Let’s say that during both World Wars, respective Vice Presidents Thomas Marshall and Henry Wallace told their bosses that they were too afraid to fight? Or, during the forming of our republic, that Vice President John Adams told George Washington he was too scared to move forward? How about if during the Civil War, Vice President Hannibal Hamlin pleaded with Abe Lincoln to give up the attempt at solidarity, and fly the confederate flag rather than the stars and stripes?
Essentially that’s what Vice President Mike Pence has been doing in the face of a déjà vu of confederate flags rippling in the U.S. Capitol — scared, hiding, complicit, and giving up. While the "rebel" flag flew in the face of democracy last week, and the entire Congress and their staffs hid, Pence cowardly and metaphorically stayed in his bunker. He was too afraid to confront the racist-in-chief and his mob that led to at least five deaths at the Capitol. These deranged individuals have been haranguing members of Congress in airports and the vice president through emails and phone calls, threatening all of them with their lives and more attempts at insurrection. And in turn, they have all, chiefly among them Pence, showed they are too afraid to stand up for democracy.
Bafflingly, Pence has been called a hero by some during this past week for doing what he’s supposed to do constitutionally as the vice president of the United States. Namely, when the president abdicated his responsibility last week to authorize additional law enforcement to combat the anarchists inside the U.S. Capitol, we’ve been led to believe that Pence boldly stepped in. How is that heroic? How is that brave? Pence was doing his job, which is the first time during the last four years that he has done anything remotely consequential.
Years from now as historians weigh the disastrous Trump presidency, Pence will be all but forgotten. Trivia players will be stumped when asked, “Who was the VP to the only president impeached twice?” Perhaps, Pence will be most remembered for leading the inept Coronavirus Task Force. We can all be certain that when scholars look back at the pandemic, they’ll cast heavy blame about the U.S. government's woefully ineffectual response that was spearheaded by the incompetent and clueless Pence. To be sure, no one will give him a ringing endorsement of a job well done.
We were all supposed to stand up and applaud when Pence docily stated that he wasn’t going to thwart the vote of the people? That he somehow stood up to Trump and said that he would not overturn the presidential election while he acted in his capacity as president of the United States Senate? It’s all comical because Pence could not do anything in the first place to change the tally of the electoral college. The votes had all been counted by each state (sometimes three times), certified by each state, and the role of the House and the Senate was to simply reaffirm the “most secure election in our history.”
Pence’s small part in the process was largely ceremonial. He had no power to affect the outcome, despite Trump’s wishes to the contrary and his pressure campaign on Pence to play dirty. Pence was marginalized since all he had to do was read the final count and declare the winners of the race. In this case he simply spoke from a card handed to him that said Joe Biden and Kamala Harris received 306 electoral college votes and are therefore the next president and vice president of the United States. How complicated is that? How heroic is that? How different is Pence’s action from the 47 previous vice presidents who had to do the same thing?
CNN recently aired a documentary called President in Waiting, about the role of the modern day vice president. All former and living presidents and vice presidents participated, including the 95-year-old tandem of President Jimmy Carter and his Vice President Walter Mondale. One of Franklin Roosevelt’s vice presidents, John Nance Garner, famously said the vice presidency was "not worth a bucket of warm piss." Carter and Mondale sought to change that perception, and they did. Dan Quaye, Al Gore, Dick Cheney, and Joe Biden all talked about how their roles were truly a partnership with their respective commanders-in-chief.
If we are to assume that Trump and Pence had a similar partnership, then we must conclude that Pence was instrumental in the Trump administration’s collusion with Russia, the illegal pressure campaign on Ukraine, the gassing and violent pushback on peaceful protestors outside the White House in the aftermath of the George Floyd murder, and, most fatally, with his silence regarding Trump’s lethal and deadly lies about the rigged U.S. presidential election.
And those lies that Pence was 100 percent complicit in nearly killed him too. When the rioters heard that Pence was going to affirm the election, because that is the only thing he could constitutionally do, the insurrectionists put a noose on the Capitol grounds and chanted “Hang Mike Pence.” Now knowing everything you know about measly Mike, perhaps the only reason he called in extra troops was not so much to protect the Capitol, or members of Congress, but to save his own ass.
Because Pence was so tied to his mob boss superior, did anyone, in their wildest dreams, think that he would find the courage to take the lead on invoking the 25th amendment to remove a deranged president? It was mind-boggling that there was even a discussion about the mere possibility that he would rise to the occasion.
Pundits breathlessly reported that Pence had not talked to Trump in days. Almost a week. As if the weakly Pence was showing a backbone by defiantly not communicating with the anarchist in chief. Pence was said to be “angry” at Trump. Was he trying to prove a point, or was he trying to avoid Trump’s withering wrath that had kept “little Mikey” silent during the last four years? Was he too afraid of confrontation? Too frightened that he might have actually done something as vice president? Or was he petrified of Trump’s ghoulish tribe who still harbor doubts about the vice’s veracity?
And here we are, at the point where Pence has left us and the country with the only mechanism to punish Trump for his inexcusable behavior and prevent him from ever having anything to do with elected office again — impeachment. While the whole world is running away from Trump — banks, brands, golfers, football coaches, Charles Koch, etc. — 190 gutless members of Congress, following the lead of the submissive Pence, refused to condemn Trump and voted against his impeachment.
Yes, Trump will leave office next week, which means Pence will passively and obediently try to stay in the picture, and strive to remain on Trump’s good side, because Pence wants to be president. For a moment, let’s imagine what that would look like, and what would be accomplished … still thinking… still trying to imagine. Thinking really hard about this.
The problem is that you can’t imagine someone as spineless as Pence in the driver’s seat, he’s more suited for the passenger seat… no, wait, he’s less a co-pilot than a passenger, so let’s relegate him to the back seat. Pence has not shown an ounce of leadership in the last four years, let alone during his entire career, including his dismal stint as the governor of Indiana. He’s pathetically incapable of being the boss, having a voice, standing up to tyrants, speaking out against wrong, blindly following anyone who dares raise their voice at him.
Let’s remember, that Pence began his career as nothing more than a passive radio broadcaster, who stayed hidden and faceless behind a microphone, and stayed that way during the calamity that was the Trump presidency.
There’s an eye-opening documentary on Showtime about the Reagan presidency, and beyond the fact that Reagan’s campaign was jarringly about “Making America Great Again,” there is so much ghastly revisionist history unearthed in that documentary series that you’re left with your jaw scraping the floor. How did we all miss what really happened during Reagan's reign?
While I always admired George H.W. Bush, I became downtrodden watching the documentary, glaringly noticing how Bush stayed silent during Reagan’s destructive presidency. He kept quiet about Reagan’s overt racism (even Reagan’s son admitted his father could have been a racist), the glorified “Gipper’s” assault on the middle class, “Dutch’s” denial of the AIDS epidemic, the “Great Communicator” providing legitimacy to the dangerous religious right, and the “Teflon President’s” ability to avoid blame for all the damage he had done. Cute nicknames shielding a sinister agenda of an obtuse president, who was quietly aided, and abetted by his cohort in crime. Sound familiar?
Well, here we are again, my fellow Americans, only this time, an ignorant racist president toppled Reagan and Bush’s “shining city on the hill,” while his vice president stood idly and gutlessly by. Our democracy has never been dimmer in the nearly 250-year history of this country, and that darkness lies at the feet of Pence.
These past four years have been surreal, unreal, and unimaginable, and we can cast conclusive blame at Pence for letting this beacon of a sparkling city slide so far down from that hill. He will go down in history for what he truly is and was. A homohpobe. A transphobe. A deserter. A sycophant. A co-conspirator. An enemy of the constitution. An abject failure. And the biggest coward in U.S. history. A vice president not worthy of his title, or a warm bucket of piss.
John Casey is editor at large for The Advocate.