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Mike Pence: The Forest Gump of U.S. Politics

Mike Pence. Image Credit: Creative Commons.

Mike Pence is Running…To Nowhere in 2024 – Riding into Iowa on the back of a Harley, rocking his blue vice-presidential jacket and a massive bubble helmet, former Vice President Mike Pence must’ve felt like he was the belle of the ball. 

His short-cropped, white hair reflected the sunlight like his perfectly bleached teeth. He was grinning, clearly excited about the prospects of a bold new adventure in political life that, let’s face it, has been in zombie mode since at least 2018. 

I hope Mr. Pence enjoys his ride out west because, given where the country is politically and how most Republicans feel about Mike Pence, it’s going to be his final ride in the political limelight. 

After all, he’s not going to a ball, he’s going to a melee. And the former vice-president has brought a cool ride when he should’ve brought a battle axe. 

Mike Pence’s Political Career Just Won’t Die

Let’s face it, Mike Pence’s political career should’ve ended in 2015. It would have done so, too, had it not been for the reprieve it was given by gonzo Manhattan real estate mogul-turned-reality television star, Donald J. Trump. 

Pence, a hardcore social conservative, shared nothing in common with the lecherous and mercurial billionaire—other than a nominal disdain for the Left (and, specifically, Hillary Clinton). 

Pence’s time as governor of Indiana was coming to a close, mired in the controversy of his passage of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), which gay rights’ groups claimed was discriminatory. It looked as though the sleepy governor from a sleepy, Midwestern state, was going to go quietly into that good political night.

Alas, he was given a second chance. 

Having long fancied himself as presidential material (and never being able to live up to that expectation on his own), the Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX)-supporting Pence found himself to be Trump’s desired running-mate. No other candidate besides the one-man wrecking crew could have looked upon Mike Pence as anything other than a polite, regional politician whose days in the national political spotlight were over. 

But Trump was a man whose vision was unlike anything that the political system had seen. Whereas many saw Pence as the walking dead politician, Trump saw a malleable figure who could be crafted into a useful political tool.

Mike Pence, meanwhile, had convinced himself that he was chosen by God to guide the country through what he believed would be a chaotic and dangerous presidency. He’d be the stabilizing force to Trump’s unstable nature. 

For his part, Trump needed someone whose connections to the conservative Christian community—which was divided on the matter of Trump, given his personality and history of sexual dalliances. Donald Trump also needed a running-mate who was pliable.

Pence fit that bill perfectly. Or so Donald Trump thought. 

Mike Pence Suffers an Identity Crisis

Although he played the quiet sidekick well, Pence had a Dick Cheney view of his role in the Trump Administration. He was more akin to Dan Quayle

It’s true that Pence had infinitely more years of experience in government than had Trump. That could have been a benefit to the Trump Administration. The only problem was that Pence was not the man Trump thought him to be. 

Pence had spent a career in politics and before being elected he had a popular conservative radio show back in Indiana. He had his own set of beliefs and would govern according to those beliefs, even if he was the quiet, dutiful sidekick to Trump’s raging, orange political inferno.

While former President Trump waged war on the “Deep State”, Pence very often surrounded himself with advisers who were inimical to the Trump “Make America Great Again” (MAGA) agenda. 

More importantly, Pence himself was the reason for why the Trump Administration was hamstrung by vicious, partisan investigations at the very start of Trump’s tenure: Pence publicly claimed that the Trump White House National Security Adviser, Mike Flynn, lied to him about communications that Flynn had with his Russian counterpart during the transition period from Barack Obama’s presidency to Trump’s. 

Because of Pence’s bizarre comments in public, Trump felt compelled to protect his second-in-command and accept the resignation of his national security adviser. While controversial, Flynn was the only man who could have protected Trump from the partisan witch hunt that the Obama era intelligence community chiefs were planning to wage against Trump’s presidency.

Those around Pence were the traditional neoconservative types Trump had spent the entirety of the contentious 2016 Republican Presidential Primary railing against. 

Mike Pence was, after all, a product of the GOP’s Culture Wars of the 1990s and a creature of that era’s dominance foreign and economic policies on the Right. 

Thus, Pence was a committed free trader and deeply ensconced in fusing his religious convictions with a messianic need to “liberate” the oppressed peoples of far away, dusty, and ancient lands. 

Trump cared not an ounce about any of these beliefs. 

In fact, Trump was very often diametrically opposed. So many of the Mike Pence staffers did grave damage to Trump’s presidency. 

Staffers, like Olivia Troye, who had served as Homeland Security adviser to the former vice-president had been a consistent critic of the Trump Administration—so much so that she ended up becoming a massive leaker of damaging information on the Trump Administration’s policies (notably its COVID-19 policies). 

Jennifer Williams was another Pence vice-presidential adviser who was a major contributor to the overhyped hoopla about former President Donald J. Trump’s supposedly illicit 2019 phone call with his Ukrainian counterpart, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, in which Trump was accused of demanding the Ukrainian government prosecute Hunter Biden for corruption from Hunter Biden’s days serving as a natural gas consultant and board member for the Ukrainian energy company, Burisma. 

Seemingly at every turn of the Trump Administration, whenever there was a massive leak that undercut the forty-fifth president, there was a Pence staffer somewhere involved. 

It is not known if Mike Pence himself was privy to these dealings. 

But it was fairly known that Pence dreamt of becoming president after Trump—and it’s conceivable that a politician with wider ambitions and a serious discomfort with his erratic boss would engage in some underhanded maneuvers to harm that president. 

At every major controversy in the Trump Administration, Pence would invariably be trotted out by the forty-fifth president to try to smooth things over. 

Pence garnered a reputation as being the peacemaker in the chaotic Trump Administration. His staff appeared to relish that role, using it as part of their whisper campaign to generate interest behind-the-scenes for a possible Mike Pence presidential bid. 

Yet, they all seemed to have forgotten the fact that Mike Pence was deeply unpopular. 

Sure, he was the peacemaker in Trump’s various conflicts. But that didn’t mean that either Republican voters or the average voter much cared for Pence—or would vote for him if he were running for president.

Mike Pence Could Not Smooth Donald Trump’s Edges

At the same time, Mike Pence is a gentleman. It was clear that he did what he could to smooth Donald Trump’s rough edges. 

Sadly, the smoothing campaign didn’t work. 

This was what President Trump had wanted in Pence, though. A kinder, more religious, calmer man as his number two who could deflect some of the criticism from the media and Trump’s endlessly increasing list of political enemies. 

That’s why Trump’s decision to place the crux of his absurd crusade to overturn the 2020 Presidential Election on the shoulders of such a boring, by-the-book man, like Pence, was laughable. 

First, Pence did not agree with Trump’s claims that he had won the 2020 election. Second, Pence did not have the intellectual depth to make such an argument believably. Third, Pence was not surrounded by a single adviser who believed the forty-fifth president’s claims. Fourth, Vice-President Pence lacked the stomach to engage in such a bare-knuckled fight.

Trump wanted a Roy Cohn-type wheeler-and-dealer who’d manipulate the process to Trump’s advantage using guile, subterfuge, and plain old influence-peddling. 

That wasn’t Mike Pence at all. 

By the time the Trump Administration was over, it was clear that Mike Pence wanted to be free of Trump and work toward his own political future. 

Mike Pence Will Never Be President

Mike Pence was the Forest Gump of American politics. He constantly found himself in the right place and time to get ahead. But his personality and politics were very much out of line with where the country was when he had found himself in such high offices. 

A well-meaning, polite, moral man who is stiff and detached in public is not the kind of man an American electorate today will ever trust, let alone elect. 

Whether he realizes it or not, Mike Pence’s days in politics are over. Forever.

A 19FortyFive Senior Editor, Brandon J. Weichert is a former Congressional staffer and geopolitical analyst who is a contributor at The Washington Times, as well as at American Greatness and the Asia Times. He is the author of Winning Space: How America Remains a Superpower (Republic Book Publishers), Biohacked: China’s Race to Control Life (Encounter Books), and The Shadow War: Iran’s Quest for Supremacy (July 23). Weichert can be followed via Twitter @WeTheBrandon.

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Written By

Brandon J. Weichert is a former Congressional staffer and geopolitical analyst who recently became a writer for Weichert is a contributor at The Washington Times, as well as a contributing editor at American Greatness and the Asia Times. He is the author of Winning Space: How America Remains a Superpower (Republic Book Publishers), The Shadow War: Iran’s Quest for Supremacy (March 28), and Biohacked: China’s Race to Control Life (May 16). Weichert can be followed via Twitter @WeTheBrandon.