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The Strategic Silence of Mike Pence

Complicity, cowardice, or nihilism?
February 15, 2021
The Strategic Silence of Mike Pence
Vice President Mike Pence arrives at the inauguration of U.S. President-elect Joe Biden on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol on January 20, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

On January 6, a horde of pro-Trump rioters breached the United States Capitol with one bloodthirsty mission in mind: to stop Vice President Mike Pence from carrying out his constitutional obligation to certify Joe Biden’s 2020 presidential victory.

Even if it meant killing him.

Makeshift gallows were erected on the West side of the complex. Members of the mob shouted “Hang Mike Pence!” as they stormed the halls of Congress, hunting for the vice president, as well as any other officials they could get their hands on. Well over 100 police officers were injured and maimed by the mob; Capitol Hill Police Officer Brian Sicknick was killed. Two Capitol Hill Police officers later committed suicide.

And to this day, the former vice president hasn’t had a word to say about his experience.

Throughout Trump’s impeachment, Pence remained mute. As someone who could provide both important facts—what did Trump know about the situation, when, and what was his reaction—and bear witness to Trump’s state of mind in the days and hours leading up to the attack, Pence was in a rare, possibly even unique, position. Over the course of the weeks following the election, Pence had been a perpetrator of Trump’s big election lie and at the final hour became a target of it. Jaime Herrera Beutler, who was one of the 10 House Republicans to vote for impeachment and who came forward with her blockbuster testimony during the Senate trial, begged Pence to share what he knew.

He refused.

Pence’s silence could easily be chalked up to all manner of causes: submissiveness, cowardice, fear, or naked political calculation.

Or maybe it’s something worse.

Ask yourself: Why would Mike Pence bother lifting his voice in defense of his own life if no one else in his party cares to do so?

If you think about it from this perspective, then Pence’s silence isn’t just complicity. It’s another marker of the nihilism that has taken over the Republican party, whereby nothing matters except for Trump and/or owning the libs.

And in order to further this project, Republicans see themselves as bound to acquiesce in the face of any evil.

Mike Pence was a high-value target for Trump’s shock troops on January 6, all because he was the man with the final hand on certifying Biden’s election victory. This means that the 64 Republican House members and 44 Republican senators who also supported Biden’s certification are marked. After all, if Pence was guilty of a treasonous sin against Trump, punishable by death, it follows to reason that they are, too.

And still, 197 House Republicans voted against the article of impeachment and 43 Senate Republicans voted to acquit.

Or, to put it another way: More than twice as many Republicans voted to defend Trump in impeachment than voted against the coup. Most of the people marked by the mob voted to excuse Trump’s role in summoning the mob.

“Move on,” they say.

An attack on their lives isn’t enough for them to break with Trump.

Say what you will about Mike Pence: He knows his tribe.

But it’s not like Pence is going to stay silent forever. He has hopes and dreams and a vision for his future.

The former vice president plans on launching a podcast with the Young America’s Foundation and hitting the campus speaking circuit. He is joining the Heritage Foundation as a distinguished fellow. He is mulling a book deal and thinking about creating a fundraising committee to help elect GOP House and Senate candidates. All, obviously, with an eye toward paving the way for a possible presidential run in 2024.

This prospect raises a number of interesting questions:

Would Pence enter the race if Donald Trump declared his intention to run again?

Would Pence enter the race if some other member of the Trump family were running?

Will Pence try the Bolton Gambit, and hold his testimony until it (1) cannot hurt Trump and (2) will make Pence a pile of money?

Is there anything that could transpire over the next two years which might cause Mike Pence, finally, to break with Trump?

Over the coming months, the former vice president is going to spend lots of time speaking to and for the same movement that built up, supported, and defended the president who put a target on his back on January 6.

Aside from morbid curiosity, it’s unclear why anyone would listen to what he has to say. Pence’s strategic silence shows us that he’s either unable or unwilling to stand up for his own health and safety. Why would anyone trust him to stand up for America?

Amanda Carpenter

Amanda Carpenter is an author, a former communications director to Sen. Ted Cruz, and a former speechwriter to Sen. Jim DeMint. She was formerly a Bulwark political columnist.