFL fans refuse to go to games until players stop disrespecting our Flag & Country, you will see change take place fast. Fire or suspend!…Great solidarity for our National Anthem and for our Country. Standing with locked arms is good, kneeling is not acceptable. Bad ratings!…Courageous Patriots have fought and died for our great American Flag — we MUST honor and respect it! MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!…” [and there are more, just visit his profile to see]

  • more of the same us vs them language, misrepresenting the issues and situation, calling for the 1st Amendment to be violated, and calling on retaliation for not “doing American” the way he wants people to.
    From Monday’s press conference (Sarah Huckabee Sanders):
    “promoting patriotism should bring us all together…always appropriate to promote flag, national anthem…this is not about the president being against something but about him being for them…everyone should be able to celebrate national pride, supporting those who fought and died for our country…”

  • this pushes the false dichotomy of “for us or against us…support what we say support or you’re un-American.” Now it’s not just POTUS, but his minions in the White House as well.