Vice President Mike Pence apparently believes that God has big things in store for him, including the presidency. Impeachment would certainly be one way to clear the way for him, but Pence has tied himself so closely to Donald Trump that Trump’s political demise might well mean Pence’s own.
It’s been a subject of wonder for a while that conservative evangelicals haven’t abandoned Trump, knowing that one of their own is waiting in the wings. After all, the thrice-married, cursing Trump is nobody’s idea of a Christian, especially as the religious right would define it. Yet, it seems that evangelicals prefer the bully that is Trump over the milquetoast that is Pence precisely because Trump is more successful as a bully.
Now with impeachment proceedings move along at a clip, Pence has no choice but to double down on his submission to Trump, for two reasons.
The first is that Pence is neck deep in the Ukraine scandal himself. Mr. Morality didn’t seem to have any problem with violating the law by going along with Trump’s request to dig up dirt on the Democrats. He has studiously avoided answering questions about what he knew, which strongly suggests that he was indeed in on the game.
When the scandal first broke, Pence’s supporters floated stories that he was ignorant of what was happening. If saying you’re dumb is the best defense you can come up with, you’ve got a problem on your hands.
The second reason is that, even under seige, Trump holds all the cards. He has purposefully floated the idea of dumping Pence from the ticket, part of the patented Trump strategy of reminding his underlings who’s boss. If throwing Pence under the bus will somehow help Trump, he won’t think twice about doing it. With some religious leaders – Pence’s main base – already turning on Trump, will he really lose much more support if he doesn’t bring Pence back for another term?
Additionally, Pence remains a rampant, everlasting homophobe, which we know makes him fit in perfectly in the Administration, but the White House likes to pretend they’re pro-LGBTQ (despite doing everything to prevent protections for LGBTQ people here and around the world).
So what’s left for Pence? Cling ever more tightly to the man who’s gotten him a heartbeat away from the office he lusts after. After all, Pence was always playing a long game by signing on with Trump. He probably expected Trump to lose – who didn’t? – so that Pence would be in good shape for the 2020 president race. Now it’s just been postponed for four years.
The downside to this approach is that no matter what happens to Trump, Pence is irredeemably tainted by association – and that’s setting aside Pence’s own likely complicity in the Ukraine scandal. Republicans may never abandon Trump, but they may look for a successor who can channel him without any of his baggage. As Trump’s bellhop for the past three years, that’s not Pence.