clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Mike Pence and Donald Trump disagree on a heck of a lot of issues

Donald Trump Begins Post-Convention Campaign Swing in Roanoke, VA Photo by Sara D. Davis/Getty Images

From their very first joint interview, it was clear Donald Trump and his running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence — a deeply conservative and now establishment figure in American politics — were going to have some awkward moments on the campaign trail.

In past months, Pence has played the loyal running mate, keeping out of the way and attempting to explain Trump’s bombast to more skeptical onlookers.

And on Tuesday at the first and only vice presidential debate, Pence is tasked with defending the Trump doctrine in what the New York Times is calling a “proxy war” debate against Hillary Clinton’s running mate, Tim Kaine.

But it will be a difficult task for Pence, who, in addition to the inherent challenges of making the case for Trump to the establishment, also has a long record of disagreeing with the nominee on a lot of his talking points. Pence expanded Medicaid under Obamacare, has been a strong supporter of free trade, is staunchly socially conservative, and has said that Trump’s ban on Muslims is unconstitutional and offensive.

They see eye to eye on some issues, like education, for which both push for school choice and gun rights. And Pence is all in for the Mexico-US border wall.

Here’s how Pence and Trump agree, and don’t, on some core issues.

On trade, Pence and Trump disagree — but Pence is keeping quiet

Staunch anti-trade policies have been core to Trump’s economic worldview: He says he is going to throw out the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and has even proposed slapping a 35 percent tariff on imported products from American companies that have outsourced their jobs and taxing China's exports if the country continues to devalue its currency.

Free trade kills American jobs, according to Trump.

Pence, however, has a long history of being for free trade, and he has a voting record to show for it. As a Congress member, Pence “voted for every free-trade agreement that came before him,” the Washington Post reported:

Pence backed trade agreements with Colombia, South Korea, Panama, Peru, Oman, Chile and Singapore during his House tenure from 2001 through 2012. He voted for the Central American Free Trade Agreement, or CAFTA.

He voted to keep the United States in the World Trade Organization and to maintain permanent normal trade relations with China, the country Trump repeatedly criticizes for unfair trade practices and threatens with tariffs to boost U.S. job creation.

Pence was in favor of the TPP as well, tweeting his support in 2014...

...and again in 2015, when he sent a letter to Indiana’s congressional delegation urging them to support the trade deal.

Since joining the Trump ticket, Pence has kept relatively quiet on trade, while occasionally questioning unfair trade practices in China and hitting Clinton on having a “globalist” trade policy.

Pence and Trump both oppose same-sex marriage but have different approaches to LGBTQ issues

In 2015, Indiana was at the center of LGBTQ rights protests, after Pence signed a religious freedom bill into law that could allow businesses to discriminate against people for their sexual or gender identity.

As my colleague German Lopez put it, “This controversy remains one of the biggest political crises of Pence’s career, leading to nationwide backlash”:

To sum up: Pence signed a religious freedom law that was advertised by supporters as allowing discrimination against LGBTQ people, even if it actually didn’t. He then had a chance to repent for what seemed like anti-LGBTQ legislation by finally pushing a law to legally protect LGBTQ people from discrimination — but he didn’t, suggesting it was not part of his agenda.

But that was only one piece of Pence’s record of being anti-LGBTQ rights, according to the New York Times:

Pence opposed federal funding that would support treatment for people suffering from H.I.V. and AIDS, unless the government simultaneously invested in programs to discourage people from engaging in same-sex relationships. He also resisted changes to hate-crime laws that would have included acts against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. And he opposed the end of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” a Clinton administration policy that allowed closeted L.G.B.T. people to serve in the military.

Trump, who has said he opposes same-sex marriage and thinks it is up to the states to decide, brought discrimination against LGBTQ communities into his speech accepting the Republican nomination — but only in the context of the threat of “foreign ideology.”

“As your president, I will do everything in my power to protect our LGBTQ citizens from the violence and oppression of a hateful foreign ideology,” Trump said at the Republican National Convention, adding: “I must say, as a Republican, it is so nice to hear you cheering for what I just said. Thank you.”

Trump has also made a play for defending LGBTQ rights, particularly when it comes to his anti-Muslim policies.

On immigration, Pence and Trump are pro-wall, but they diverge at the Muslim ban

Immigration has become a pillar of the Trump doctrine on two fronts: banning Muslim refugees from coming into the United States, for fear that they may be secret ISIS jihadists, and building a wall on the southern border to keep out the “drug dealers,” “murderers,” and “rapists” being sent over from Mexico.

Pence agrees wholeheartedly with one of these proposals: the border wall, which he has passionately supported as a Trump surrogate on the campaign trail.

"Building the wall, establishing border security, has to be job one," Pence told Fox News in July, a sentiment he has since reiterated, riling up Trump supporters with how big the Trump administration plans to make the wall and the campaign’s claim that Mexico will pay for it.

On the Muslim immigration ban, however, Pence has been more careful. Though he staunchly opposed the US accepting Syrian refugees, he was far more skeptical of Trump’s broader ban. When Trump first proposed the ban, Pence tweeted that the idea was “offensive and unconstitutional.”

Since then, Pence has attempted to soften his claim — as has Trump, who has since said he would like to ban immigration from targeted regions instead of banning Muslims outright.

"I don't think things came out quite right or how I would have done it, but I want folks to know that I strongly agree with Donald Trump's call that we've got to do something different," Pence told Fox News.

The biggest difference between Pence and Trump is in their approach to politics

Consider a moment after the Republican and Democratic conventions:

After months of Trump calling his rivals "Crooked Hillary Clinton," "low-energy Jeb Bush," "Lyin’ Ted Cruz," and "Little Marco Rubio," Pence said it was "unfortunate" that President Barack Obama called Trump a demagogue in his Democratic National Convention speech, during an appearance on Hugh Hewitt’s radio show.

"I don’t think name-calling has any place in public life, and I thought that was unfortunate that the president of the United States would use a term like that, let alone laced into a sentence like that," Pence said.

And while this could easily be just a moment of political hypocrisy — which aren’t rare — it was also an insight into a fundamental difference between Pence and Trump’s political philosophies.

After running an incredibly nasty, and unsuccessful, congressional campaign in 1990, Pence wrote an op-ed in the Indiana Policy Review called "The Confessions of a Negative Campaigner," in which he condemned negativity in political campaigns.

This contradiction came up during Trump and Pence’s first joint interview on 60 Minutes, during which Pence defended the name-calling by arguing that Trump’s name-calling touches on the issues Americans care about.

"In the essay that I wrote a long time ago, I said campaigns ought to be about something more important than just one candidate's election," Pence said. "And this campaign and Donald Trump's candidacy has been about the issues the American people care about."

Pence’s essay, however, touches on a more fundamental ideological difference between the two running mates: Pence said winning, as a goal in a political campaign, "comes very much last."

There’s no shroud of mystery over Trump’s stance on "winning."

"We will have so much winning if I get elected that you may get bored with the winning" is a direct quote from Trump at a campaign rally at the beginning of his presidential bid. And that sentiment has carried him through.

Sign up for the newsletter Today, Explained

Understand the world with a daily explainer plus the most compelling stories of the day.