(CNN) — At a campaign stop in New Hampshire Thursday night, former Vice President Mike Pence defended his actions on January 6 And, in the process, he may well have ruined (or at least hampered) his chances of emerging as the Republican presidential candidate in 2024.“January 6 was a dark day in the history of our Capitol”, Pence said. “That same day we reconvened Congress and we did our duty. You know, President Trump and I have spoken several times since we left office and I don’t know if we will ever agree on that day. “
Pence, of course, is right. The violent insurrection in the United States Capitol, which left more than 100 police officers injured and five people dead, was a cataclysm such as American democracy has rarely seen.
And Pence, as vice president that day, had no other role than a ceremonial one: overseeing the formal certification of the electoral vote count that gave Joe Biden victory in the 2020 election.
However, none of those facts will protect him from the wrath of Donald Trump and the base that the former president leads.
In recent weeks, Trump has descended further and further into the madness of conspiracy theories suggesting that he will be president again sometime soon after recounts and audits of part of the vote in Arizona and Georgia.
Also, according to Maggie Haberman of The New York Times, “Has criticized Pence at various people, and at the Republican National Committee (RNC) donors, for not exceeding their legal authority that day, raising the tone after the Pence book deal was announced.” (Pence signed a two-book billionaire contract in April).
What Trump has done is turn his acknowledgment of the truth of what happened on January 6, and his role in it, into a kind of loyalty test for ambitious Republicans. If you tell the truth about that day, you risk becoming the next Liz Cheney, ousted from her Republican leadership position. If you lie about that day, or try to downplay the real danger that the riots posed to legislators, you will keep your position, in the style of Kevin McCarthy.
Pence seems to be putting himself, on purpose, in the first category. Which is a very interesting tactic given that, to date, there is zero evidence that Republicans who break up with Trump on January 6 have any kind of political future within the party.
After all, the Republican base, or at least a majority of it, is convinced that Trump’s lies about the election are true.
Consider the following figures from a recent Reuters / Ipsos national poll:
- Fifty-three percent of Republicans polled said Donald Trump was the “real” president, while 47% said Joe Biden, who is the real president.
- Another 56% of Republicans say the 2020 election results were “the result of illegal voting or electoral fraud.”
- More than 6 in 10 Republicans agree “very” (39%) or “somewhat” (22%) with the statement that the 2020 elections “were stolen from Donald Trump.”
Grassroots voters tend to have an outsized opinion in the choice of the presidential candidate. And grassroots Republican voters, at least to date, believe that Trump’s election was taken from him. And Trump, with the complicity of many Republican leaders in Congress, is trying to rewrite what happened on January 6.
Pence is not reading that script. Which, in its own way, is admirable. But, unless the GOP’s views on Trump radically change between now and 2024 (always possible!), Pence’s position on January 6 could well rule out consideration by Republican primary voters.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism