For nearly four years, Mike Pence has done exactly what every vice president is expected to do. He has been a dutiful servant to the president and an emphatic cheerleader for the administration’s policies. Of course, when that president is the worst in modern American history, such loyalty has congealed into a toxic sycophancy that brooks no limits.
Like his boss, Pence has been immune to this nation’s suffering. He has shown no deference to the rule of law. He has steadfastly propped up the lies of the most mendacious man to ever occupy the White House — including President Trump’s bilious nonsense about the integrity of an election he lost.
As president of the Senate, Pence will preside Wednesday over a joint session of Congress as it certifies the Electoral College’s votes. They were already tallied weeks ago by electors in each state, and President-elect Joe Biden won 306 votes to Trump’s 232. What happens should be no more than a constitutional dotting of i’s and crossing of t’s. Normally, it would merit little attention.
Except nothing about this election, which Trump has attacked both before and after a record number of votes were cast, has been normal. No one, including Pence, can overturn the election’s result. Yet he can continue to batter the electoral process and the legitimacy of the incoming administration.
This was the most secure election in this nation’s history. Pence knows this, just as he knows that he and Trump were soundly trounced by Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris. To perpetuate the caustic farce that the election was stolen is a treasonous subversion of democracy.
In yet another presidential tweet flagged by Twitter for spreading disinformation, Trump criticized the Justice Department and FBI for ignoring his hollow claims of election fraud. He added: “History will remember. Never give up. See everyone in D.C. on January 6th.”
Trump continues to encourage his supporters to do who knows what on that day. He also expects Pence to invalidate the election by tossing out votes already certified for Biden. At least one Republican, Missouri Senator Josh Hawley, has said he will object to the certification. This means craven senators will have to state out loud whether they support Trump’s effort to disenfranchise voters, especially Black and brown Americans.
Good. Make those indulging in this ugly stunt reveal themselves in the light.
That anyone has to wonder where Pence will land speaks to his demonstrated loyalties. Through his sheen of malevolent piety, he has served only Trump. Yet behind that devotion lies great ambition. A terrible Indiana governor chosen to be an obsequious VP wants to be president. I’ve said it before — whenever Pence enters a room, he looks like he’s humming “Hail to the Chief” to himself. A poster boy for failing up, he does not want to alienate the 74 million-plus people who voted for Trump. If he runs in 2024, he knows he’ll need them.
History must not be kind to anyone connected to this administration, especially Pence. He has defended Trump’s worst offenses — from family separations, which led to hundreds of still-missing children, to the catastrophic COVID-19 pandemic response, which helped fuel nearly 350,000 American deaths. He still leads the White House Coronavirus Task Force and got vaccinated on national TV, but he has been mum on the botched vaccine rollout, which is lagging well behind the stated goal of getting shots in 20 million arms by the end of 2020. (So far, about 2 million people have received a first dose of either the Pfizer or the Moderna vaccine.)
Then again, with the most crucial moment of his political life looming, Pence may be preoccupied. When he officiates the certification process, will he state the obvious and declare Biden the winner? Or will he stand with a man willing to destroy America if he can’t remain in power?
Speaking at a recent young conservatives’ event in Florida, Pence sounded like he’s sticking with Trump. “As our election contest continues, I’ll make you a promise. We’re going to keep fighting until every illegal vote is thrown out,” he said. “We’re going to win Georgia, we’re going to save America, and we’ll never stop fighting to make America great again. You watch.”
The “election contest” is over. There’s no evidence of widespread voter fraud. Biden won Georgia. And America will need decades to recover from the false greatness that was one long corrosive grift of the nation’s soul.
But yes, we will watch — and remember — whether Pence sides with reality or gives in to the last temptation from an impeached, one-term president trying to crucify democracy.