DeMarco: Why Not Pence?

The Op-Ed Page

Vice President Micheal Pence poses for his official portrait at The White House, in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, October 24, 2017. (Official White House Photo by D. Myles Cullen)

By Paul V. DeMarco
Guest Columnist

It’s a question I pose seriously to my fellow citizens who plan to vote for Donald Trump if he runs again.

Let’s ignore the personalities for a moment and compare two theoretical candidates. We will stipulate that our two candidate’s policy positions are indistinguishable. Candidate A is a handsome, trim, 62-year-old former governor who has led a virtuous life. He has been married to a Midwestern schoolteacher for 36 years. He is so faithful that he will not dine alone with another woman to avoid the appearance of impropriety. He is a devout, Bible-believing Christian. He’s measured in his responses and disagrees agreeably. He has pets, including dogs, cats, and rabbits.

Candidate B is a 75-year-old businessman who is not handsome or trim. Even his most ardent supporters acknowledge he can be mean-spirited and crass. He has been thrice married and is alleged to have had several affairs. He has been recorded making profoundly misogynistic remarks. His business record is checkered. A number of his enterprises – including an airline, a private university, a mortgage company, and multiple casinos – have gone bankrupt. He’s one of only a few men ever to be featured on the cover of Playboy magazine. He has no pets.

Without attaching names to the candidates described, it seems that Candidate A would be the overwhelming favorite of most Republicans, especially evangelical Christians, who since the 1980s have been trying to persuade America that they represent the Moral Majority. Every Sunday School teacher or parent could hold Candidate A up as a role model. Not so Candidate B, who doesn’t attend church regularly and who when asked during the campaign, “Have you ever had to ask God for forgiveness?” responded “That’s a tough question… I’m not sure I have.”

Moving out of the theoretical realm back to reality, there’s also the small matter that Mike Pence saved our democracy from Donald Trump’s attempts to subvert it.

This is the part that voters like me have the hardest time understanding. Pence gives you everything you say you want. He’s a smart, likeable man. He has a wholesome family without a hint of scandal. He holds all of Trump’s policy positions: voter integrity, Second Amendment rights, strong borders, pro-life, low taxes, anti-globalism, an aggressive anti-China posture, America first.

I can understand how Republican voters were taken with Trump during the 2016 campaign. I heard these sorts of accolades about Trump back then: “He talks tough;” “He says what he thinks;” “He’s a businessman;” “He’ll drain the swamp;” “He’s a disrupter.”

You didn’t know exactly what you were getting, but you wanted someone different. Then we heard: “He’ll become more presidential once in office;” “He’ll moderate his tweets.” But that didn’t happen. He was just as bombastic and hyperbolic after being inaugurated. Despite demanding loyalty from his Cabinet, he showed them none and dismissed several via Twitter. Through it all, Pence stood by Trump, gamely defending him.

If you voted for Trump as a disrupter, you got what you wanted, but at the peril of our country. Trump’s temperament – his intuitive, freewheeling approach, and his tendency to make self-interest the focal point of every decision – made him interesting and attractive to many voters, but it also made him dangerous. Presidential candidates spend most of their time talking about their policy positions. We are wise to remember that presidents only implement a fraction of what they propose. But they always face unforeseen crises. When Trump lost the election, the fullness of his narcissism was exposed. His fragile ego couldn’t process his loss, so he now can’t get a minute into a speech or interview without disputing the outcome, despite the fact that more than 60 courts have ruled against his legal challenges, and no evidence of significant fraud has been uncovered.

In his rage, he tried to bully Pence into delivering a body blow to American democracy. He publicly and privately goaded him to “do the right thing.” As the Capitol rioters stormed the Senate chambers searching for his Vice-President, Trump did nothing, hoping the certification would be derailed. Adding to the virtue of Pence’s actions is that in opposing Trump’s self-interest, he was opposing his own. Had the election been overturned, Pence would have remained vice president and been the front runner in 2024.

But Pence is a statesman and a patriot who cares more for his country than himself. That chaotic day, his principled stand averted a crippling constitutional crisis. The images beamed across the globe showing our Capitol under attack did damage enough to America’s place as the world’s premier democracy. How much greater would have been the damage if Pence had capitulated? He stood in the gap, saving our electoral process from veering off a high cliff.

Let me be clear: I say this as someone who would likely vote against Pence if he were nominated. I disagree with his positions on health care, climate change, immigration, racial justice, and LGBTQ rights among others. But the goal of our primary process is to nominate two people who both have the temperament to lead the country through whatever crises befall them during their term, not to create them.

I wouldn’t prefer Pence to a centrist Democrat. I would be part of his loyal opposition if he were elected. But I would be glad to have a Republican nominee who respected the office and traditions of the presidency, and articulated his policy positions well. And we would all sleep better, Republicans and Democrats, knowing that if he won, our democracy would be secure.

Paul DeMarco is a physician who resides in Marion, S.C. Reach him at A version of this column appeared in the 2/2/22 edition of the Florence Morning News.

21 thoughts on “DeMarco: Why Not Pence?

  1. Brad Warthen Post author

    Another good one, Paul.

    Better than what I almost wrote on Twitter Friday. After seeing some version of this news story, “Pence says Trump is wrong to insist VP could have overturned election results,” I almost Tweeted something along the lines of, “Good to see Mother is making sure he’s taking his medication again.”

    Which would probably have gotten me a bunch of likes and retweets, because it was snarky and pulled together a couple of things his political opponents like to sneer at. But it would have been childish and inappropriate — which is sort of what Twitter is for, isn’t it?

    It also would not have been in keeping with my own views, especially the crack about “Mother.” Pence catches a lot of crap from people about that. But assuming he actually calls her that, it’s something I like about him. He knows he is Dad and she is Mom and those are their roles, and they are roles that every stable family needs those people to play, faithfully and seriously and with no sarcasm. He’s a boring guy, and God bless him for it.

    The thing is, in these debased days in which we live, what he did on Friday was an act of courage. That’s disgusting, isn’t it? That one of the only two viable political parties in this country I love is so profoundly in the grips of madness, venom and lies that doing something as routine, as basic, as decent as what Pence said requires an act of political courage.

    My impulse in wanting to write the tweet was to express my disgust with this situation. But that wasn’t what the moment called for. I don’t get to tweet from the environment I wish we had; I need to react to reality, if I’m to do any good at all. That’s one of the central flaws of Twitter… In my newspaper days, as we rushed through our overcaffeinated days, we often shared sarcastic remarks with our colleagues, to let off steam. But we just put responsible stuff in the paper — or tried to. There was a dividing line.

    But now, the sarcastic remarks go out to the world, immediately. And too many of us are satisfied with that.

    Anyway, to conclude… I wouldn’t vote for Pence, either, except under extreme circumstances. Just not for the same reasons that, for instance, Democrats wouldn’t vote for him. I’m with them on some of the issues that divide them from him, and on others I’m with him.

    But the thing that keeps me from considering this plain man, more than any other, is this bit from Paul’s column: “Through it all, Pence stood by Trump, gamely defending him.”

    He was a loyal wingman for the national nightmare. Good for him that he stood up to his master on Friday. But he still has a great deal to answer for…

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Oh, and while I think this is another good one from Paul — another great example of how a civilized person talks seriously with neighbors with whom he disagrees — I have to challenge some of his characterization of Pence: “Candidate A is a handsome, trim…”

      I’m not even gonna touch handsome, beyond saying he’s always seemed a good example of “plain Midwesterner” to me, a sort of modern update of Grant Woods’ “American Gothic.” But “trim?” I went looking for something — other than those stupid celebrity sites that give you supposed bodily measurements and net worth of the famous — and ran across this news account from the 2016 campaign on a medical report:

      The letter gave a summary of other health details, including Pence’s height (5’10”) and weight (208 pounds), his blood pressure (116/81) and total cholesterol (216).

      And then I went to a BMI calculator. The guy’s not trim, doctor. BP’s not bad, though (although 81? I never know what to make of that second number…)…

  2. Carol Smith

    Paul- yes, yes, yes please!
    I wonder if anyone who still supports our former president allows a thought as clear as this!

  3. Ken

    Why not Pence?

    You answered that one yourself:
    “Through it all, Pence stood by Trump, gamely defending him.”
    That is not “respect[ing] the office and traditions of the presidency.” That’s actively aiding and abetting in undermining and besmirching the office.

    You set a very low bar for heroes.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Yes, it’s a tragically low standard. This is no longer the great country I grew up in, which offered a choice between two more or less rational parties…

      1. bud

        We haven’t had a choice between two rational parties in a long, long time. The depravity in the GOP is nothing new. Trump has taken it to a new level but really there hasn’t been a legitimate choice to actually consider since 1956.

    2. Barry

      If Trump doesn’t run, he would never endorse Pence . Trump is the slime-ball that the family really prefers just didn’t come around anymore. He didn’t even have enough class to attend the inauguration.

      Today I heard the report where the National Archives had to retrieve some Presidential papers and items from Trump’s estate in Florida that he took with him.

      One of the items was a letter President Obama wrote to him encouraging Trump.

      Of course that just reiterates the fact that Trump didn’t have the class to write one to Joe Biden.

      Below is Bill Clinton’s letter to George W Bush. This had to be quite difficult to write after his own VP lost.

      January 20, 2001

      Dear George,

      Today you embark on the greatest venture, with the greatest honor, that can come to an American citizen.

      Like me, you are especially fortunate to lead our country in a time of profound and largely positive change, when old questions, not just about the role of government, but about the very nature of our nation, must be answered anew.

      You lead a proud, decent, good people. And from this day you are President of all of us. I salute you and wish you success and much happiness.

      The burdens you now shoulder are great but often exaggerated. The sheer joy of doing what you believe is right is inexpressible.

      My prayers are with you and your family. Godspeed.

      Sincerely, Bill

      1. Ken

        “He didn’t even have enough class to attend the inauguration.”

        And only one currently serving member of that party showed up at the official Jan. 6th remembrance earlier this year. So he doesn’t have a monopoly on reprehensible behavior.

  4. Paul DeMarco

    I stand corrected on my use of “trim.” Pence’s BMI by the height and weight you give is 29.8, which is just under the level defining obesity (BMI 30 or above). He is officially “overweight” (BMI 25-29.9). I should have said “trimmer” than Candidate A, although by less than I thought. Trump’s BMI is actually not much higher. At 6’3” and 244 (from his 2020 White House physical) his BMI is 30.5. I will continue to stipulate that Pence is more photogenic.

  5. Bryan Caskey

    I don’t think Pence has enough of a constituency to make it through the primary, and I would be surprised if he ran.

    1. Barry

      This will be Ron DeSantis’ turn if he can win re-election.

      Good article in the Washington Post today mentioning that even some Republicans in the legislature are worried DeSantis’ proposals regarding banning anything in schools that could create “discomfort”

      Ron has a few bills in the legislature that would allow parents to sue schools and teachers individually.

      Several Republican lawmakers have expressed concerns- privately of course- that this is unenforceable and why would Republicans try to police something through state law related to how someone “feels?” There is nothing Conservative about such a thing.

      One Republican member has stated that DeSantis is sacrificing the future of the party for his immediate culture war crusade in order to win Conservative votes now.

      Apparently there are now some Latino and Black parent groups organizing against this effort- and they seem to be gaining some traction fearful that their children will be going to Florida schools and not being taught some of the truths about their history in the United States because white kids could be “offended”

      One Conservative parent group though is in full support with one “mom” saying she was upset when her child saw pictures of what happened to slaves in a school textbook.

      It’s amazing that most of these groups seem to be white parents.

      Are Conservatives ok now if Liberal states pass laws that allow Liberals to sue Conservatives when they are offended about something a Conservative does?

      If a teacher talks about Donald Trump’s immigration policies, can Latino children that are offended have their parents sue the school, or the teacher individually?

      How many teachers want to teach in such an environment?

      The article:

      In his fight against ‘woke’ schools, DeSantis tears at the seams of a diverse Florida

      Some Republicans want to let parents sue schools and teachers over student ‘discomfort’

  6. Barry

    This in no way reflects on the fine article but the advertisement that showed up immediately under Dr. Paul’s post was a large one with a cartoon picture of someone’s legs who is clearly sitting on a toilet with the caption……

    “Healthiest Way To Wipe Your Butt

    If Paul had planned it, he couldn’t have formulated a better advertisement to appear under his column that had to describe so much of Donald Trump’s traits.

  7. Barry

    When Trump was elected, my wife’s grandmother was 90 years old. (She recently passed away).

    She expressed her deep concern over Trump at a family gathering and I told her “Well, the only thing I can say is that I think Mike Pence is a decent human being (for a politician- which is a low bar) and I think he will at least try to be a stabilizing force against Trump in his own way”

    She admitted to me “that’s not much but I’ll have to take it.” I agreed and then added, “don’t expect much though.” I think that proved right, and my wife’s grandmother – as a somewhat conservative woman but also somewhat liberal in her last decade, was embarrassed at what Conservatives had chosen.

    The one thing I could never understand about Conservatives is how so many of them watched, along with the rest of us, Mike Pence dutifully praise Donald Trump as much as anyone could for 4 years and then watch so many absolutely desecrate the man regarding Trump staying in office even thought he had lost an election.

    Sure, we all understood that Pence’s devotion and superlatives toward Trump were only one way. Pence never expected Trump to praise him, like Pence had to praise Trump. Trump never saw Pence as a partner. He never saw him as anything but goofy Christian guy who lived a life Trump could not fathom.

    (Many reports have shown that Trump use to mock Pence- sometimes right in front of him and in front of staff members, telling people that Pence would have to ask his mother before he could do anything. )

    One could not hear Mike Pence talk where he didn’t ridiculously, effusively, lavishly, extravagantly praise Donald Trump every time he was in front of a microphone. Of course he had to. Trump, as we know, considers anything less than absolute devotion, absolute praise, as a problem. Trump expects what he can never give himself.

    A reporter could ask Mike Pence about the garden at the Observatory and Pence would respond, “Thanks to the wonderful, servant minded leadership of Donald Trump, the roses are in full bloom.”

    But I don’t know how anyone could ever vote for him.

    He had no chance.

  8. Paul DeMarco

    I’m not saying Pence is a hero. I’m saying that he is infinitely preferable to Trump. Yes, he hitched his political wagon to Trump (as did McMaster) and benefitted politically. But when the chips were down, he refused to enable Trump’s power grab.
    You are right to criticize him harshly for the company he kept. And to say that being better than Trump is a low bar. But he saved the country from one hell of a mess.

    1. Ken

      That was in reference your third-from-last paragraph, in particular: “He stood in the gap, saving our electoral process from veering off a high cliff.”
      It heaped rather too much praise on the man for my tastes. Doing the right thing when you de facto have no choice is little cause to cheer.

    2. tedwhisnant

      There is much about your piece that I find appealing, though I’m afraid your premise will fall on deaf ears. Maybe Rep. Jamie Raskin got it right in his quotation from Voltaire: “Any one who can get you to believe absurdities can get you to commit atrocities.” There is no rationale the Trump gang will support.


    How about candidate C: In 2024, he will be 82 years old. He is known for making all sorts of empty campaign promises including a public option for healthcare, decriminalizing marijuana, ending COVID, reversing climate change, uniting the country, and choosing supreme court justices prioritizing demographics over judicial competence. He struggles to find the right words often.. likely a result of his advancing age.

    I don’t want a, b, or c. Anyone who does is the reason we are where we are as a country.

    1. Barry

      Candidate C might very well win re-election if the other choice is Donald Trump.

      That might be the only candidate he could beat, but that’s one option that could give an 82 year old, an 88 year old, even a 94 year old a real good chance.


        He’s not running, barry. You’re going to be looking at another Democratic primary starting next year. And it will be a repeat performance of a bunch of clowns trying to out woke each other. Kamala will never win after tanking so badly last time. And there’s no talent in the wings for Democrats.

        1. Barry

          If he doesn’t run, that’s perfectly fine.

          But a Candidate C or a Biden at 82 or 102 is likely to win, if the other guy is a complete fool like Donald Trump.

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