Mike Pence dedicated a good five years of his life to smiling serenely as former President Trump raved incoherently at a nearby podium. He’d then, at a later time but with the same serene smile, explain why Trump’s incoherent ravings were actually good, and strong, and patriotic. It was a heavy load to bear, but Pence did it.
It wasn’t enough, though. As soon as Pence indicated he wouldn’t illegally upend the government in order to overturn the results of last November’s election, Trump’s supporters stormed the Capitol and threatened to hang Pence, who was in the building to preside over the certification of the election results. They even built a gallows outside.
Pence is willing to let bygones be bygones.
The former vice president made his enduring fidelity to Trump clear Thursday night during a speech in New Hampshire. Yes, he and his former boss have had their differences — like when Trump bashed Pence on Twitter as a violent mob of his supporters laid siege to the U.S. Capitol — but that doesn’t mean Pence doesn’t still think Trump is a swell guy.
“I learned a lot serving alongside President Donald Trump,” Pence said. “Some people think we’re a little bit different … But I think what President Trump showed us was what Republicans can accomplish when our leaders stand firm on conservative principles and don’t back down … It was four years of consequence, four years of results. It was four years of promises made and promises kept.”
As for that time Trump inspired his supporters to chant about stringing Pence up on a gallows they built outside the Capitol while the vice president hid inside, Pence conceded that despite speaking “many times” since the insurrection, he and the president might never “see eye-to-eye” about the event in which a throng of the president’s supporters lustily called for Pence to be executed.
Pence’s unflappable obsequiousness to the man who clearly couldn’t care less about him is likely born of the same perversion that has led people like Ted Cruz, Lindsey Graham, Mitch McConnell, and the countless other Republican lawmakers Trump has trashed to stick by the party’s spiritual leader. They’re too far down the road to turn back now, and they feel his support is crucial to their own political success. If Pence has any designs on landing the Republican nomination in 2024, he’s going to have to win back the voters he hitched himself to Trump to court in the first place.
But as was the case with former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who tried to win back his Senate seat by appealing to Trump voters after he’d already been excommunicated from the MAGA brotherhood, Pence’s goose might be cooked. As Trump reportedly told his vice president on the morning of the insurrection, “You can either go down in history as a patriot, or go down in history as a pussy.”
Despite all of his years of service to Trump, it’s going to take more than a few lines at a GOP event in New Hampshire to convince the MAGA faithful he isn’t the latter