Reports are that former Vice President Mike Pence is “laying the groundwork for [a] 2024 Presidential Run.” But the only groundwork Pence should be laying is for his retirement. His surrender to the Democratic Party in the final days of the Trump presidency disqualifies him. Pence may very well be a “good man,” but he’s also a weak man and America’s future depends on men who are both principled and strong.
The contested election of 2020 was not unprecedented. In fact, it bears a striking similarity to the contested election of 1876. The Democratic Party in 1876 was comprised of ex-confederates, who had lost the Civil War, but had not lost their pro-slavery opinions. A Democratic victory foreshadowed a regressive future that Southern blacks feared would return them to slavery and Republicans feared would guarantee a proliferation of white supremacy. The fate of the nation hung in the balance.
The fate of our nation hung in the balance in a similar way in 2020. A Democratic victory foreshadowed a regressive future in our time, which has come to fruition because of the Biden Administration. In only three months’ time we have seen an unprecedented assault on our Constitution—our country is less safe, our border is less secure, our future prosperity is less certain, and our unalienable rights are methodically stripped away.
Crime and Bribery, Violence and Intimidation
Republicans in 1876 were as concerned about rampant Democratic Party election fraud as we were in 2020. Rutherford B. Hayes, the Republican Presidential candidate 144 years ago, predicted that his defeat would be “by crime—by bribery, & repeating [voters]” in the North and by “violence and intimidation” in the South. Trump likewise predicted that the 2020 election “will be, in my opinion, the most corrupt election in the history of our country.” Both Hayes and Trump were right. I won’t rehash every instance of Democratic voter fraud in 2020—it would be redundant for this audience and also would fill a binder as thick as the Democrats’ latest pork-ulus bill.
There are two stark differences between the contested election of 1876 and the contested election of 2020. One, unlike Hayes, who went to sleep on election night certain of defeat, Trump went to bed certain of victory. Two, unlike the congressional Republicans in 1876, who refused to concede and fought tooth and nail to prevent the Democrats from installing their illegitimate presidential candidate Samuel Tilden in the Oval Office, the Congressional Republicans in 2020 folded like cheap lawn chairs.
In 1876 Democratic presidential candidate Tilden won the popular vote but three states were contested—Florida, Louisiana, and South Carolina. Nineteen electoral votes were in dispute and both Democrats and Republicans claimed the victory. The Democrats threatened “Tilden or war.” More than 600,000 Americans had died in a bloody Civil War just a decade before. Despite this tragedy, which was very much a living memory for Americans at that time, the Republicans still refused to give in. Republicans in 1876 were guided by principle. Perhaps it was the experience of the Civil War that had strengthened their resolve.
The Pence Approach
A stalemate ensued for three months in 1876 as both Democrats and Republicans refused to give in. The contested states sent competing electors to Washington, D.C. In 1876 this was unprecedented. But the Republicans of 1876 didn’t cave as Mike Pence did. When it came time to certify the electoral votes in 2021, Pence remarked, “When the Joint Session of Congress convenes today, I will do my duty to see to it that we open the certificates of the Electors of the several states, we hear objections raised by Senators and Representatives, and we count the votes of the Electoral College for President and Vice President in a manner consistent with our Constitution, laws, and history. So Help Me God.”
Had our ancestors taken the Pence approach in 1876, Samuel Tilden, the Democratic presidential nominee, rather than Rutherford B. Hayes, would have been president. But the titanium-spined Republicans of 1876 refused to make such a concession. They didn’t cave to pressure, whether public or political. The upshot of the Republican Party’s absolute devotion to victory was the formation of an unprecedented bipartisan commission—five Senate members, five Supreme Court justices, and five House members, who were appointed to decide on the award of the contested electoral votes.
The commission investigated the election. This bipartisan effort at transparency and due diligence ensured that whichever candidate emerged victorious, the American people could find reason to maintain confidence in the integrity of the election system and also accept the declared president’s legitimacy. In the end, Democratic and Republican representatives hashed out a compromise behind closed doors, which resulted in terms that declared Rutherford B. Hayes the legitimate president of the United States.
No such transparency or due diligence occurred in 2020. In fact, only days after the November 6 general election and before any legal battles could be mounted or substantive investigation had taken place, spineless Republicans like George W. Bush immediately declared Joe Biden the victor and said the 2020 race was “fundamentally fair.” Even as it was revealed that the supreme court of Pennsylvania had unconstitutionally altered election laws in the state, RINOs continued to demand Trump concede.
“It is my considered judgment that my oath to support and defend the Constitution constrains me from claiming unilateral authority to determine which electoral votes should be counted and which should not,” Pence declared. But Pence didn’t support and defend the Constitution. He revealed that he wasn’t willing to fight for the Constitution.
Again, Pence may very well be a good and decent man. But that isn’t enough. America needs men who are good and decent, but also uncompromising when necessary. Like a great film, it’s the third and final act that matters. Pence may have put on a good show in the first two acts, but in the third act he fell apart. That was the only act that mattered. Pence doesn’t have what it takes.