Pence Eyes 2024 Presidency: An Unsettling Mix of LGBTQ+ Antagonism and Christian Nationalism

Riding a wave of Christian nationalism and an unsettling disregard for LGBTQ+ rights, former Vice President Mike Pence dropped a bombshell on Wednesday: he’s gunning for the presidency in 2024.

Pence’s campaign announcement was heavily infused with religious rhetoric and symbolism, painting a picture of the kind of America he envisions. In one breath, Pence seemed to subtly jab at his former running mate, Donald Trump, implying that the GOP needs a leader who “will appeal … to the better angels of our nature.”

Pence’s campaign launch was swathed in his devout Christian faith. “Today, before God and my family, I’m announcing I’m running for president of the United States,” he declared. Visual religious symbolism was also rife in his ad, even showing him speaking from a church altar.

But his faith didn’t just play the role of inspirational backdrop. Pence used it as a tool to court far-right voters, slinging accusations at President Biden and the so-called “radical left” for their supposed attacks on “timeless American values.” To underscore his point, his campaign video employed a series of dog whistles, juxtaposing news snippets on transgender athletes and drag shows with Pence’s assertion that “We’re better than this.”

In the historical context of U.S. politics, Pence’s announcement is significant. Only for the third time in U.S. history, and the first time in 83 years, a former vice president is seeking the presidency against his former boss. But his ideological alignment with Trump only goes so far. Pence has held Trump responsible for the violent events of January 6, 2021, at the U.S. Capitol, while he and other lawmakers were certifying the 2020 presidential election results.

The future looks concerning, especially for the LGBTQ+ community, if Pence’s past is anything to go by. In the ’90s, Pence argued against civil rights protections for LGBTQ+ people, absurdly stating that being gay was a “learned” behavior, which would negate their need for political recognition.

During his tenure as Indiana’s governor, Pence sanctioned a law that gave businesses a free pass to discriminate against LGBTQ+ people. His voting record in Congress is also telling: he resisted extending hate crime prevention laws to the LGBTQ+ community, erroneously claiming that there was no evidence of LGBTQ+ individuals being targeted due to prejudice and bigotry.

Beyond LGBTQ+ rights, Pence’s conservative beliefs have proven harmful to public health. His delayed response to an HIV outbreak in southern Indiana, where he stalled before allowing needle exchange programs, resulted in the needless spread of the virus.

Pence’s presidential bid faces steep challenges, given Trump’s enduring popularity among the GOP base. Current polling data from FiveThirtyEight shows Pence at a measly 5.4 percent among GOP voters, with Trump maintaining a staggering 53.7 percent support base.

In the end, Pence’s campaign launch is a grim reminder that the fight for rights and equality is far from over. As progressive-minded citizens, we need to be vigilant against this toxic mix of Christian nationalism and intolerance towards the LGBTQ+ community. We owe it to ourselves, and future generations, to make sure that love and acceptance remain the guiding principles of our nation.