On January 6th, 2021, Vice President Mike Pence was presiding over a joint session of Congress to certify the electoral college results from the 2020 presidential election. As is customary, the vice president’s role was largely ceremonial, and their duty is to announce the winner of the election. However, instead of simply reading the results aloud and moving on, Pence found himself in the center of a political firestorm.
At the behest of President Donald Trump, Pence was urged to reject certain states’ electoral votes, citing baseless claims of voter fraud and irregularities. Though Pence lacked the authority to do so, Trump and his supporters had placed immense pressure on the vice president to disobey the electoral college results and subvert the democratic process.
After some hours of debating, violence broke out in the Capitol Hill building, where the joint session was held. The National Guard was called upon to subdue the rioters, resulting in several injured people and five deaths.
The events of that day shook the nation to its core and revealed deep divisions in government, society, and culture. Some praised Pence for standing up to Trump’s demands and upholding the Constitution, while others condemned him for not going far enough in challenging the election’s legitimacy.
One central question that remains from the events of that day is whether Pence can support Trump again in the future. As one of his most loyal supporters and highest-ranking officials, Pence has been seen as a key player in Trump’s political career and the conservative movement more generally.
However, Pence’s non-committal response to this question suggests that even he is unsure how to move forward after the events of January 6th.
The Role of the Vice President
Before delving into why Pence may be hesitant to support Trump again, it is worth clarifying the role of the vice president within the American political system.
The vice president is selected by the presidential candidate and serves as their running mate in the national election. The vice president’s primary role is to serve as a backup to the president, should they need to step down or be impeached or removed from office.
Additionally, the vice president serves as the president of the Senate, presiding over votes and breaking ties in case of a deadlock. Finally, the vice president is often a trusted advisor to the president, weighing in on political and policy decisions and representing the president’s positions to the public and other officials.
However, the vice president’s influence and power are largely tied to the president’s agenda and priorities. In cases where the president and vice president disagree on crucial matters, the vice president may find themselves at odds with the administration’s leadership and with their own political party.
This has been the case for Pence, who has often been seen as a “yes man” to Trump’s policies and rhetoric. Throughout the Trump administration, Pence has been a reliable ally, advocating for conservative policies, and vocally supporting Trump’s rhetoric.
However, the events of January 6th, 2021, have caused a rift between Pence and Trump, and the issue of whether Pence can support Trump again has become a topic of speculation and debate.
Reasons for Pence’s Non-Committal Response
Speculation over Pence’s reluctance to voice support for Trump again focuses on several different factors. The first is the role that Pence played in the events of January 6th. During the joint session of Congress, Pence upheld his constitutional duty to certify the electoral college results, which showed Joe Biden winning the presidency.
Despite Trump’s insistence that Pence reject the results, Pence maintained his commitment to the democratic process, arguing that he lacked the authority to overturn the election’s outcome.
For some conservatives, Pence’s move was seen as a betrayal of the Trump administration and the Republican Party. This sentiment was echoed by Trump himself, who publicly criticized Pence on social media, claiming that the vice president lacked “courage” and was “afraid” to do what was necessary to “stop the steal.”
But for others, Pence’s move represented a courageous stand against Trump’s attempts to undermine the election’s results and subvert democratic norms. By following the Constitution, Pence upheld his oath of office and protected the integrity of the electoral process, even at the cost of alienating Trump’s base.
However, this act of independence has also made Pence something of a political outlier within the Republican Party. With Trump still wielding considerable influence over conservative politicians and voters, it may be difficult for Pence to reconcile his defense of democratic norms with Trump’s calls for unconditional loyalty.
Another factor contributing to Pence’s hesitation to support Trump again is the fallout from the January 6th riots. The storming of the Capitol building by Trump supporters resulted in five deaths, numerous injuries, and widespread damage to government property.
The incident has led to widespread condemnation of Trump’s rhetoric and leadership, with many blaming him for inciting the violence and inflaming tensions among his supporters.
For Pence, this puts him in an uncomfortable position. As one of Trump’s most trusted advisors and political confidantes, Pence’s association with Trump may damage his own reputation and political career.
Moreover, Trump’s impeachment trial for incitement of insurrection places Pence at the center of a political battle that shows no sign of abating soon. If Pence were to throw his support behind Trump, it would suggest that he shares some of the blame for the events of January 6th and could further harm his political prospects.
On the other hand, if Pence were to publicly condemn Trump’s actions and distance himself from the former president, he risks losing support from the conservative base, which remains staunchly loyal to Trump’s brand of politics.
Finally, it is worth noting that Pence’s non-committal response to whether he can support Trump again may be a strategic move on his part. As NPR reports, Pence is a skilled political strategist who may be waiting to see how the political landscape unfolds before committing to any particular course of action.
In the aftermath of the January 6th riots and Trump’s impeachment, the Republican Party remains divided over whether to distance themselves from Trump or continue to support him. By taking a wait-and-see approach, Pence may be positioning himself to better navigate this fraught terrain, waiting for the dust to settle before making any decisive moves.
The question of whether Pence can support Trump again may seem innocuous on the surface, but it speaks to deeper divisions within American politics and society. The events of January 6th, 2021, have shaken the nation’s faith in its democratic institutions and revealed deep fissures between different segments of the population.
For Pence, his role in this saga has been complex and fraught with tension. As Trump’s most trusted aide and ally, he rode the turbulent waves of the administration, loyally supporting Trump’s policies and rhetoric.
But when it came down to the wire, Pence chose to uphold his constitutional duty and certify the election’s results, even if it meant going against Trump’s wishes. This act of independence has left Pence in an awkward position, forcing him to navigate the murky terrain of Republican politics and Trump’s legacy.
As Pence remains non-committal on whether he can support Trump again, the political world waits with bated breath, wondering what course he will take and what it means for the future of American democracy.