Comic relief from Mike Pence, as if delusion, deflection, and cowardice will redeem lost star power

Pence looks more like the walking, even staggering dead, having now neutralized his one and only courageous Senate action.

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Losers scornful of truth, along with George Santos, define the right’s hell-bent, failure-laden “pitch”

What are the odds of ever saying “President Pence”? Maybe president of a small, backwater evangelical college but not of the USA. Unless the earth shifts, his chances look only a tad better than other retired ex-V.P.’s, like the disgraced Dick Cheney or has-been Dan Quayle (oddly, giving us two ex’s from Indiana).

Let’s see. Trump would have to drop dead (nothing else stops him) – but before hitting the ground he anoints Pence his ordained successor. Most unlikely. Then DeSantis must commit ever greater infamies and lose all credibility. Ditto Nikki Haley and Mike Pompeo, the others with poll numbers, not to mention media-crazed House and Senate wackos – without nearly the same negatives for the Trump base. One chance in fifty? A hundred? Oh yeah, Biden must be gone, though many top Democrats could dispatch this super-evangelical, party-reject. 

Sorry, Pence: your chances of being nominated, let alone winning this lottery would take a miracle. Or two. By comparison, Nikki Haley has a theoretical chance, though still a long shot (maybe another V.P.). Being a more likable (less tarnished Washington hack), female version of Trumpism may delineate her but won’t wash nationally. No doubt the pious Pence believes in miracles, but not without a new image. And by what logic does that happen by needlessly stonewalling the DOJ to not further offend Trumpers by telling the truth? Pence will testify by this summer but it’s a fool’s errand to play mainly for Trumpers. 

Plus, like suicidal dumbos pushing total abortion bans (or federal abolition), or shredding Social Security, even praising Putin the barbarian, zealots crush their own national standing. Explain how Pence grows his national brand unless he’s really running for some other office, like mayor of a small town. How many unforgiving Trumpers who wanted him “hanged,” or otherwise mortified, would give him the time of day? A current 5% party poll number is far short – and he’s no fetching newcomer without a record. Well, he does have the charisma of a damped down funeral director. 

The cost of not breaking the law

Okay, Pence stood firm against high pressure on election certification by defying Trump’s lawless bidding (though desperately sought experts to understand his ceremonial, Constitutional role). And his reward: a heap of criticism. Trumpers addicted to more pointless, illegal shenanigans will hardly be won over by this week’s trivial delay tactics to avoid the DOJ. How many millions in lock step with murderous Jan 6 insurgents will ever vote for Pence? 

Further, were he caught lying under oath, Pence’s chances lurch from low to infinitesimal. And what marvels did Pence do over four years that especially qualify him for the presidency – except slavishly back Trump, shut his mouth, and never steal the limelight? Nor was his Indiana tenure impressive to the many happy to see him move on. That’s a career resume that evaporates like dew in sunshine. His only chance to concentrate leverage would be a regional, evangelical party, perhaps named the Pence Putzes. 

Winning, alas, matters

It’s bad enough when you lie like a sieve – but win elections, like George Santos or Donald Trump. It’s bad enough when you set historic, untouchable records for lying (when Trump talks), but sustain enough base loyalty to remain in the game. It’s bad enough when elected House yahoos scream slanders at a shrewder, prepared president delivering a surprisingly spirited State of the Union address. But Mike Pence is simply dodging a legitimate DOJ subpoena because that might cut party support. Nothing to gain, much to lose, goes such thinking. Yet his new legal scam, that his testimony now is privileged as heading the Senate, a member of Congress, is as laughable as his opposite ploy when deflecting the Jan 6 Committee; then he claimed executive privilege as a V.P.. Trump lost the same legal argument and so will Pence. I call that lose-lose plus gross hypocrisy.

And party stunts continues

Which brings us as usual to what now defines the Rethuglican party – is it nonsensical, indefensible lying? Is it mind-blowing, election-losing hypocrisy, whether on election denial, voting rights violations, or the manic distortion that turned a violent insurrection into a “non-violent protest”? Or maybe all those rightwing concoctions to sunset Social Security or cut Medicare (while Dems want to raise the annual payments)? Just yelling “liar” to a president showing the evidence (on jeopardizing Social Security) only wins you a fixated, tiny minority bracing for more losing elections. Except for failed stunts, delusion and deception, what do the Rethugs, including Pence, have to sell? What does Trump have to sell other than complaining about legal actions, mocking Dems and vilifying his own party foes? 

While the world waits with bated breath for the Criminal-in-chief to be slugged by indictments, Mike Pence is providing comic relief – and welcome it is during a dismal, frustrating political scene. Trump suffers from what plagues all dull-witted, one-trick ponies – no second act, especially after being shoved off stage. How many times will Trump spout the same, tiresome lies, with as much impact as a dead cat bounce? Or try the same predictable insults, like a third-rate Don Rickles (who by the way has a funny, hard sell Trump story from 2017)? 

Always more insult-entertainer than politician – real pols at least promise to improve living conditions, then find reasons to justify failure – Trump faces the plight of all one-trick, stand-up clowns: they need perpetual new schticks. Anyone with half a brain (but no conscience) left Trump before he left Washington and, judging by the abysmal current sewage, no Mar-a-Lago dimwits can save this failed act from losing even more air. 

Something always beats nothing

So, until things change, neither Pence, nor Trump, nor loudmouth Republicans have a clue, nor a nominal agenda, that wins the White House, even reverses the Senate or I suspect holds the House in 2024. They are flopping like accident victims on crutches trying to ice skate in the dark. There’s good reason why Republicans have lost every presidential vote since 1992 but one. They’re good at fundraising, good at conniving (like rigging the Supreme Court) and with enough small state voters to be a Senate factor. But more than ever, they deliver only negative bluster and media stunts. Who wins by crudely demonizing the opposition and showing no people gains as result of chronic hooliganism? 

As with any consumer-driven, delivery industry, winners produce advances and losers waste time only waving arms, like Pence deflecting inevitable testimony with little upside. Pence is just another ambushed (then willing) sucker/enabler, for years tarnished and now brought down by the Trump contagion. Worse and more lasting than Covid, this irksome malady invokes a famous ex-Republican’s book title, “Everything Trump Touches Dies.” By his own doing Pence looks more like the walking, even staggering dead, having now neutralized his one and only courageous Senate action. Sad.

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For over a decade, Robert S. Becker's independent, rebel-rousing essays on politics and culture analyze overall trends, history, implications, messaging and frameworks. He has been published widely, aside from Nation of Change and RSN, with extensive credits from OpEdNews (as senior editor), Alternet, Salon, Truthdig, Smirking Chimp, Dandelion Salad, Beyond Chron, and the SF Chronicle. Educated at Rutgers College, N.J. (B.A. English) and U.C. Berkeley (Ph.D. English), Becker left university teaching (Northwestern, then U. Chicago) for business, founding SOTA Industries, a top American high end audio company he ran from '80 to '92. From '92-02, he was an anti-gravel mining activist while doing marketing, business and writing consulting. Since then, he seeks out insight, even wit in the shadows, without ideology or righteousness across the current mayhem of American politics.

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