Speculation as to Mike Pence’s political future has begun, now that his role in the White House is ending. However, the vice president’s prospects may not be a cause of great concern to President Donald Trump’s ardent supporters. The establishment-linked GOP warhorse was always just a vehicle for Trump’s populist nationalist orbit, a device to accomplish particular strategic purposes of the moment.
And the instrument was used well. Pence was the ideal wingman, the consummate steady figure riding shotgun, adding a sense of stability to a ticket headed by the volatile political outsider Trump. But Pence never did have a grand MAGA future. He never needed one to ably fulfill his role.
MAGA’s Good Man
Trump and Pence reportedly met on Jan. 11 and patched up their differences following the VP’s move to officially certify Joe Biden’s election victory against the wishes of the president. This development likely will ramp up pondering about Pence’s place in the America First firmament.
No matter how friendly or frosty Pence’s relationship with Trump and his loyal backers may be in the years to come, the fact is Pence’s job is done. Far from being an authentic populist nationalist, the Indiana native was meant to represent a safe avenue of approach to the Swampy Republicans in Washington that the Trump administration was always going to have to work with to some degree during its time in power.
Those who now wish to bash Pence may wonder just how much internal influence he had on that administration’s attempt to pump real change into the calcified arteries of the political status quo. If he did have any such sway, that is, on Trump.
It was strange, then, to see this perfect-casting supporting actor thrust into the limelight in recent weeks. The jarring events from the Nov. 3 election through the unrest at the Capitol on Jan. 6 propelled Pence into a position of prominence that particularly ill-suits him.
On one side, you had Trump backers imploring him: Refuse to certify! Save the country! On the other, Uniparty and progressive forces clasped hands and sang under his window: Invoke the 25th Amendment! Destroy the Trump Monster!
Both factions indulged in fantasies of a Pence wholly out of character with who he is and his capabilities. Trump supporters expected a foot soldier to be Sir Lancelot while opponents hoped to repurpose a specifically calibrated functioning part to fit into their machinery. Neither camp would be satisfied with what they got.
Mike Pence is not the kind of man who steps up and changes history. A Mike Pence is always going to stake out a middle course. To paraphrase Clint Eastwood’s Harry Callahan: “You’re a good man, Mr. Vice President. A good man always knows his limitations.” This back-handed compliment sums up Pence to a T.
Trump supporters may be disappointed that Pence “missed the moment” by not doing everything he possibly could and then some to challenge the results of the election. But to be angry with him is to blur his proper standing in Trump World. It is to forget that the same limited nature that made Pence’s Jan. 6 actions inevitable is the exact reason he proved a valuable complement to Trump’s fiery persona for four-plus years.
No Longer Needed
Never a man who wanted to profoundly change the political system, Pence, from the beginning, had little hope of one day claiming the leadership of a growing America First movement that is not willing to go away on Jan. 20.
At worst, Pence shuffles back into the stale Uniparty card deck. But if he does so, he will always be significantly reduced in that petty and vindictive circle due to his unforgivable dalliance with the hated Trump.
Is it too much to hope that the outgoing VP chooses the sensible course of quietly fading into a comfortable political retirement? He is only 61. But Pence finds himself a man caught between two worlds. The bridge he was meant to personify has been dynamited. The divide between the Washington factions has now fully unmasked itself as too vast to be Scotch-taped back together.
This does not mean Vice President Mike Pence was a failure. He served his president well in carrying out the strictly defined duties expected of him. No more, no less. In the end, that is not a bad legacy at all.
Read more from Joe Schaeffer.