Community reflects on Pence’s Legacy
Megan Valley | Friday, January 20, 2017
Hundreds of thousands of people — including protesters — will descend on the Capitol on Friday to watch Donald Trump take the oath of office to become the 45th president of the United States.
For the students of Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s, the inauguration will also see former Indiana governor Mike Pence being sworn in as the vice president.
“I think that before Donald Trump announced him as his running mate, if you asked most Notre Dame students what they thought of Mike Pence, they’d say ‘Who?,’” senior College Republicans vice president Dylan Stevenson said.
Senior Andrew Galo, co-president of College Democrats, said Pence’s legacy as governor was “not one to be proud of.”
Stevenson said Pence’s legacy was “primarily economic.”
“A lot of what fiscal conservatives wanted to see, he put into practice, and a lot of it worked,” Stevenson said.
Galo, however, said Pence’s term as governor was not good for Indiana.
“It’s been one of setbacks and turning us back in the progress we’ve made,” he said. “ … He’s shown every indication of continuing to do that in the next administration.”
Senior Gracie Watkins, co-president of College Democrats, said the status of minority groups, including students who identify with those groups on campus, was threatened by Pence as governor and would continue to be threatened as he begins his term as vice president.
“I think Notre Dame is kind of a microcosm of the United States, where marginalized communities on our campus will be targeted the same way they are across the states, specifically [Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival] students and their families, come to mind,” she said.
Stevenson said another point of controversy of Pence’s term was the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), which was intended to protect religious liberties.
Galo said all RFRA did was “codify bigotry and [establish] a precedent for legal discrimination.”
“As a Catholic university, there’s something to be said for a Catholic identity, but that also means we don’t discriminate and we don’t hate others,” Galo said. “[RFRA] was a bill of hate.
“Thankfully, South Bend came out and said ‘We’re going to be a community for all,’ and if you look downtown, all the businesses say ‘We’re open to business for everybody.’ It’s hard at a school like this to kind of walk that fine line, but this bill was pretty explicit in that it was thinly veiled religious freedom covering up this idea of discrimination and hatred and this malpractice to others.”
Stevenson said that because Pence was pressured to sign an amendment negating much of the act, he wasn’t sure what kind of impact it would have on Indiana businesses and the Indiana LGBT community.
“Do I think [RFRA] will tarnish his legacy? No,” Stevenson said. “ … Those on the left would not view him favorably [because of RFRA], which is legitimate if you’re very vocal on LGBT rights — then you’re obviously not going to be OK with that sort of thing. But if you’re like me, which is where the economy and the budget come ‘uber alles,’ I think your opinion of him then is always going to be quite high.”
Galo said regardless of a person’s opinion of Pence, students have ability to express that opinion in a productive way at Notre Dame.
“Notre Dame’s a really interesting and unique place in that we have these conversations and we have a platform to do that,” Galo said. “I think it’s cool that we’re able to discuss and grapple with them. I think that’s one of our strengths and it will continue to be our strength in the next four years.
“It’s not a time to keep looking backwards, we have to look forward.”