The Right Resistance: After January 6, Pence may never see eye-to-eye with conservative voters again
Can we still be friends?
It’s a question practically everyone’s been asked at some point in their lives, the sad but inevitable culmination of a relationship that likely began with promise and passion but dramatically fizzled due to unfortunate circumstances, divergent personalities, intervening (and interfering?) friends and relatives… or, a singular unanticipated event that provided the “that’s the final straw” closing chapter.
Such appeared to be the case for former President Donald Trump and his vice president, Mike Pence, earlier this year. As if anyone needed a reminder, Trump spent the two months in between November’s election day and January’s final certification (in Congress) of the state presidential electors’ votes pleading his case that the purported “official” result had been tarnished by fraud, a fantastic yet credible claim based on mounds of affidavits and circumstantial evidence in a half dozen or so states that went for Joe Biden.
Trump told anyone who would listen -- and even those who wouldn’t -- about the testimony of disinterested witnesses who saw something and said something, which is the mantra for concerned citizens when wrongdoing is afoot. Naturally, the “Russian collusion” promoting Democrats poopooed the entire notion and liberal cable news channels enjoyed skyrocketing ratings from getting in numerous digs at the “Bad Orange Man” they loved to hate.
Calls went out among conservatives to show up at rallies and let their voices be heard in hopes of pressuring the powers-that-be to investigate the allegations before the calendar would make it impossible to do so. The courts -- including the United States Supreme Court -- offered no help, suggesting that it was a state matter to certify the results and there was no Equal Protection argument that would justify a full emergency hearing.
Trump was primed for what he must’ve viewed as his final legal hurrah on January 6th. The president implored his vice president, who would preside over the proceedings, to use his powers to stop the certification. Pence didn’t appear willing to go through with it. The riot happened. People behaved badly. One innocent woman was murdered by a Capitol Police Officer without justification. The media and Trump’s detractors squealed like starving piglets at sunrise. Even a good many of the president’s supporters said enough was enough.
And Joe Biden and Kamala Harris were inaugurated two weeks later. Disaster, in the policy sense, has ensued ever since. Now, after the dust has settled -- somewhat -- Pence shed a little light on what’s transpired between himself and Trump in the time after the melee. They’ll never quite agree, apparently.
“Former Vice President Mike Pence said Thursday night that Republicans must unite and ‘move forward’ in the wake of the divisive pro-Trump riot at the Capitol on Jan. 6 if they want to defeat President Biden‘s ‘radical’ left agenda.
“Opening up about his role presiding over the infamous Electoral College count, Mr. Pence said he performed his constitutional ‘duty.’ Then-President Trump had pressured Mr. Pence publicly to object to certifying the votes from several contested states, and continues to criticize him for failing to do so.
“Mr. Pence said he and Mr. Trump, who still claims the election was stolen from him, ‘have spoken many times since we left office. I don’t know if we’ll ever see eye-to-eye on that day,’ Mr. Pence said. ‘But I will always be proud of what we accomplished for the American people over the last four years.’”
In other words, Pence didn’t divulge any earth-shattering information, only that the differences on that particular subject are still around and there’s little chance of a collegial reconciliation between the two men. Their ongoing relationship probably doesn’t quite reach the level of a nasty divorce, but it’s clear the two won’t be hanging out socially any longer. Perhaps the future will find the former governing partners in the same room -- maybe at a wedding? -- but they wouldn’t dare sit at the same reception table.
The ending was ironic in one sense. During Trump’s turbulent campaign and four years at the helm, it was Pence who steadfastly stood by his outsider president, refusing to (at least publicly) comment or criticize the New Yorker’s controversial lightning rod personality so as to avoid providing fuel for the administration’s enemies. How many reports of “chaos in the White House” and “disgruntled staff” did the media force conservatives to endure? Any little tidbit of discord was amplified by the press to a level where squawkers and opportunists speculated that Mike was caught up in it too.
Often there were stories from “sources close to the situation” that Trump was fed up with Pence and vice versa. Some hinted that Trump was considering dumping Pence and putting someone like Nikki Haley (Yuck, no way!) on his 2020 ticket. Others surmised that Trump deliberately made Pence the head of his administration’s ultimately doomed COVID response group to ruin the man politically. Rumors persisted. Gossip publications dished about how Second Lady Karen Pence couldn’t stand her husband’s boss. It was all intended to disparage Trump.
No one asserts that Donald Trump is the easiest man on earth to get along with, but many of the salacious news blurbs couldn’t possibly have been true. Pence quietly went about his business and did what he was asked to do. Behind the scenes, he was thought to be one of the most consequential vice presidents ever, constantly steering the non-ideological president back towards the limited government, conservative path whenever he strayed from it.
Still, many, many conservatives will never forgive Pence no matter how dedicated he was to Donald Trump and his Make America Great Again agenda. It’s as though this faction within a faction judges the former vice president for his unwillingness to march to every dictate from the top man. They ultimately blame Pence for Trump’s loss, as if the longtime conservative legislator and governor from Indiana could single handedly have turned the contest around.
No one can say for sure whether a more aggressive Pence could have stalled what looked like the inevitable defeat on January 6. The Constitution provides for debate and a vote on the objections, which almost certainly would have gone in the Democrats’ direction. As Lincoln said at Gettysburg, it was altogether fitting and proper for the group of representatives and senators to object to the seating of the electors. The arguments were put on the record. The grievances would live on in an official capacity.
But would Donald Trump be president today if Pence had spoken up? Take emotion out of the equation and it certainly doesn’t appear so. The enthusiasm for Trump still burns in the hearts of his most ardent supporters, but there’s no reason to believe he’ll be going back to the White House by August. Just imagine the universe collapsing if the political result were reversed now.
A few commentators have highlighted the fact that Pence’s speech last week took place in New Hampshire, which, of course, is the first state to hold a primary in the 2024 GOP nominating cycle. The same observers noted that Pence also spoke in South Carolina not long ago, which will definitely be a crucial early voting state for anyone (including Trump, if he runs) hoping to face off against senile Joe Biden or Kamala Harris or any other Democrat nominee in the next presidential election.
Trump himself has not declared whether he plans another run. There’s no reason to think Pence would tip his own hand this early in the process either, especially with emotions continuing to run high and the investigations and audits of the 2020 vote still in progress. It’s conceivable that Pence was correct in doing what he called his “constitutional duty” on that fateful day. We’ll see.
But one can’t help but believe Pence’s political career was spent on January 6. Whereas Trump has enjoyed a virtual political rebirth in the months since, Pence has been overtaken for favor by stalwart conservatives such as Florida’s Gov. Ron DeSantis. These folks are in office and taking advantage of the chance to fight back against the Democrats’ woke onslaught.
Meanwhile, Pence is still explaining himself about January 6. The questions will never cease. Fair or not, the vice president will always be connected to that day. And time waits for no one.
January 6 riot
2022 midterm elections