Mike Pence Is a Hero. Maybe.
He’s not the hero we need. Or the hero we deserve. But his presidential campaign was redemptive and his story isn’t finished.
Tonight at 8 p.m. E.D.T.: Thursday Night Bulwark will feature a watch party of our recent show in New Orleans. Details here!
1. Wonder Bread
When Pence first declared a lot of people didn’t understand why he was running. I mean, Republican voters tried to hang him. They built an actual gallows! As I said, many times, Pence probably would have polled higher as a Democrat running against Joe Biden than he did as a Republican running against Donald Trump.
And at the very least, he would have been able to attend Biden rallies without fearing for his life.
But it’s clear now that Pence’s campaign was an act of contrition. He saw what he did by aiding Donald Trump’s ascent and realized that it was terrible. So he ran for president.
Pence’s journey started on January 6th, when he was the lone guy tasked with preserving American democracy. He didn’t ask for the job and clearly didn’t want it. But he did it anyway, at great personal cost.
After that Pence became the Trump administration’s sin eater—working on the transition and graciously welcoming the Biden and Harris families at the inauguration.
When Pence jumped into the 2024 race he was clear-eyed that Donald Trump represented a danger to America.
Here is what Pence said at his launch:
[A]nyone that puts themselves over the Constitution should never be president of the United States. And anyone who asked someone else to put them over the Constitution should never be president of the United States again.
It doesn’t get more unequivocal.
Over the course of the campaign, Pence was also clear-eyed about Trump’s indictments:
“The American people deserve to know that President Trump and his advisers didn’t just ask me to pause. They asked me to reject votes, return votes, essentially to overturn the election,” Pence told Fox News Wednesday. Had he listened to Trump and “his gaggle of crackpot lawyers,” Pence said, “literally chaos would have ensued.”
A few weeks ago he gave a big speech about the dangers of populism:
“Republican voters face a choice. It will determine both the fate of our party, and the course of our nation,” Pence said at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics at St. Anselm College, according to prepared remarks.
“Today, I ask my fellow Republicans this: In the days to come, will we be the party of conservatism or will our party follow the siren song of populism unmoored to conservative principles?” he added, suggesting the divide between the two is “unbridgeable.”
So this is why Mike Pence ran his doomed campaign for president:
To demonstrate that he realized his mistake in helping Trump.
To sound the alarm about how dangerous Trump is.
To reset the political norms Trump destroyed.
And to make one final appeal to Republican voters who have embraced populist demagoguery.
Add to this list that Pence got out early enough so that he won’t be a distraction in the eventuality that some other Republican is able to make a serious run at Trump.
Thank you, Mr. Vice President.
But there’s one last thing America needs from you.