When you will, Mike Pence staged his second rebirth on Wednesday. He experienced the first as a student, when the son of an Irish-born tank attendant and long-time altar boy from Indiana became a “born again, evangelical Catholic” – an original self-description even in America’s diverse religious landscape. The second reinvention was now political. The Vice President, who devotedly supported President Donald Trump for four years until he gave up himself, found his own language.
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While the president set out to incite militant Trumpists in Washington, Pence issued a statement opposed to the vice-president preventing the confirmation of Joe Biden’s election. Before opening the joint session in Congress, Pence recalled that he had sworn an oath on the Constitution. He wanted to do justice to this – “so help me God”.
“You did not win”
It shouldn’t be long before police officers stormed into the Senate Chamber and escorted Pence to a safe place. The Capitol had been stormed by men and women with Trump flags and red caps, precisely those Americans who had cheered Pence so often on behalf of the past few years. While Trump ennobled the insurgents into lovable patriots, Pence spoke clear words: “You did not win. Violence never wins, ”he told the pack that the president had put on him.
Never before had Pence distanced himself so clearly (or at all) from Trump. Even as the official head of the Corona task force, the former MP and later governor, whom politicians from both parties had praised as a rational partner, as soon as Trump claimed the stage and put on a ludicrous show there.
Pence represented Trump’s politics in the soft voice he had trained as a radio host in the 1990s. He “worked hard to ensure that his successes were not attributed to him,” said his first chief of staff. Pence kept his own opinions to himself. Likewise, the answer to the question of how his allegiance to Trump fit with his self-image: “I’m a Christian, a Conservative and a Republican, in that order.” Trump told confidants with amusement that Mike Pence kept coming into his office and praying.
The sudden break may have scared Trump. Did he have to fear that Pence would conspire with ministers in the last days of his term of office to declare him incapacitated? Perhaps this explains the trustworthy commitment to the proper transfer of power by Trump’s standards. For Pence that would be a crazy punchline: Because nobody was afraid of him.