You Probably Had a Better April Than Mike Pence

So what seemed (to me at least) like a pretty long April has ended, and if it was a bad month for you, it could be worse: you could be Indiana Gov. Mike Pence. Before he blundered into the blind alley of a “religious liberty” bill in late March, Pence was a frequently discussed dark horse presidential possibility, with the on-paper credentials of being both a governor and a former conservative leader in Congress, plus enjoying a special connection to the wonder-working money of the Koch Brothers.

But now he’s just political dead meat, as explained by HuffPost’s Amanda Terkel:

On April 2, Pence signed a revised version of Indiana’s widely denounced “religious freedom” law, closing the door on a controversy that had brought national scorn to his state and cost local economies valuable tourism dollars.

“It didn’t do our brand any good, for sure. One, it didn’t do the state brand any good. Two, it didn’t do the Indiana Republican Party brand any good. And three, it didn’t do Mike any good. And that’s pretty obvious,” said former Indiana GOP Chair Jim Kittle.

Since that time, Pence has kept his head down and largely stayed out of the spotlight. But behind the scenes in Indiana, many Republicans are still seething and looking for ways to retake control of the party’s direction. And the results of those discussions are likely to become more public in the coming days, now that the Indiana General Assembly has wrapped up its legislative session.

One Republican operative in the state, who declined to be named in order to speak openly, said the Religious Freedom Restoration Act controversy brought to the forefront “a simmering disconnect between the [former Gov.] Mitch Daniels-era people and the Mike Pence people.” Others took issue with that description, saying the real divide is broader: between Pence and, essentially, the rest of the state Republican Party.

Well, either way, and whether Pence recovers at some point in the future, he’s now become an object lesson that Republicans hostile to the Christian Right are going to bring out like a horror movie at every available opportunity: Pence not only screwed up his own political career, but actually lost ground for the cause of “religious liberty,” linking it to homophobic bigotry in a way that won’t be eradicated any time soon.

Yes, opportunists like Bobby Jindal will keep on keeping on, implicitly calling Pence a candy-ass for letting mere boycott threats and global opprobrium influence him when he should have been standing up for the Lord against the sodomites and the money-changers. But then Bobby’s got little to lose, and will probably get out of Louisiana for good about five minutes after he leaves the governorship (unless he decides to go live with the Duck Dynasty clan). The smoking ruins of Mike Pence’s ascending political career will probably matter more.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.