The rectitude of Mike Pence, vice president of the United States when the assault on the Capitol, on January 6, 2021, could cost him his life if the mob of Trump supporters who were crying out for his head had gotten away with it. Like then, when he distanced himself from the lost Donald Trump, he does it again with a view to the future, assessing the possibility of running for president in 2024. If that day Pence refused to support his boss’s excesses, today he affirms himself as a possible option to replace Joe Biden in the White House. From the outset, he has the applause of many Republicans for having rejected Trump’s anti-democratic drift, but, like the tycoon’s candidacy, everything is up in the air and at the same time everything points to such a possibility. Pence’s name, even understood, already sounds for the presidential race.
Pence, an evangelical Christian ultraconservative who on January 6 put legality ahead of his ideology and his personal loyalty, participated this Wednesday in a cult in a Baptist temple in Florence (South Carolina) to spread his revealed truth. “We are at a turning point in American history,” Pence preached to some 1,500 worshipers. “The Bible tells us that without a vision, the people perish.” And his vision, interspersed with quotes from the Holy Scriptures and calls to action, came to life in that nursery of evangelical votes, one of the main supports of former President Trump in 2016.
Pence spoke of the fight against abortion after the repeal of the doctrine Roe vs. Wade by the Supreme Court, and which in his opinion has only just begun; on the need for tax reform and how to stop the grown up Democrats in the culture wars that are tearing apart, and polarizing to the point of violence, the country. Ella Pence touched on many topics, but never once did she refer to Trump, whom he did not name despite recalling his time in the White House. “The Trump-Pence Administration,” he said at the ceremony, a mix of liturgy and rally.
Unlike the upstart Trump, who came to the White House thanks to his business and media success, Pence offers political solvency: he was a six-term congressman and governor of Indiana before arriving at the White House as a loyal squire to the tycoon. That experience and internal credibility now serve him to mend the damage that Trump has caused in the Republican party, multiplied in recent months by the tycoon’s support for ultramontane candidates against representatives of the establishment Republican in the primaries. A pulse with lights and shadows, because Trump does not always smile at victory in his attempt to shape the party in his image of dethroned king.
Since the break between the two, 18 months ago, Pence has reaffirmed himself as a sensible option -despite his ultra speech- and above all independent. Like Trump, who plays with the possibility of the announcement – that is, with the times and with the expectation multiplied by the assumptions – the team that surrounds the former vice president only says that it is likely that he will take that step, regardless of the decision of Trump. “Pence is creating his own space,” former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has declared. That is to say, the space left free by the most right-wing faction of the party, with the shock force of the MAGA movements (Make America Great Again) Y Stop the stealthat viscous magma of conspiracy theories inoculated by Trump, but that, like a rabid Frankenstein, go beyond him.
Privately, because Trump’s shadow is still very long, many Republican congressmen hope their party will revert to its pre-2016 identity, when Pence was seen by the right as a symbol of conservative solidity. The problem is that, in public, few dare to make explicit their support for him, with the party still semi-kidnapped by the monopolizing personality of Trump. That’s why Pence’s campaign, and especially his undermining of Midwestern representatives, is quiet, with few appearances at fundraisers, picnics, barbecues and those events so popular with the locals. Unlike Trump, who lives installed in his image, Pence refuses the spotlight
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Many Republican congressmen who once voted against confirming Biden’s electoral victory – a pure procedure that degenerated into an attempted coup at the behest of Trump, according to the congressional investigative commission – have ended up closing ranks around Pence for considering him the only one with the capacity to unite the party, almost as polarized as the country. Among them, Lee Zeldin, who is running for governor of New York in the primaries at the end of August: in January 2021 he voted against certifying Biden’s victory and, just a year later, he invited a fundraising event to Pence. Proof of the prevailing polarization and aggressiveness is the attempted attack that Zeldin suffered this Thursday in another campaign event at the hands of an individual with a sharp object, which did not achieve its objective.
The protesters who stormed the Capitol on January 6, 2021 uttered different war cries, one of the most repeated “hang Pence.” The martyrology of the former vice president works conceptually very well when it comes to building a candidacy, as does his promise to cleanse the party of Donald Trump’s original sin. Healing and communion of interests, a message that seems to come from a pulpit, the one that Mike Pence already occupies.