The Not-So-Tragic Fall Of Mike Pence
Donald Trump reportedly hasn't spoken to Mike Pence since Trump incited a mob last Wednesday that stormed the Capitol and reportedly threatened to hang Pence. Normally, we'd encourage a lengthy cooling-off period before trying to resume a dialogue, but they are the sitting president and vice president for the next nine days.
But Trump is feeling extra pouty after his failed coup. There was talk that Pence might invoke the 25th Amendment before Trump re-enacts the climax of Scarface, but Pence's team is reportedly concerned this would only accelerate Trump's psychopathic meltdown. Everything is (not) fine.
Even before the MAGA siege on Congress, Pence had probably dreaded January 6, 2021, the day he'd have to preside over Congress's confirmation of the ass-whooping Joe Biden delivered unto Trump. Pence had no constitutional ability to alter the outcome. Only an unreasoning moron would think a lame duck vice president could reject out of hand, with no legal basis, the results of a free and fair election he'd personally lost. But Trump believed he could (because he's a moron) and pressured the vice president for weeks to publicly wipe his ass with democracy.
Pence had even less of a realistic way of helping Trump remain in office against the country's will than other officials and politicians Trump has been bullying. We're not sure what would've happened if Pence called “nuh-uh" on the Electoral College results. We suppose people might've laughed before realizing he was serious and replacing him with the Senate president pro tempore.
Wednesday morning, Pence met with Trump and broke the news that after consultation with his legal team, constitutional scholars, the Senate parliamentarian, and (we're guessing) a reasonably bright six-year-old child, he wasn't going to help him coup. President Sore Loser reportedly "blew a gasket." Trump had asked Pence to kill Superman and he couldn't even do that one simple thing.
A furious Trump tweeted that Pence lacked the “courage" to coup, then he showed up at his hate rally and ragged on his vice president.
"Mike Pence, I hope you're gonna stand up for the good of our Constitution and for the good of our country, and if you're not I'm gonna be very disappointed in you, I will tell you right now," Trump said at the rally.
"I'm not hearing good stories."
At this point, Trump already knew that Pence couldn't and wouldn't overturn the election, but he lied to the crowd and despicably stirred up a violent mob.
"Mike Pence is going to have to come through for us," Trump told a crowd at the White House rally where he also told his supporters to march to the Capitol. "And if it doesn't, that will be a sad day for our country."
Trump supporters couldn't find their couch in their own living room. They had no reason to ascribe any import to January 6 until Trump told them. They probably weren't even aware of the (mostly ceremonial) role Pence played in the electoral vote confirmation until Trump insisted he was their last hope. Thugs in viking helmets aren't known for their command of basic civics.
But because of Trump's specific words and deeds, a mob broke into the Capitol. The crowd even chanted, “Hang Mike Pence!"
Reuters photographer Jim Bourg reported:
I heard at least three different rioters at the Capitol say that they hoped to find Vice President Mike Pence and execute him by hanging him from a Capitol Hill tree as a traitor. It was a common line being repeated. Many more were just talking about how the VP should be executed.
Pence didn't really make a bold, moral stance. He didn't look the devil in the eye and say no when it was remotely possible to say yes. He just told Trump that two plus two equals four, but reality had become heresy in the Trump White House. Last Monday, at an event in Georgia before the runoff elections that delivered Democrats the Senate, Pence did his smarmy best, hoping to keep the wolves at the door with platitudes.
"We all got our doubts about the last election, and I want to assure you, I share the concerns of millions of Americans about voting irregularities," Pence said at an event in Milner, Ga., a day before the runoff elections. "And I promise you come this Wednesday, we'll have our day in Congress, we'll hear the objections, we'll hear the evidence, but tomorrow is Georgia's day."
See? Pence shared the same “concerns" as Trump's dummies. He thought he could skate through this mess with "We'll have our day in Congress," a generally true statement that promised nothing. The Sedition Caucus would object (without legal basis) to Biden's electoral victories. They would hear "evidence" and then everyone would go home, feeling Biden was an illegitimate president. Pence just signed up for some old-school, bad-faith demagoguery (Birtherism 2.0) but it blew up in his face. Now five people are dead.
Pence spent the past four years performing a case study in shameless bootlicking, but in the end it wasn't enough. Donald Trump has turned on his most obsequious toady. The cowardly bigot will spend the rest of his life as MAGA enemy number one. There's plenty of irony to find here but very little cause for pity.
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Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He writes make believe for Cafe Nordo, an immersive theatre space in Seattle. Once, he wrote a novel called “Mahogany Slade,” which you should read or at least buy. He's also on the board of the Portland Playhouse theatre. His son describes him as a “play typer guy."