Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Ruminations of the Pence inauguration

Posted By on Wed, Jan 16, 2013 at 8:23 AM

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The sun shone brightly but the temperature was in the single digits Monday as Mike Pence took the oath of office and became Indiana's 50th governor.

As far as stirring, patriotic, transformative moments in history go, this wasn't one of them. The speeches were short and banal. Nary a word of substance was spoken. The only people who came off well were Lt. Gov. Sue Ellspermann, whose surname looks like a typographical error, and former Miss America Katie Stam, whose rendition of "The Star-Spangled Banner" was poignant.

As far as our new governor, well, he was barely there. Looking like a patient awaiting results of a proctology exam, he shifted nervously in his chair as he awaited the oath of office. His inaugural address, even by the extremely low standards of previous inaugural addresses, was full of clichés and completely devoid of substance.

There were no inspirational calls to action, just indifferent pleas "Whatever it is you can do, do." He said it might be a good idea to open a small business or, if you have a job, to do it well.

He spent most of the speech praising Mitch Daniels for a record that many argue bankrupted the state's future and sold off its treasure to foreign corporations.

Then the speech was over and the new governor and his family went indoors, leaving the nearly all-white crowd of guests out in the cold. It was the most effective metaphor of the day. Pence headed indoors for a catered feast while everyone else was on their own.

There was almost no reaction to the speech on Twitter except snark. "There you have it. The inaugural address of Mike Pence, duly elected governor of North Mississippi." I'd imagine a poll of Hoosiers would show only a small fraction of the population even knew about the swearing-in.

And their ignorance is bliss. The Pence administration was elected with no policy agenda. He did not ignite the voters with any sweeping vision of the future. And the voters responded with the same amount of indifference on Election Day.

Pence defeated John Gregg by approximately 75,000 votes in a state that Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney carried by 267,000 votes. Pence was one remark about rape away from losing the election. He carries little to no mandate for anything.

And if Pence gave absolutely no indication during the campaign about why, exactly, he wanted to be governor, his inaugural address gave no new clues, either.

But his life itself is a testament to Hoosier values. After leaving his position as a radio talk-show host, Pence lost two congressional campaigns before finally winning a gerrymandered district with help from out-of-state conservative PACs.

As a congressman, he was most famous for saying the damage from Hurricane Katrina was too expensive and for comparing the Supreme Court's decision on Obamacare to 9/11. It's difficult to find even a single piece of legislation, or any other specific accomplishment, from his years in Congress.

Indiana rewarded his incompetence by electing him governor, without any indication of what he'll do for the people. He has already rewarded Big Business with key appointments to top state positions. Meanwhile, Indiana farmers helped him win the election, but he hasn't yet appointed a director of agriculture.

For progressive Hoosiers, Pence offers exactly nothing. There will be no implementation of Obamacare, no movement on same-sex marriage, no change in marijuana laws, no help for unions, quite literally nothing.

But maybe a do-nothing governor is just what Indiana needs after eight years of Bush-era economic and social policy from Daniels, who now heads off to destroy Purdue University, his loss mourned only by the Statehouse press and a few national pundits.

Pence could be the most effective governor in state history by continuing to do nothing. There will be a direct correlation between the state's well-being and the amount of time Pence spends on the golf course, at the bar or out of state.

Ellspermann looks like an able and caring politician who will do an excellent job filling in for Pence when he's indisposed taking out-of-state trips or watching football on TV. She should have been nominated instead of this failed Rush Limbaugh impersonator.

Every inauguration in America is a celebration of democracy and an affirmation of the will of the voters. President Barack Obama will give a stirring inaugural address next week and set the course for our nation's future. That's where the real action will be.

As for Pence, may God grant him the strength to be just as ineffective and inept in the governor's mansion as he has proven himself to be in every other endeavor in his life. In this, I am confident he will not let us down.

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