In a move that surprised most political observers, Presumptive GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump has picked Indiana Governor Mike Pence as his running mate. In a move that stunned many Hoosiers and even some of Mike’s close friends, he said yes to the offer. This turn of events has a lot to do with political strategy, but there is an underlying cause that most big city media are missing. Trump’s choice of Pence and Pence’s decision to join a ticket he has criticized and did not support in the primary have a lot do with faith, farming, and rural values.
Governor Pence is being portrayed in the national media as an extreme conservative, a homophobic religious nutcase, and just not very smart. The New York Times called Pence out of touch with today, “He is a throwback in his demeanor. With his deep social conservatism, public religiosity, and aversion to negative campaigning, he is a throwback in his political style.” Being out of touch with the New York Times is probably a badge Mike would wear with pride. The fact is, most of the pundits and reporters that are casting judgements about Mr. Pence have never seen him standing in a field with farmers, talking with small town folks at a local restaurant, or giddy with excitement when surrounded by a group of high school students in blue and gold FFA jackets.
While Governor Pence is a career politician who seeks the glare of the national spotlight, his values and approach to politics come from his rural Hoosier roots. While not a farmer, he understands and values agriculture. Though he has come a long way from his Southern Indiana upbringing, he has not lost an understanding of small town people. It is for this ability to connect with voters outside of New York, L.A. and Chicago that Donald Trump, a billionaire from Manhattan, picked Pence as the running mate.
Often viewed by Eastern liberals as fly over states, this November the votes in the Midwest and South will hold the key to who wins the White House. The fact that former Iowa Governor and current Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack is on Hillary Clinton’s short list for VP choices shows how vital the Midwest is. So while Pence is good for Trump, is being on the Trump ticket good for Pence?
Those of us who have known Mike both personally and professionally are not too surprised by this decision to join the ticket. Mr. Pence has always had the White House in mind but was realistic enough to understand that a conservative from Indiana, who does not come from a rich family has little chance of raising the kind of money and organization it takes to win a national primary contest. By taking a shot at Vice President, he gets to a place he could otherwise not accomplish. But, there is much more than political expediency at work here.
Mike Pence personally believes in America and in the values of hard work, self-reliance, financial responsibility, family, faith, and freedom from burdensome oversight and regulations. He wants to work to restore what he sees as a deterioration in our society of many of these values. Mike is also a genuine individual. He does not act one way in front of the camera and another way off. He is very much a people person. Part of his motivation for running for Vice President is a desire to help people. While that may be hokey in New York, it is understood, valued, and appreciated in rural America.
What many of us in agriculture are excited about is that, for the first time since Harry Truman, we may have a Vice President who understands agriculture. From trade to renewable energy to the importance of transportation infrastructure, Mike Pence gets it and will not be shy about raising the issues on the campaign and perhaps in the oval office. Mike Pence is subjecting himself to the rigors of this campaign because he believes he can improve things, and that includes improving things in agriculture and rural America.
By Gary Truitt