Over the weekend, The New York Times published an article that suggested that Mike “I Call My Wife Mother” Pence is running a shadow campaign to become president in 2020. According to the Times, Pence has hired a political operative as a chief of staff and has spent his time fund-raising and rubbing elbows with key figures in states like Iowa:
The vice president created his own political fund-raising committee, Great America Committee, shrugging off warnings from some high-profile Republicans that it would create speculation about his intentions. The group, set up with help from Jack Oliver, a former fund-raiser for George W. Bush, has overshadowed Mr. Trump’s own primary outside political group, America First Action, even raising more in disclosed donations.
On Sunday, Pence responded to the report, which he called “absurd,” by insisting that he loved his president with all of his lego heart.
But, of course, this is what a vice president who might secretly be working to undermine his president would say, especially if said president is infamous for punishing anyone who shows less than utmost fealty. And, regardless of what Pence is up to, people in the Republican establishment want him to run. As the Times writes, “Some in the party’s establishment wing are remarkably open about their wish that Mr. Pence would be the Republican standard-bearer in 2020, Representative Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania said.” Dent tells the Times that, “For some, it is for ideological reasons, and for others it is for stylistic reasons.”
The idea, however, that Pence is the answer to purging the party of Trumpism is ridiculous. The “responsible Pence” fantasy has existed ever since he joined Trump’s ticket. But Pence is, perhaps, the most complicit member of the Trump team—he has dutifully stood behind his authoritarian wreck of a presidency. Pence cannot be separated from Trump. If Republicans start lining up behind Pence, it will show that they have learned absolutely nothing.