Have you heard the big news? Former Vice President Mike Pence has filed papers with the Federal Election Commission to run for president. He joins a field of seven declared Republican candidates, with two more joining this week.
Which leaves me with one question: exactly who is clamoring for this Pence candidacy?
That’s an easy answer: nobody.
I know, I know—who am I, anyway? I’m nobody. But I’m a news junkie. I’ve been listening to talk radio since 1990. I had a subscription to National Review in college. I listen to political podcasts like “Ruthless” and “Megyn Kelly” for fun. I’ve voted in every election since I turned 18. Except for voting for Hillary as part of “Operation Chaos,” I’ve voted a straight Republican ticket for everything from county coroner to senator. I went to George W. Bush rallies and brought my three young children along so they would remember seeing a president. I even braved the traffic, crowds, and unpleasantness of running into a snooty, pursed-lipped, pearls and Armani-clad Peggy Noonan in the security line to attend two nights of the Republican Convention in Cleveland in 2016, where former President Trump gave the keynote address.
I am, in short, the base. I am the primary voter to whom these candidates are trying to appeal.
I had heard of Mike Pence before President Trump chose him to be his running mate. He was a former congressman and governor from Indiana, purportedly conservative, religious, a decent Midwestern nice guy. I’m fairly certain I heard him on talk radio before he became vice president, as he had his own talk show and described himself as “Rush Limbaugh on decaf.”
I’m also fairly certain I must’ve changed the station pretty quickly, because I retained no impressions of him other than the same neutral, benign impression which I reserve for vanilla ice cream, Kraft cheese slices, and Sprite.
When Trump did a rally in Cleveland, Pence was there and spoke before Trump came out. I remember thinking he had a fine head of hair and that it was kind of hilarious how much he really did look like that Race Bannon character from “Jonny Quest.”
That personal practice of never eating or meeting alone with a woman? Kind of old-fashioned and presumptuous, but I must admit that it turned out to be fairly prescient in an era where Brett Kavanaugh was almost denied a place on the Supreme Court because of a woman who may or may not have met him at a party he may or may not have attended in high school.
But eww . . . that little crumb of prudence and good political instinct is ruined for me by the fact that he evidently calls his wife Karen “Mother,” a fusty, generational habit my 87-year-old father also shares, and in which my husband of 30 years would only join if he was trying to make me mad.
By my count, I’ve seen Pence speak in person twice, heard him countless times on television, and for four years as vice president. I don’t remember anything in particular he has ever said, only the soothing, carefully modulated, humorless tone. If you’re a guy with political aspirations and someone inclined to think well of you cannot remember a single thing about you other than your hair, that’s a problem.
The Trump years did not do much to illuminate the personality and character of Mike Pence, other than as a dependable, loyal beta male completely in the shadow of a larger-than-life president. I have a vague memory of him being charged with some task during COVID, but those lockdown months and years are somewhat of a blur and stronger impressions are saved for major actors such as Anthony Fauci, Andrew Cuomo, and Randi Weingarten.
Oh, and I remember the fly that landed on his head during his vice presidential debate and stayed for an agonizing two minutes. I guess he liked Pence’s hair, too.
No, the strongest, most lasting, durable impression I have of Mike Pence is from the tumultuous interregnum period between the 2020 election in November and January 6, when he morphed from a loyal, dependable good guy to, at best, a pusillanimous, wishy-washy approval seeker who put his finger into the wind to see what he ought to do. Then he left a deeply divided country hanging for weeks waiting to see if, and in what manner, he would act.
At worst, Pence became a cynical, compromised deep state swamp dweller whose primary objective was to survive Trump’s loss and live for another day, backed by the promise of establishment support for his own presidential run. And for this seasoned observer, both of these two scenarios seem likely to be true simultaneously.
So what is he doing now to offset the low-T, bland Mike Pence we all remember? Pulling a Tom Cruise and hopping on a motorcycle? Sorry, but wearing jeans and a leather vest while you ride a Harley in Iowa doesn’t suddenly transform you into an alpha male tough guy ready to rumble with Putin. It looks phony, contrived, and cringey.
Too much has happened since 2020 for a steady, dependable, boring daddy figure to try to lead either the Republican Party or our nation. We tried that with Romney, and look how that turned out. I want an arsonist, an iconoclast, a marauding Godzilla who crushes D.C. under his heel and scatters the ashes of the FBI, the Department of Justice, the lying media, the DNC, and every other entity that has been working from within to bring down our country.
That is not Mike Pence.
You cannot make me eat the dog food. Thank you for your service, Mr. Vice President. I really mean it when I say this: enjoy your retirement.