We’ve become so conditioned to crookedness that the basic competence that Vice President Mike Pence evinced the morning of January 6, might have seemed heroic, at first blush. Pence’s avowal to certify the election, which he pledged in a letter to Congress released just hours before the Capitol riot, however, amounted to a man promising to do his job—not the de facto role he took on as Donald Trump’s breathless enabler (as historian Joel K. Goldstein has put it, the “Sycophant-in-Chief”), mind you, but his job job. Pence had effectively announced himself as just another Republican who realized that when Trump’s rule reached its logical conclusion—a facts-averse coup attempt—it had finally gone one step too far.
Remember that days before, Pence had “welcomed” challenges to the election intended by a group of 11 Republican senators. His flipping might have been another example of what Indiana House of Representatives member Ed Clere referred to as Pence’s “pattern of political expediency” in Jane Mayer’s 2017 New Yorker article on the VP’s political history and ambitions. “He was stridently against it until it became politically expedient to support it,” said Clere, regarding a needle-exchange program enacted in 2015 intended to help curb the spread of HIV in southern Indiana. It tracks to this day.
Pence’s mercurial nature made him both an emblem of and the linchpin for Trump’s reign. His presence on Trump’s ticket bridged the party’s chaotic and incoherent politics, courtesy of the president’s caustic bumbling, to its conservative orthodoxy. (Pence’s political history included attempts to defund Planned Parenthood and as governor of Indiana, he signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act flanked by homophobes.) It also brought the billionaire Koch Brothers on board.
Pence helped make it all make sense, and as someone who “wanted to be President practically since he popped out of the womb,” according to the Mayer piece, the only thing that could rival his devotion to Donald Trump was his fealty to his own advancement. As George F. Will wrote in an excoriating 2018 Washington Post op-ed after Pence had praised the lawless and orderless Joe Arpaio, former sheriff of Maricopa County, Arizona: “Trump is what he is, a floundering, inarticulate jumble of gnawing insecurities and not-at-all compensating vanities, which is pathetic. Pence is what he has chosen to be, which is horrifying.”
Pence will be remembered as a boob who was dive-bombed by a fly during the 2020 Vice Presidential debate, a weirdo who refers to his wife as “Mother,” a schmuck who let more than 385,000 Americans die under his watch as the head of the Trump administration’s coronavirus response (a resounding echo of his mismanaging of HIV as governor of Indiana). He is an opportunist who hitched his wagon to a train on fire, and then continually fanned its flames while praising them for their beautiful orange color and remarkable heat. He’s a bigot, a coward, a fake moralist who is vocally pro-life and implicitly pro-death. That thing about your enemy’s enemies being your friends? Completely overturned by the terrorists stormed the Capitol and called for Pence’s hanging. None of them are your friends.
Pence’s sentence should be a lifetime of volunteer work at a Planned Parenthood. The only thing he would be allowed to look at on his phone during his breaks is the GaysOverCovid Instagram account. It is so ordered.