Former Vice President Mike Pence made headlines over the weekend when he spoke out against former President Donald Trump at the Gridiron dinner, an event hosted by journalists in Washington. “President Trump was wrong. I had no right to overturn the election. And his reckless words endangered my family and everyone at the Capitol that day. And I know that history will hold Donald Trump accountable.” Said Mike Pence
This was a surprising move, as Pence has been virtually silent on the January 6th insurrection caused by Trump and has been reluctant to criticize him in the past. So, why is Pence speaking out now, and what does this mean for the future of the Republican Party?
There are several reasons why Pence may have chosen to speak out against Trump at this time. For one, Trump is currently facing a multitude of legal challenges and investigations, including the possibility of criminal charges. With the former president’s reputation in tatters and his polling numbers plummeting, Pence may see an opportunity to distance himself from Trump and improve his own political standing.
Another possible reason for Pence’s newfound willingness to criticize Trump is the growing sense of outrage over the January 6th insurrection. The attack on the Capitol was a shocking display of violence and lawlessness, and many Republicans are now coming to realize that Trump’s incendiary rhetoric played a key role in inciting the mob. As someone who was personally endangered by the attack – the insurrectionists were chanting “Hang Mike Pence” as they stormed the Capitol – Pence may feel a sense of duty to speak out against Trump’s reckless behaviour.
However, it’s important to note that Pence’s criticism of Trump has been relatively mild. While he acknowledged that Trump was wrong to try overturning the election, he stopped short of calling him out by name or condemning his broader behaviour. This suggests that Pence is still trying to walk a delicate line between appealing to Trump’s base and distancing himself from the former president’s most extreme behaviour.
So, what does all of this mean for the future of the Republican Party? On the one hand, Pence’s willingness to speak out against Trump could be a sign that the party is beginning to distance itself from the former president. Many Republicans are deeply concerned about Trump’s damage to the party’s image and reputation, and are eager to move on from his divisive style of politics.
On the other hand, it’s important to note that Pence’s own polling numbers are quite low. He has struggled to carve out a distinctive political identity, and many Republicans view him as uninspiring. Moreover, there are still many members of the GOP who remain fiercely loyal to Trump and who will view any criticism of him as an act of disloyalty.
In the end, it’s difficult to say how much impact Pence’s recent comments will have on the broader political landscape. It’s possible that they will be seen as a turning point in the Republican Party’s relationship with Trump and that other Republicans will follow Pence’s lead in speaking out against the former president. Alternatively, they may be viewed as a tepid and belated attempt to distance themselves from Trump, and may do little to change the political calculus for either man.
What is clear, however, is that the events of January 6th have forced many Republicans to confront some uncomfortable truths about the former president and his role in the party. For years, Trump was able to bully and intimidate his fellow Republicans into submission, but the insurrection has shattered that facade of invincibility. As the GOP looks to chart a path forward in the post-Trump era, it will need to grapple with some difficult questions about what it stands for and who it represents.