The Republican Party has managed a considerable feat. In accordance with the Trumpian mantra, “Never apologize, double down,” it’s figured out how to alienate women in two different ways. First, it offers them Donald Trump, the thrice-married misogynistic vulgarian, who talks about Megyn Kelly’s “wherever” and calls women dogs and worse, whose first wife accused him of rape in a published book, and who suggested that women who have abortions should face “some form of punishment,” before someone set him straight (no, no Donald, she’s a victim too, remember? Love them both!). Unsurprisingly, Trump is not popular with women, 77 percent of whom tell pollsters they dislike him. Still, plenty would overlook his failings, and why not? After all, women, like men, can vote for the lesser evil who is with them on the big issues, like putting Hillary in jail and building that wall. Moreover women have been raised from birth to make excuses for obnoxious men: He’s “just a little boy at heart,” that’s just “just Bob being Bob.” As noted gender theorist Kim Kardashian puts it, “I mean, he’s called me a bitch in his songs. That’s just, like, what they say.”
Second, there’s his vice-presidential hopeful, Indiana governor Mike Pence. He’s “a Christian, a conservative and a Republican, in that order,” polite, mild, married since 1985 to his first wife, Karen, who looks like a normal middle-aged woman, “empowered” but not threatening. (She founded her own business, yes, but it’s “That’s My Towel!” Charm Inc., which, um, sells little charms to affix to towels and is currently “on hold,” according to its website.) He’s also a flaming reactionary.
Just how reactionary? Pence is perhaps most famous for pushing through the state legislature a bill that permits discrimination against LGBT people by private businesses (religious institutions already have this right), a bill that, although he partially retracted it, has cost his state as much as $60 million in lost business. But there’s lots more. His opposition to abortion is a virtual obsession: He pushed Indiana’s new law, stayed by a federal judge, which bans abortion for disabled fetuses and requires women who’ve had abortions or miscarriages, no matter how early, to arrange for either burial or cremation of the remains. This is why women have been calling his office with details of their periods—who knows if a woman could be passing one of those unimplanted fertilized eggs abortion opponents consider to be children. (He also happens to be the governor of the state that sentenced Purvi Patel to 20 years in prison for a late self-abortion she claims was a stillbirth.) As my colleague Joan Walsh reminds us, Pence co-sponsored Todd Akin’s infamous anti-abortion bill that would have redefined rape as “forcible rape.”
In 2011, he led the fight to shut down the government over funding for Planned Parenthood, and as governor he cut Planned Parenthood funding in half from 2005 levels; that resulted in the closing of five non-abortion clinics that provided STD testing, and that helped fuel a rise in HIV infections so staggering it required federal intervention. In other news, as governor, he cut $1 million from domestic-violence programs, and slashed higher-education funding while cutting corporate taxes.
Before becoming governor, Pence spent 12 years in Congress, where he was one of the most conservative members. In addition to his crusade against reproductive rights, he voted for the Iraq War (which Trump now falsely claims he himself opposed), for prayer in the schools, and for barring the EPA from regulating greenhouse gases; co-sponsored a bill repealing the Affordable Care Act; and on and on. In 1992, as executive director of a conservative foundation, he even attacked president George HW Bush for signing the 1991 Civil Rights Act. He doesn’t believe in global warming or that smoking causes lung cancer, and he wants creationism taught in public schools. As governor, he even tried to block state agencies from supporting a Syrian family resettled in Indiana by the Catholic Church. Need I add that he gets an A rating from the NRA?