How Mike Pence went from being Trump’s 'primary enabler' to being praised by Democrats: report

How Mike Pence went from being Trump’s 'primary enabler' to being praised by Democrats: report

Although former President Donald Trump demands total, unquestioning loyalty from fellow Republicans, it is very much a one-way street; Trump can easily turn against his supporters in a heartbeat no matter how badly they have been debasing themselves on his behalf. Former Vice President Mike Pence and former U.S. Attorney General Bill Barr, for example, went to extreme lengths to defend and promote Trump, but the minute they refused to support the Big Lie, Trump angrily turned against them — and now, during a series of public hearings from the January 6 select committee, many Democrats who were vehemently critical of Pence and Barr are applauding their willingness to push back against the Big Lie and acknowledge that President Joe Biden legitimately won the 2020 presidential election.

New York Times reporters Maggie Haberman and Reid J. Epstein, in an article published on June 20, describe Pence’s position in the GOP 17 months into Biden’s presidency. Pence may run for president in 2024, but as Haberman and Epstein stress in their piece, many MAGA Republicans and Trump loyalists deeply resent him.

“Former Vice President Mike Pence has emerged from the January 6 hearings in a peculiar position,” Haberman and Epstein explain. “To some Democrats in Congress, he has become something of a hero for resisting Donald J. Trump’s pressure campaign to overturn the 2020 election at a time when American democracy seemed to teeter on the brink. To Mr. Trump and his political base, Mr. Pence is a weakling who gave away the presidency. And to a swath of anti-Trump voters in both parties, he is merely someone who finally did the right thing by standing up to his former boss — years too late, after willingly defending or ignoring some of Mr. Trump’s earlier excesses.”

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Pence, the Times reporters observe, “continues to walk a tightrope” and has avoided “becoming openly adversarial” with Trump. When Pence spoke at the University of Chicago on Monday, June 20, Haberman and Epstein note, he “sounded very much like a candidate” but “not much like someone interested in discussing the specifics of what he lived through on January 6.”

GOP strategist David Kochel, who worked on former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush’s 2016 presidential campaign, isn’t bullish on Pence’s chances of winning the GOP presidential nomination if he decides to run in 2024.

“The situation Mike Pence faces is a political briar patch,” Kochel told the Times. “The more he’s praised by Democrats and the media for doing the right thing on January 6, the more some in Trump’s base grow skeptical of his loyalty to the Trump team…. There is no upside for him to lean into any of this.”

The Times’ Kenneth P. Vogel, tweeting Haberman and Epstein’s article, noted the “irony” of the fact that someone who was arguably Trump’s “primary enabler” is now drawing praise from Democrats for rejecting the Big Lie.

Rep. Jamie Raskin of Maryland, one of the Democrats on the January 6 select committee, has praised Pence as a “hero” for doing the right thing on January 6, 2021. And Democratic strategist David Axelrod, a former top adviser to President Barack Obama, told the Times, “It’s true that for months before the election and weeks after, Mike Pence played along with Trump’s baseless election conspiracies. He certainly didn’t dissent. But at the end of the day, he’ll be remembered for one critical moment when he resisted enormous pressure and literally put his life on the line for our democracy. And for that, he deserves all the accolades he’s received.”

But such praise from Democrats, Haberman and Epstein point out, works to his disadvantage with the MAGA base.

“Mr. Pence has tried to stake out a lane for himself by representing the aspects of the Trump White House that appealed to conservatives, but without the coarse and sometimes abusive behavior from Mr. Trump that they grew weary of,” Haberman and Epstein observe. “But this approach has been complicated by the fact that the loudest praise for Mr. Pence has come from Democrats who voted to impeach Mr. Trump.”

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