Mike Pence has emerged as the unsung hero from the last few days’ chaos. Not only did he overcome one of the most complicated moments in the history of the U.S. Senate, but his actions over the past few weeks set a benchmark for the Republican Party as it confronts Trump’s legacy and finds a new consensus for the future.
Let’s start at the beginning: for the last four years, Pence has been relegated from the media spotlight. He doesn’t have Trump’s controversial and confrontational style. He is not a leader of inflammatory speeches or exciting proclamations. However, when it came down to it, Pence (so far) has risen to the occasion.
Pence resisted the fanatics (on both sides)
During the campaign and after the election, he supported efforts to prosecute election irregularities and equally clearly defended the legacy of the Trump administration. However, when it became absolutely clear that the judicial efforts had been unsuccessful and that the election was lost, he had the courage not to throw himself and the rest of Trumpism into a whimsy void.
He bravely resisted the pressure from President Trump himself and his followers as January 6th approached. When the time came, even before the tragic and absurd riots of that day, Pence remained firm, strictly fulfilling his role in the terms established by the Constitution, without throwing himself into reversing the will of the Electoral College (which would have been lethal for the republic). The cries of traitor were heard throughout the social networks and probably in the halls of the White House as well, but he did not give in.
Nor did he give in when the pressure to commit a political caprice at the expense of the good of the republic came to him from the other side. The Democrats, immersed in an increasingly intolerant and radicalized discourse, wanted the vice president to invoke the 25th amendment to stage a coup against the still President Trump. Pence refused to be part of that idea, which would have been a betrayal, not only of Trump, but of the United States of America.
The letter he sent to Nancy Pelosi (House Speaker and leader of the attempted coup) explaining the reasons for his refusal to participate in the attempt is excellent. Pence explains that just as he did not give in to pressure to exercise power beyond his constitutional authority over the election results, he will not lend himself to “playing political games at such a serious time for the life of our nation.”
The Vice President continues by pointing out that the nature of the 25th Amendment is not to be “a mechanism of punishment or usurpation,” and reminds Pelosi of what she stated a few months ago: that the President’s ability to exercise his office should not be judged “based on behavior or comments we don’t like, but on a medical decision.” Therefore, denaturing the amendment as a mechanism for revenge against Trump “would set a terrible precedent.”
Pence ends the letter by noting that “now is the time to heal.” So he calls on Congress to “lower the temperature” and avoid actions that divide and inflame even more the passions already unleashed in full view of everyone. For his part, he pledges to continue working in good faith with the incoming administration to ensure an orderly transition.
Beyond its intentions and effects as the Vice President’s response to the House Speaker’s request, Pence’s letter and behavior should become a guide for the GOP. He is the way, or at least he is the one who has most clearly demonstrated the best way forward after the Trump Administration.
The path between the abysses
The GOP cannot hold on to radical delusions within the alliance that supports Trump. To fall into the maelstrom of Qanon or the clowns who bloodied the Capitol on January 6th would be not only politically suicidal, but deeply immoral. However, neither can they go to the other extreme and join the Democrats’ witch-hunt, denying their recent endorsement of Trump.
Yes, it is true that Trump was originally despised by the Republican establishment, and that the latter may be burning with a desire to regain the status quo and take revenge on the outsider, but even in strictly political terms, “betraying” Trump would not represent for the GOP any support from Democrat voters and would lose the respect and support of a large percentage of the Republican base, which is going to be sorely needed now that they are facing a Democratic Party with absolute control of the federal government and a worrying tendency toward intolerance.
What to do then?
- Follow Pence’s example: recognize and support what Trump did well and the valid arguments within his alliance, but without accompanying him into delusions. Acknowledge and defend the legacy built over the past four years that has had enormous achievements. Recognize and respect ordinary Republican voters, defending them from the witch-hunt that wokes seek.
- At the same time, project leaderships that authentically assimilate the learnings and strengths of Trumpism, without repeating the mistakes. By the way, with something fundamental, that in the way it is very clear the respect to the institutions of the republic, beginning by the own Constitution.
That sum of authenticity, courage, respect, and learning is the path, a narrow one, bordered on both sides by deep precipices: fanaticism and that of surrender. It won’t be easy, but it can be done, as Mike Pence is demonstrating.