The Yin and Yang and YEETing of Mike Pence
We won’t have Mike Pence to kick around anymore, declared Mike Pence on October 28th in the Year of Our Lord 2023 regarding his 2024 electoral prospects. Lord willing and the creek don’t rise, we can stop paying any attention whatsoever to the Indiana Charisma Machine.
Folks I like and respect have asked why I’m so hard on Mike Pence, the politician. In all fairness to the former vice president, you don’t find anyone who says Michael Richard Pence – the man – isn’t polite, professional, and a nice guy in person. Bully for him; I wish him and his family nothing but well in their future private endeavors.
The issue with Mike Pence isn’t the carefully coiffed conservative comments that always present as manicured as the chiseled side part in his silver-gray hair. It is that his actions have laid bare the untenable contradictions of Mike Pence’s actions and life since Trump named him as running mate on July 15th, 2016. Since that moment Mike Pence the narrative, Mike Pence the man, and Mike Pence the political animal have all diverged, rarely to overlap since, until finally running out of inertia, attention, & money this week.
The mythology of Mike Pence has really been something else.
Pence is not like Donald Trump in any way, shape, form, or fashion. In hitching his otherwise dead-ending political career to Trump, Pence became the walking embodiment of the rip in the Republican-conservative space time continuum the MAG-era rended. Donald Trump, for all his successes, failures, followers, and off-the-map chaos and corruption that accompanies everything the former president does, is a creature that is wholly consistent with the half-century of book we have on him. Good, bad, and often very ugly, Donald Trump is never anything but Donald Trump. Mike Pence, like so many others, just plays like Trump on TV because he thinks he has too.
Mike Pence and the generation of GOP politicians like him were, are, and forever will be completely exposed by Donald Trump. The Donald was the walking antithesis of everything pre-2016 Mike Pence and his catchphrase of “I’m a Christian, a conservative, and a Republican, in that order,” that was delivered with the verve and conviction of a regional sales rep explaining why Toledo dropped 1.5% for the quarter. But all of Donald Trump’s sins were fine, Pence and most of the GOP reckoned, as long as Hillary lost and Mike Pence the politician was resurrected and placed on a stepping stone to his own shot at the White House.
But the problem was that folks noticed this change. The Trump faithful never really respected, trusted, or frankly cared about Mike Pence one bit, since the exalted MAGA One would have had their votes if his running mate was an agoraphobic myotonic goat, as long as it bleeped “Trummmmmmmpp” before it keeled over.
And that was before a select, small number of them chanted for him to be hanged while the sitting Vice President of the United States hid in an office with his armed security detail.
Meanwhile, the non-Trump folks only saw someone enabling and mostly trying to get shine off of Trump. So, whatever Mike Pence pre-Trump might have been to the masses, he was forever “Mike Pence, that guy beside Trump sometimes who seems just fine with all this” afterwards. Like all other Trump subordinates, Mike wound up under the Trump bus, mocked by the Trump faithful, and always looking to the MAGA folks and Never Trumpers alike as a sycophant trying to get his from the more known, more loved, more everything Donald Trump. But it only looked that way because it was true.
The one bright, shiny moment, as ridiculous as it is to call Pence’s role in the January 6th debacle, is a narrative lie folks seem to enjoy telling themselves. Mike Pence, who rode the Trump train for as long as he could, at the absolute last possible moment and in the feeblest of ways, did the bare minimum of following the law and certifying the 2020 election. The idea that if he hadn’t it would have changed a thing is nonsense, as our friend Burt Likko detailed. The only thing Mike Pence was trying to save was the future White House aspirations of Mike Pence. Which he failed at. Folks who feel the need to heap praise on someone for doing what they are supposed to do should reconsider handing out bonus points to Mike Pence for a situation of his own making, that he enabled for his own purposes, and only spoke up to further his own political future.
Thus, the two halves of Mike Pence were always going to be non-compatible. The off-the-shelf stock model conservative trying to exist in a Trump-dominated world was incongruent with the Mike Pence transformed into Trump cheerleader and hanger-on. Not only did he fail to achieve balance and harmony in the Pence extended political universe, but the implosion thereof spun the former vice president with such force as to YEET him out of the orbit of political relevance all together.
Thus ends the political career of Mike Pence. He is still well liked in the right circles to get the think tank gigs, speaking slots, and panel appearances, and will make a nice living for himself. The narrative remaking of Pence will continue. Mike has it down in his speaking, how the good parts were the “Trump-Pence administration” and all that bad stuff was “ah, shucks, Donald is just going to Donald sometimes.”
Mike Pence biographer Tom LoBianco once explained how Mike Pence has something of a complex, seeing himself as a modern day take on the Biblical Daniel. But Mike Pence is no Daniel, certainly not a prophet in a foreign heathen land raised up to lead it. He wasn’t interpreting dreams, or advising kings, or saving his people. Nor was he like the other famous story from that particular Book of Scripture, of the defiant faithful thrown into a fiery furnace but emerging unharmed. If anything, Pence was more like one of those guards stoking the fires on command and thus getting too close to the furnace, trying to belong and be a part of a bigger thing he never fully understood, and that ended up consuming him. A footnote of irrelevance during bigger, more important events that centered around others.
Historically, mythology ends with conversion from the old beliefs to the new hotness and so it is here; Pence the viable politician was never going to survive his ambitious Trumpian conversion. Behold, Mike Pence, less accomplished than Icarus while sharing his fate, but with no weeping Daedalus to mourn his destruction.
At least Icarus got to fly.