Who would deny that these last four years have been the most trying in Mike Pence’s entire life? Indeed, it could be argued that he met the challenges of his job more successfully than any of his vice-presidential predecessors.
But why did Donald Trump’s advisors agree to his choice of an obscure governor facing uncertain reelection prospects in a state that Trump would easily carry that November? How could Pence possibly help the ticket?
Mike Pence’s Qualities
Pence had two very essential qualities. First, he would superbly perform the nearly impossible task of certifying Trump as kosher to the vast Fundamentalist White Christian voting bloc that had very grave doubts about his moral compass -- or more precisely, the lack thereof.
And second, Pence was the perfect humorless and quintessentially boring straight man, who would never dream of trying to upstage the profoundly insecure former reality TV star.
Pence had to have been deeply conflicted about selling Trump to his fundamentalist brethren. But he managed to thread the political needle by arguing that although Trump had been a life-long sinner, he was ready to perform the saintly work of saving the lives of the unborn and of appointing hundreds of extremely conservative judges. Sisters and brothers: this despicably evil man is God’s own messenger who will now perform veritable political miracles!
But just before the election, when the Access Hollywood tapes were discovered, Pence and his wife, Karen, were deeply disturbed by this revelation. Should Mike strongly condemn Trump’s behavior and resign from the Republican presidential ticket?
An Unresolvable Dilemma
Pence was confronted with a seemingly unresolvable dilemma. While admittingly, if elected, he and Trump could do so much good. But how could he possibly aid and abet the election of such an irredeemable sinner?
And here, on one hand was Mike Pence, a husband so pure that he would never dine alone with a woman who was not his wife. And there, on the other, was a presidential running mate who gleefully boasted of groping women against their will just because he could.
Presumably, the Pences determined that heaven would look favorably upon the election of an evil man who would do God’s work on Earth. And Pence would be there at his side, to help him carry out his holy mission. Did Pence sell his soul to the devil, and could he back out of the deal even if he wanted to?
Pence's Second Essential Trait
Now, let’s talk about Mike Pence’s second essential trait to be Donald Trump’s Vice President – the apparent lack of any sign of an ego. Whether or not Pence may have disagreed with Trump on any political issue, he never spoke out about it.
When Trump made a speech – or perhaps just some off -the-cuff remarks -- Pence would stand behind the president, usually in a small group of other listeners, his eyes fixed on some point in the middle distance, his face almost completely expressionless. Clearly, the man had left the building, leaving behind an empty suit to applaud along with the other empty suits.
When new thesauruses are printed, look up the term, “yes man,” and you’ll get to read all about Mike Pence, who took the term to the highest level. But as things turned out, there was an exception that proved the rule.
On January 6th, when the vice president was slated to announce the vote of the Electoral College, Trump ordered him to refuse to certify the presidential votes. Pence begged and pleaded with the president, trying to explain his Constitutional duty to just announce the states’ certified results. But Mr. Trump made this Pence’s ultimate test of loyalty.
For four years, Pence did Trump’s bidding, no matter how distasteful. And now, all that good work had become undone. Trump was unforgiving of what he deemed this one act of personal disloyalty.
Pence surely would have given anything to avoid being placed in this completely untenable situation. But now, for once, he was forced to say “no” to his boss. Although he did not know it at that time, this would be, potentially, a life-or-death decision.
The January 6th Insurrection
For Trump, on the other hand, he had no compunctions about sacrificing Pence if that enhanced his virtually nonexistent chance of hanging on to the presidency. And once the full truth was out within days of the January 6th insurrection, Pence would fully grasp the implications of Trump’s decision to leave his life to the tender mercies of the masses of Donald Trump’s dead-enders.
A lot will happen between now and when the first presidential candidates form their exploratory campaign committees about two years from now. Will Mike Pence be among them?
If Trump decides not to run – or is legally prevented from running – it is almost certain that Mike Pence will throw his hat into the ring. And until Trump endorses someone else, probably not until early 2024, Pence will be running as Trump’s true successor.
This would not be an unreasonable claim. Aside from that one unfortunate difference over the electoral vote certification, every time Trump ordered Pence to jump, his only question was, “How high?”
Mike Pence has endured these last four years of personal abuse for just one reason: It may place him in an excellent position to run in 2024 as Donald Trump’s true heir. And the only person who might be standing in his way, of course, would be Donald Trump himself.
Will the burden of all this personal degradation be for nothing? Was Mike Pence just a willing political masochist, happy to endure four years of sadistic torture from the sociopathic president?
Think of these four years of humiliation and subservience as an investment in the vice president’s political future. Trump’s tens of millions of followers will surely recognize Pence as their leader’s true heir.
Pence bit his lip and suffered in silence for the last four years. This has been his political strong suit. He has a huge personal investment in getting a legitimate shot at the presidency. It is too tempting a reward to walk away from at this stage of his political life. It is indeed the last temptation of Mike Pence.