Pence and the Whirlwind

Doing the right thing on 1/6/20 doesn't absolve him of being a key Trump enabler.

“Mike Pence” by Gage Skidmore is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Mike Pence will go down in history for doing the right thing on January 6th, 2020 (and for also being one of the targets of the mob). And, thankfully, he keeps saying the right things about his lack of power as veep to overturn the electoral votes, as per the NYT: ‘Trump Is Wrong,’ Pence Says of False Claim About Overturning Election.

Former Vice President Mike Pence on Friday offered his most forceful rebuke of Donald J. Trump, saying the former president is “wrong” that Mr. Pence had the legal authority to change the results of the 2020 election and that the Republican Party must accept the outcome and look toward the future.

Speaking to a gathering of conservatives near Orlando, Fla., the former vice president said he understands “the disappointment so many feel about the last election” but repudiated Mr. Trump’s false claims that Mr. Pence could reject the Electoral College results and alter the outcome last year.

“President Trump is wrong,” said Mr. Pence, in his remarks before the Federalist Society, a conservative legal organization. “I had no right to overturn the election.”

He was also quite correct about this:

“The truth is there’s more at stake than our party or our political fortunes,” he said. “If we lose faith in the Constitution, we won’t just lose elections — we’ll lose our country.”

In a speech that largely focused on attacking the policies and record of the Biden administration, Mr. Pence described Jan. 6 as a “dark day” in Washington. Such a description runs counter to an attempt by some on the right to rewrite history by describing the siege as a peaceful rally and by calling the rioters “political prisoners.” And he urged Mr. Trump and his party to accept the results of the last election.

“Whatever the future holds, I know we did our duty that day,” Mr. Pence said. “I believe the time has come to focus on the future.”

All correct, and I wish this was the message from the RNC. Alas, the opposite is the case.

Having said all of that, he is also going to go down in history as one of the key enablers of Donald Trump’s candidacy and his presidency. Pence’s willingness to lend some amount of establishment GOP legitimacy to the Trump ticket helped the man be elected in the first place and started us all down the pathway that resulted in January 6th. (My guess is that Pence originally thought Trump would lose, and it would set him up as a top contender for the nomination in 2024).

I suppose the justice is that while Pence will have the accolades of having done what he was supposed to do on that date, he lost the gamble that supporting Trump, a man manifestly not suited to the presidency, was his ticket to one day be his party’s nominee for the presidency.

Pence is tainted when it comes to whatever anti-Trump faction of the party he is currently appealing to (a faction that has better options, and that is too small to matter at the moment in any event) and he is persona non grata with Trump and therefore with the bulk of the GOP. He is rightfully reaping the whirlwind at the moment.

I will conclude by pointing out that the following is an attempt to have it both ways to a degree (another quote from his speech):

Under the Constitution, I had no right to change the outcome of our election. And Kamala Harris will have no right to overturn the election when we beat them in 2024.

The statement is accurate as far as it goes, but the intimation that the Democrats might seek to overturn the election is just more pandering and norm-erosion for short-term political gain.

So, to be clear, yes: Pence did the right thing and it is the thing he is most likely to be remembered for, with his participation on the Trump ticket being a close second. Moreover, he played a cynical game in lending his name to that ticket and is reaping the just rewards in terms of his now-dead political career. This is a classic case of the leopard, in fact, eating your face.

FILED UNDER: 2020 Election, 2024 Election, The Presidency, US Politics, , , , , , , ,
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter


  1. Sleeping Dog says:

    That he’s come out and and directly contradicted TFG using his name, is an admission by Pence that he will never be the R nominee for prez. Why not salvage what’s left of your reputation and be on right side of history.

    With a bit of luck, in 20 years many of the trumpees will have passed on and the rest of America will look back and wonder how we got into such a bad place. When Pence is mentioned, what people will remember is that at the end he did the right thing.

  2. MarkedMan says:

    Pence had a reputation in Indiana as being a dimwitted opportunist, and a religious hypocrite of the worst sort. His stint with Trump simply pried the truth behind that reputation.

  3. CSK says:

    It’s ironic that Pence briefly considered dropping off the ticket when the pussy tape was revealed in October 2016 only to be called, to his face, a pussy by Donald Trump in January 2021 for refusing to overturn the election.

    It began as it ended.

  4. SC_Birdflyte says:

    Alas, there are few in the GOP who will publicly admit that January 6 was a revolutionary act, and failed revolutions seldom end peacefully. I think the best hope the Dems have of avoiding an electoral catastrophe in the midterms is for TFG to keep holding rallies and making enough over-the-top claims to keep the focus on him.

  5. dazedandconfused says:

    Pence’s attack was half-assed, he could’ve gone into detail on what Trump tried to coerce him. Trump’s reply was weak, and indication Pence is reserving something Trump fears.

    It’s more likely than not whatever that is will come out someday, and Pence will be also be remembered for withholding it…to serve himself.

  6. Not the IT Dept. says:

    Fine, give him a cookie. But not one of the chewy chocolate chip ones. He can have a high-fiber dog biscuit.

  7. Kathy says:

    To paraphrase Solon, count no one redeemed until they’re dead.

    You don’t stand between a bear and her cubs, or between a politician and his power. Pence has a decade or two to undo this fragmentary act of decency.

  8. Scott F. says:

    The statement is accurate as far as it goes, but the intimation that the Democrats might seek to overturn the election is just more pandering and norm-erosion for short-term political gain.

    The statement is more than pandering. Mischaracterizing the Democrats as devious and dangerous (well beyond ideological differences on policy) is essential cover for established conservative legal organizations like the Federalist Society to justify their continued support of a GOP sold out to Trumpism. If the Democrats aren’t demonic, then why get in bed with the devil?

  9. Argon says:

    Mike Pence will go down in history for doing the right thing on January 6th, 2020

    One day out of the 22,890 days he’s lived on this planet…