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OPINION

Downward, Christian soldier

Vice President Mike Pence remains a willing apostle to the most corrupt president in American history.

Vice President Mike Pence speaks at the Southern Baptist megachurch First Baptist Dallas in Dallas on June 28.
Vice President Mike Pence speaks at the Southern Baptist megachurch First Baptist Dallas in Dallas on June 28.Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press

Nearly four years ago, Mike Pence, then Indiana’s wildly unpopular governor, accepted the Republican nomination for vice president. “I am a Christian, a conservative, and a Republican — in that order,” he said with hammy aplomb to a cheering convention crowd.

He is again expected to accept the opportunity, next month, to be one Big Mac away from the presidency, yet Pence should amend his signature line. He is, first and foremost, President Trump’s toady. Everything else is a distant second.

Pence is an accomplice in the most corrupt presidency in American history. Its baleful legacy will cling to him like a shroud — appropriate for a coconspirator in an administration whose ineptitude, malice, and egotism remain the perfect vectors for the coronavirus pandemic, which has claimed more than 125,000 American lives in four months.

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With cases again surging in dozens of states and hospitalizations on the rise, Pence is now advocating mask usage to slow the spread of the coronavirus, which causes COVID-19. Yet he also spent months following his boss’s lead, downplaying the necessity of masks simply by refusing to wear one. Neither is Pence getting ahead of Trump by suggesting the need for a federal mandate on face coverings, though House Speaker Nancy Pelosi recently called such a guideline “long overdue.”

Though Pence has recently worn a mask, he still echoes Trump’s dangerous nonsense, such as promoting the illogical lie that more coronavirus testing leads to more cases. (You know, like how more pregnancy tests lead to more pregnancies.)

That Pence still heads the White House coronavirus task force speaks volumes about this administration’s incompetent response to the pandemic. Of course, that’s why some political analysts believe Trump picked Pence to lead the task force — he wanted a fall guy.

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During an American Israel Public Affairs Committee conference panel last March, Paul Begala, a longtime Democratic strategist, said, “This is not a prediction, it’s a certainty. On Thursday, July 16 — that’s the day the Democrat gives his or her acceptance address — on that day, to interrupt that narrative, Donald Trump will call a press conference at Mar-a-Lago. He’s gonna dump Mike Pence and put [former US ambassador to the United Nations] Nikki Haley on the ticket to try and get those suburban moms.

“You watch — guaranteed!” Begala said. “Trump put Pence in charge of coronavirus to throw him under the bus.”

Due to the pandemic, the Democratic National Convention has been pushed to August. Still, don’t put it beyond Trump to pull such a dramatic move so late in the election season, especially if his support among suburban white women continues to erode. With four months before the election, Trump has already proved this: In his pursuit of a second term in the White House, he is capable of anything.

Perhaps Pence has his suspicions, and that’s why he’s been especially obsequious — and visible — in recent weeks. He’s defended the rights of Trump supporters to assemble at rallies, even as many ignore social distancing rules and refuse to wear masks. Yet he has nothing to say about the rights of Black Lives Matter protesters.

Instead, Pence lies that the movement “supports calls” for violence, and vilifies them as “radical” for demanding an end to the white supremacy rotting this nation’s soul.

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So, like Trump, Pence won’t say “Black lives matter.” When he pivots to “all lives matter,” he never means Black lives — and certainly not LGBTQ lives. Nor has he ever condemned Trump’s unvarnished racism or transphobia. His silence is complicity.

As Trump devolves into the most unhinged and primordial version of himself, Pence continues to stand with a racist, an accused sexual predator, and a likely traitor to his country. Pence is the father of a Marine, yet serves a president believed to have known that a Russian military intelligence unit paid bounties to Taliban militants to kill American and coalition troops in Afghanistan.

Pence’s loyalty to Trump isn’t admirable. It’s disgusting, and reveals exactly why even the Indiana GOP wanted Trump to choose Pence as a running mate in 2016 — to get him out of state office. He is every hypocritical white evangelical who perverts religion to bludgeon dissent, demonize those who aren’t straight and white, and defile Christianity’s tenet to “Love thy neighbor as thyself.”

With any luck (and massive turnout, despite various voter suppression tactics), Pence will be sent back to Indiana, where history will remember him as an apostle to an immoral president, a willing enabler in democracy’s unraveling, and a one-term vice president — in that order.


Renée Graham can be reached at renee.graham@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @reneeygraham.