Person of the Year: V.P. MIKE PENCE
The United States still stands as a democracy, barely, due to the steadfast bravery of perhaps less than one hundred people total, but none with no greater pressure, no greater danger, and no greater responsibility and decision-making than by one man, over just three days, Mike Pence. Mike Pence is this newsletter’s Person of the Year.
Our case is easily made. Let’s start with the PowerPoint that puts Pence at the center of it all. By now we’ve all seen it, but let’s see it again to appreciate the degree to which he was the center of it all.
These are the options that Trump referenced during his speech in Georgia, purportedly to rally the vote for the Georgia Senate race.
“I hope Mike Pence comes through for us, I have to tell you,” Trump said. “I hope that our great vice president, our great vice president comes through for us. He’s a great guy, because if he doesn’t come through, I won’t like him quite as much.”
Everyone knows that a statement like that, coming from Trump, is a threat.
We have also heard about the verbal abuse Pence took and the fights leading up to January 6th:
Trump called Pence, who was spending the morning at his Naval Observatory residence before heading to the Capitol. Pence again explained the legal limits on his authority as vice president and said he planned to perform his ceremonial duty, as prescribed by the Constitution. But Trump showed him no mercy.
“You don’t have the courage to make a hard decision,” he told Pence
Ironic. Pence showed the most courage of his life, making the hardest decision of his life. He could easily have simply followed Trump’s orders and blamed everything on Trump. “It was a presidential order.”
We later learned that the conversation was not polite and that Trump used about every angry word in his lexicon. He knew that Pence held the key, all Pence needed to do was give Trump a delay, to “recheck the accuracy” in accord with the objections, and that was it. The election would have eventually gone to the House of Representatives. Trump would have won.
You know it’s bad when Ivanka Trump is on your side against her father, from the Washington Post:
Ivanka Trump, standing next to Kellogg near a grandfather clock in the back of the room, had a hard time listening to her father badger the vice president to do something she knew was not possible. “Mike Pence is a good man,” she said quietly to Kellogg,
No, Mike Pence is not a good man or he would have seen this coming years ahead of time, quit the day the Access Hollywood tape came out, something and not been the loyal servant he’d been. However, Pence was at his best that day and he had already let Trump and the world know that he would follow the constitution.
Given that Pence was going to count the votes, the entirety of January 6th might have been an attempt to create enough danger to get Pence out of the Capitol.
Of course, one has to create quite the uproar to get the Vice President run out of the Senate while doing his duty. And they organized that uproar quite well, very well as we’re now learning. Pence faced the wrath that he had to know was coming, violent wrath spurned on by Trump’s tweet. At 2:24, the president tweeted:
“Mike Pence didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our Country and our Constitution.”
There is an assumption that the Secret Service is invulnerable and Pence could never have been in serious danger. That assumption is dead wrong:
Goodman led the rioters in a different direction, away from the Senate chamber. Had Pence walked past any later, the intruders who called him a traitor would have spotted him.
Most impressively, Pence knew that the nation’s democratic fate laid in his hands but it also required him to physically be in that chamber on that day. Pence refused three Secret Service requests to leave, the last time saying that he didn’t trust the Secret Service, implying he believed that Trump might have ordered the Secret Service to take Pence out of the Capitol - a conspiracy:
“I’m not getting in the car, Tim,” Pence replied. “I trust you, Tim, but you’re not driving the car. If I get in that vehicle, you guys are taking off. I’m not getting in the car.”
He knew they would not bring him back. He knew he would not be in that chamber. He knew he would no longer be in a position to ensure the democratic process would be followed.
That decision alone may have saved the election and saved democracy. Once Pence is outside the Capitol, once the “Secret Service determines it is not safe for Mike Pence to return to the Capitol” (Which Trump could have ordered and had Pence held away at another location), at that point, we are outside the Constitution. At that point, Grassley might have taken the process over. Remember Grassley? The guy who, on January 5th, said that he would take over because they don’t expect Pence to be there on the 6th?
Still don’t think there was a conspiracy to get rid of Pence? The conspiracy was so wide, and so obvious, that they were tweeting about it ahead of time. No wonder McConnell and the Republicans couldn’t afford an investigation into January 6th.
There is not much for me to add. Pence is not a good man, he caused the deaths of many IV drug users in Indiana by not allowing needle sharing programs to serve people during the AIDS epidemic. He was loyal to Trump to a fault. And now, post-January 6th, he is again a Trump apologist. But in the most important 2-3 days of his life, Pence was the best he will ever be. We should all wish the same for ourselves.
We should not be giving out Person of the Year Awards for simply doing their job under the Constitution they swore to protect. But this was no normal situation and on January 6th, the Constitution hung in the balance.
Mike Pence personally saved democracy in this country. He could have listened to Trump and blamed Trump, and people would mostly have focused upon Trump and the Senate objectors. Trump, not Pence. It would have been safer. But he did not do it. He took it upon himself, at great risk that continues to this day, to do the right thing, against immense pressure, pressure that might have included a conspiracy in which the Secret Service was assigned to take control of him.
The only thing left to add is that even though Pence played the most obvious, direct, and most pivotal role, there were other Mike Pence’s that should not be ignored. Bill Barr, even, refused to find fraud. Jeffery Rosen refused to sign a letter finding fraud. Brad Raffensberger, the Georgia Secretary of State held steadfast, so did his governor and Governor Doug Ducey in Arizona. Judges across the country threw out lawsuits because there was no evidence to back up the claims. Our democracy came down to just a handful of people that held firm. Through Mike Pence, they - too, are my Person of the Year.
Our democracy is still in grave danger. Pence didn’t save democracy for good. But it would have been very easy for Pence to have taken the safer path - at least from his standpoint. All he had to do was get in the vehicle. Trump would have quickly forgotten that he was mad at Pence because Pence eventually didn’t get the job done. Without Pence’s actions in those first days of 2021, it is entirely possible, indeed probable, that Donald Trump would be president in these, the last days of 2021.
Instead, Trump is still talking about Pence and the election, literally today, literally the day I send this newsletter out, CNN reports Trump as saying to a crowd in Florida:
“I was disappointed in one thing, but it was a big thing. Mike should have sent those crooked votes back to the legislatures and you would have had a different result in the election, in my opinion…
“I think Mike has been very badly hurt by what took place in respect to January 6,” Trump said. “I think he’s been mortally wounded, frankly, because I see the reaction he’s getting from people.”
You will, of course, note the violent imagery. The danger to Pence continues apace, even today. “Mortally wounded.” A call to the lone wolf? That’s what Pence lives with every single day and why Pence has again become a Trump apologist. That is of no matter, as we’ve already proven.
Our country’s democracy is in trouble as it is. But imagine what this year would have been like had Trump secured another term in the White House through a vote in the House of Representatives, where it’s one vote per state. Trump wins. It is Constitutional… enough, that he would have gotten away with it and successfully overthrown the United States government.
Mike Pence is this newsletter’s Person of the Year
In case people want to review some of the images again, they are below.
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