No one has taken obsequiousness to Donald Trump to greater heights than Mike Pence. In his very first encounter with Trump playing golf, Pence boasted that Trump “beat me like a drum.” Ever since, Pence has happily paid sub to Trump’s dom, no doubt believing that it was the safest strategy for dealing with the mercurial president.
But loyalty is a one-way street with Trump. Now there are whispers that the president may throw his chief sycophant overboard for no other reason than because he can.
Several outlets have reported that Trump is considering removing Pence from the ticket. Yahoo News reports that Ivanka Trump and husband Jared Kushner, the poster children for unearned entitlement, are pushing to have Pence dropped in favor of a woman in hopes of shoring up Trump’s support with that crucial voting bloc.
It’s hardly a secret that former U.N.Ambassador and South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley has been positioning herself for a future national run. As one of the few people to emerge from the Trump administration relatively unscathed, she would not only bring gender balance to the ticket but also ethnic diversity (her parents immigrated from India). The rumors have grown so loud that last month, Haley felt the need to deny them.
“Enough of the false rumors,” Haley tweeted. “Vice President Pence has been a dear friend of mine for years. He has been a loyal and trustworthy VP to the President. He has my complete support.”
Of course, the tweet only fueled the rumors by putting them in the mainstream media. That may have been the intention.
For all of Pence’s sycophancy, he’s not that close to Trump. The president has made openly mocked Pence’s conspicuous piety, once telling visitors that Pence “wants to hang” all LGBTQ people. Pence has made a point of keeping to a narrow portfolio that doesn’t include many of Trump’s pet issues, like restricting immigration or unleashing a trade war.
Moreover, Trump no doubt knows that when the Access Hollywood tape leaked, with his boasts of sexual assault, Pence offered to replace Trump at the top of the ticket. That’s a slight at Trump will never forget — or forgive.
In this light, Pence’s decision to stay at Trump’s resort during his visit to Ireland is not just a sign of the administration’s usual corruption. It’s a sign of Pence’s desparation to stay in his boss’s good graces by relying on the way Trump best understands — with money.
Just last month, Trump denied planning to replace Pence. “We won, we won together,” Trump said. “We have tremendous evangelical support. We have tremendous support from every angle. You can’t break up a team like that.”
Needless to say, any assurance from Trump is worthless, since he changes his mind all the time. Trump does raise one important point, though. Pence was critical to Trump winning over evangelical voters in 2016. They were skeptical of a thrice-married, casino-owning New Yorker, but Pence reassured them that Trump was their man.
And Trump has turned out to be conservative evangelicals’ idea of a savior. Evangelicals are now Trump’s core base. They are in love with him and will never desert him. Under those circumstances, Trump may not even need Pence any more.
Trump may just be trying to humiliate Pence in a typical show of dominance. Only Trump knows for sure — and his actions are more cunning than rational. Maybe Pence will stay on the ticket. Maybe not. There’s still plenty of time for Trump to change his mind. And change it again, and again, and again.