It’s a Little Late for Mike Pence to Pose as a Brave Dissenter to Donald Trump

Mike Pence built his political career on theocratic extremism, Dickensian economics, and sycophancy toward Donald Trump. It's a little late for him to be posing now as a defender of democracy and a counter to Trump's authoritarianism.

US President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence at the White House in April. (Drew Angerer / Getty Images)

When Mike Pence announced Wednesday morning that he did not have the power to stop the transfer of presidential power from loser to victor, many outside the QAnon community rightly breathed a sigh of relief. The vice president had reached his limit; like most Americans, he’d had it with Donald Trump’s nonsense. By afternoon, Trump’s rage over Pence’s refusal to aid his anti-democratic plot led him to incite his fans to storm the Capitol, which they did. The day ended with Pence cowering in a secret location and phoning the Pentagon.

News outlets are reporting that Pence is “angry” at Trump. Good grief. Now he’s angry, just because his own narcissism has been injured by Trump’s taunts? These two have deserved each other along.

Yesterday, Newt Gingrich called the eerily blank-eyed Ken Doll of a VP a “profile in courage.” Is he kidding?

Actually, Wednesday was a fitting coda to Mike Pence’s disgraceful career: hiding from armed fascists and feigning shock at the authoritarian antics of the clown he’s been faithfully serving for four years like a well-trained dog. No doubt he (reasonably) fears for his life, with the wrath of Trump’s militias and random crazies upon him. He deserves whatever distress he’s suffering right now and more. Mike Pence has spent his life enabling the rise of the far right and these remarkably unappealing chickens have now come home to roost, as Malcolm X would have noted. Or, to put it in language that the evangelical Pence might find more relatable: a man reaps what he sows.

After all, Pence has been a dedicated enemy of democracy for even longer than Trump. Before he became Donald J. Trump’s loyal silent butler, Mike Pence was a supporter of the Tea Party movement and a fully owned subsidiary of the Koch brothers. As Jane Mayer of the New Yorker has reported, the billionaire Koch family, highly organized in waging a conservative class war from above — specifically through policy, has been funding foot soldier Pence since he was in Congress. He did their bidding there, organizing other lawmakers to sign onto their “No Climate Tax” pledge. Even Steve Bannon reportedly expressed worry about Pence being so close in the presidential succession: “I’d be concerned he’d be a president the Kochs would own.”

This is surely true, and yet another reason to cheer the passing of the Trump/Pence administration. As governor of Indiana, a job he held from 2013 to 2017, Pence presided over the largest tax cut in Indiana’s history, and the austerity that followed. While in Congress, he passionately opposed raising the minimum wage and even opposed rescuing the auto industry.

Mike Pence is one of those American conservatives who sees no contradiction between extreme “economic freedom” and social repression. Their brand of Christianity is harsh; they like the free market because it is punitive. Some might read the Bible and see Jesus as a peaceful, gentle, and forgiving hippy, but people like Pence dislike that version of Jesus. They want our lives to be an unending Book of Job, a hell on earth: no sex without procreation and no moment’s rest from the struggle to make ends meet.

Women’s rights are a cornerstone of civilization. Without gender equality, there is no real democracy, and every private home is a potential dictatorship. As governor of Indiana, Pence did his best to realize this dystopian vision, among other things by signing bills restricting abortion. He even attracted criticism from moderate Republicans by approving a religious freedom law that enables a wide range of bigoted corporate behavior. The law was rightly seen as giving carte blanche to companies to discriminate against LGBT workers, and objections from the business world (and, especially, from the National Collegiate Athletic Association) forced Pence to sign another bill strengthening protections for LGBT rights.

Pence may have tried to look like the adult in the room Wednesday, but the debacle was entirely his own fault. He may find these rioting chuds distasteful, but he’s not much better than they are and has been helping out their cause for years. Even if he does end up using the 25th Amendment to prevent Trump from serving the remaining days of his term, it will be too little, too late, and won’t make him any less complicit in Trump’s latest assault on democracy.