WE DO NOT KNOW who advised then Vice-President Mike Pence to immediately certify the 2020 presidential election results. We can be sure that the decision was made on the spot and under the most intense political pressure imaginable. We somehow doubt that the deliberation was as simplistic as, “What would be the ‘American’ thing to do?”
That, however, is the line that the Pence-for-president team has settled on. “The truth is, there is almost no idea more un-American than the notion that any one person could choose the American president,” Pence said yesterday at the Ronald Reagan Library.
Well yes, but nor do we depend on a single person to tell us what is or is not “American.” We have a popular culture, branches of government and a constitution for that.
And we have fair elections — or that was the plan.
In an alternative interpretation of the moment, the Vice-President was not being asked to make a legal decision. He was being asked to allow Congress, the courts and the state legislatures time to sort out the mess that was the election.
And we have historians. For the fact is that Pence in effect did choose the president on Jan. 6 — and the nation is living with the consequences of what was at base a political call.
And so is Mike Pence. For the guess now is that the call was a bad call, thus his decision so many months later, in the shadow of Ronald Reagan, to explain himself yet again. What in the end may be determined to be “un-American,” fairly or not, is his seeming to choose ambition over loyalty.
In a political life, there sometimes comes a moment when you are asked to rise above political smarm and do more than stand in front of a friendly audience mouthing platitudes. There may come a moment when you have to reach down deep and make a decision regardless of political fortune or favor.
The hope is that Mike Pence, in a later time and context, on a different issue, on better counsel, will get another chance to make that kind of decision. He is a good American and deserves the benefit of our doubts. — tcl