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Pence Uses LGBTQ Hate and Christian Nationalism to Launch Presidential Bid

For the first time in 83 years, a former vice president and his ex-boss are running against each other for president.

Former Vice President Mike Pence speaks at the Nixon National Energy Conference at The Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum in Yorba Linda, California, on April 19, 2023.

Former Vice President Mike Pence announced on Wednesday that he’s running for president in 2024.

Within his announcement, Pence alluded to his Christian faith many times, and included rhetoric as well as imagery that highlighted his Christian nationalist viewpoints.

The former vice president, who narrated the political ad, also alluded to his ex-boss, former President Donald Trump, whom he will be running against in the GOP primaries, alongside at least eight other declared candidates. Pence did not mention Trump by name, but made a subtle dig at him by saying the Republican Party needs a leader who “will appeal … to the better angels of our nature.”

Religion featured prominently in Pence’s announcement. “Today, before God and my family, I’m announcing I’m running for president of the United States,” Pence said at one point in his campaign video. In another spot, Pence said that “God is not done with America yet.”

Visual religious symbolism, too, was included in his ad. For a brief moment, for example, an image of Pence speaking from a church altar can be seen in the video.

Pence also made it clear that he was an adherent to far right, bigoted views, attacking Biden and the supposed “radical left” in the ad, and blaming them for purported attacks on “timeless American values.” Alongside the commentary, the campaign video also juxtaposes images of news reports on transgender athletes and drag show performances, with Pence looking directly into the camera to say, “We’re better than this.”

The words and imagery are an apparent appeal to the far right voters Pence will be trying to court, many of whom are attacking LGBTQ people by seeking to limit their rights, including LGBTQ youth, as well as wrongly and dangerously suggesting drag shows are harmful and/or a bad influence on children.

Pence’s announcement is historical in many ways. For the first time in 83 years, and only the third time in U.S. history, a former vice president will be running for the office of president against his former boss in the White House.

Such instances have been seriously contentious, and Pence’s run against Trump for the GOP nomination in 2024 will be no different. Although the two share many ideological beliefs, Pence has blamed Trump for the violence that took place on January 6, 2021, at the U.S. Capitol building, as he and other lawmakers in Congress at the time were certifying the 2020 presidential election results.

Pence’s most notable action as vice president was to decide, after consulting with legal experts, not to take part in a scheme to overturn the election results, counting as legitimate fake electors that the Trump campaign had organized to disrupt the Electoral College. Trump’s strong protestations over that decision led to many in the mob of his loyalists attacking the Capitol to chant “Hang Mike Pence” and to blame him for Trump having to leave office.

Pence spoke out against his former boss at a private dinner earlier this year, calling Trump’s words “reckless” and decrying the former president for “endanger[ing] my family and everyone at the Capitol” on January 6. Those words weren’t nearly as forceful as they could have been, however, as the event where he made those remarks was not televised, recorded or broadcast, and Pence also refused to testify before the January 6 committee about Trump’s actions and demands on that day and in the run-up to it.

If elected president, Pence would undoubtedly seek to curtail the hard fought recognition of LGBTQ rights, given his past statements. In the 1990s, for example, Pence argued at multiple junctures against recognizing civil rights protections for LGBTQ people, firmly stating that his belief — that being gay was a “learned” behavior, which most experts reject — precluded the need for LGBTQ individuals to deserve political recognition.

As governor of Indiana, Pence also infamously signed into law a bill that granted businesses and other entities the ability to discriminate against LGBTQ people without facing legal repercussions for doing so. And in Congress, Pence also blocked extending hate crime prevention laws to the LGBTQ community, wrongly stating there wasn’t evidence that those individuals were targets of violence due to prejudice and bigotry.

Pence’s hard-held beliefs also resulted in significant harm to others, including victims of drug abuse. When an outbreak of HIV occurred in southern Indiana under his watch, Pence waited for months before issuing an executive order allowing localities to begin needle exchange programs. His initial inaction needlessly caused the virus to spread unchecked. Once the exchange program began, rates of new HIV cases in the area declined dramatically.

Pence faces extremely uphill odds of winning the Republican Party’s primaries, due to Trump remaining popular within the base of the party’s support. An aggregate of polling data compiled by FiveThirtyEight shows that Pence is only currently garnering around 5.4 percent of support among GOP voters. Trump, meanwhile, receives 53.7 percent of support, according to that data, with Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis receiving 21.3 percent.

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