I knew it was going to be a long night when an actual nun was onstage by 9.20pm. “I must confess that I recently prayed while in chapel, begging God to allow me to be a voice and instrument for human life,” said Sister Dede Byrne, dressed in her black and white habit, “and now here I am, speaking at the Republican National Convention. I guess you better be careful for what you pray for.” I guess!
“While we tend to think of the marginalized as living beyond our borders, the truth is, the largest marginalized group in the world can be found in the United States,” Byrne continued. “They are the unborn.” This is why voting Donald Trump in is so important, she added. And doesn’t that just remind you of the biblical story where Jesus famously says, “Screw the refugee children from Venezuela and suffer the little American embryos”?
Mike Pence must have read that verse, too, because it only took him about ten minutes to start waxing lyrical about the rights of the unborn when he stood up to address the nation and formerly accept the vice presidential nomination at Fort McHenry in Maryland. Shifting easily from celebrating the assassination of Qassem Soleimani to telling us that he values every single human life, Pence assured us all that “the hard truth is you won’t be safe in Joe Biden’s America”. In fact, he added, if Biden wins then you won't live in America anymore anyway, because this election, “the choice is not whether the country becomes more Republican or more Democrat. The choice is whether America remains America.” In the America that both is and is not America — Schrodinger's America — you will not be safe because of Joe Biden failing to champion America. Well, I'm glad we got that clear.
This is all big talk for a guy who hardly ever gets the chance to speak, but it turns out that when Pence is allowed to open his mouth by the permatanned bully beside him, he is just as radical and unhinged as we always suspected. In fact, as he bellowed in an uncharacteristically uncontrolled moment that “we will have law and order on the streets of this country!” I began to realize he’s probably even worse than we thought. Because the lies that stacked up were blatant, brazen and unabashed. “Democrats support abortion up to the point of birth”; “Joe Biden is for free lawyers and healthcare for illegal immigrants”; “Biden has been a cheerleader for communist China”; Donald Trump was singlehandedly responsible for the defeat of Isis, which happened without “one American casualty”; Obama caused a recession; the US is known the world over for its fantastic response to coronavirus. It was like a compilation of Trump’s own worst takes, and for the first time I genuinely wondered whether poisonous little Mike Pence might be the main inspiration for a lot of what we’re subjected to from the President in the White House and on Twitter.
Around these various lies came odd non-sequiturs and ominous moments designed to play to the set of Trump-supporting military veterans who had gathered as his audience on lawn chairs in front of the podium. “Tearing down statues is not free speech and those who do so will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” Pence said, to whistles and cheers. “My wife Karen — that schoolteacher I’m married to — will be returning to her classroom next week,” he continued, as the Covid-19 death toll shot past 180,000.
At one point, Pence quite literally simply quoted the national anthem word for word to rapturous applause. He got a standing ovation when he said that he accepted he would stand on Trump’s ticket again. A standing ovation.
The VP rounded it all off with another quote I’m struggling to find in my King James Bible: “Where the spirit of the Lord is, there’s freedom. That means freedom always wins.” On first glance, it doesn’t look like an argument that follows logically — nor does it seem quite in the spirit of that notorious pacifist and turner of the other cheek, Jesus Christ — but then maybe I just gotta have a little more faith. “With God’s help, we will make America great again… again,” Pence finished. Yes, he really said that. And people really clapped when he said it. And the President really did then come out from behind the wall with Melania at his arm and wave as if Mike Pence had just delivered the Emancipation Proclamation.
Oh, Mike. I liked it better when I thought you were a quiet man from Indiana with a bit of a crappy voting record and a preoccupation with women's uteruses. I liked it better when you didn’t terrify me quite as much. Of course, I never thought you were harmless, but I entertained ideas that you might be — I don't know — honorable? Normal? And even though you joked today that your 87-year-old mother, who you dragged out to this circus on the lawn, loves Trump so much that you’re her second-favorite member of the Trump/Biden ticket, I saw through the self-effacing aside. I saw another four years with Donald at the helm and you at his right hand, and though I wouldn’t exactly have championed you as my progressive ally before, tonight I was equally afraid of you both for the very first time.
“Some people think we’re a little bit different,” Pence said, of the President, “but I’ve learnt a few things watching him.” I can see it, Mike. In fact, I think you’ve learnt from each other. And when you step out of the shadows, your true form becomes obvious to us all.
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