One Cheer for Mike Pence

Sometimes, just doing your job matters

Let me just start with this: I don’t think former Vice President Mike Pence is a hero. He enabled President Trump and spent way too much time groveling to the former President. His legacy will be stained because of the choice he made.

That said I do want to give him one cheer, for doing the right thing when it counted.

Pence’s deep loyalty to Trump went overboard, but deep down there was something good there that became corrupted under the Donald: attention to duty. He showed duty to the constitution even as Trump tried to bully him with the obscene statement that he could down in history as a patriot or as a “pussy.” He showed duty to custom by going to the inauguration of President Biden and Vice President Harris. His former boss decided to skip the inauguration and leave town, giving himself a big send-off. He even got to leave on AirForce One since Biden wasn’t yet president. For Trump, everything was about him and he was willing to weaken our republic just so he didn’t have to face being a loser.

I know many will say, “He was just doing the job he was supposed to do. Big whoop.” I get that. And yet, for the last four years, we’ve had a leader that never really did his job. Sometimes the most important thing you can do is simply show up, doing your duty-even when it’s hard.

By being at the Inauguration instead of the outgoing President’s “yea me!’ rally, Pence was tipping his hand towards national unity. Trump was never the President of all of the United States. Instead, he was President of Red America. That’s why he couldn’t show up at the Inauguration; going to the winner of the election meant acceding to the enemy: Blue America. One of the reasons I find Presidential Inaugurations thrilling is because for a short period of time, people of different parties and persuasions can come together as Americans. The outgoing President welcomes the incoming President. The outgoing First Lady has tea with the incoming First Lady. Politicians from the opposite party wish the new President and Vice President all the best in leading the nation. Inaugurations remind us that this large and motley gathering of people is one nation, one people.

I’m currently in the middle of Divided We Fall, by David French. French, who is an editor for the Dispatch writes about how the current fissures in America could very well boil over with worldwide implications. How? The book’s subtitle tells you: America’s Secession Threat and How to Restore Our Nation. French presents two scenarios “Calexit” and “Texit” where an event or crisis sets off a cascade that leads to the breakup of the United States. I just finished Calexit and am in the middle of Texit. Both scenarios are sobering, all the more so after the Insurrection of January 6. As a review of the book shows, we are closer to secession than you think.

Today has been a historic day as we saw a woman of color become Vice President. I watched Vice President Kamala Harris take the oath of office from Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor and I clapped for joy as the oath concluded. We might have differences of policy, but just like with President Obama twelve years ago, this was a great moment for America. Even with all of the problems we have as a nation, that event reminds us that America is always becoming, striving to live up to those words in the Declaration of Independence.

But even with that momentous event, even with the excitement of having a new President, something else happened after the ceremony that was more important. On the steps of the East side of the Capitol where only two weeks prior a riotous mob stormed the building, Mike and Karen Pence chatted with Kamala Harris and the new Second Gentlemen Doug Emhoff. The two couples said their goodbyes and then the Pences got into a Suburban. The Second couple waved the former second couple off as they left the Capitol.

I needed to see that image. We needed to see that image. President Trump made his presidency off contempt and hatred. Everything was about conservatives and progressives hating each other. The new Vice President and the former Vice President chatting and saying goodbye with a sense of civility and respect is a reminder that maybe there is still hope for America. Maybe we can learn to disagree without seeing each other as the enemy. Maybe we can move forward together, not in a bland unity, but united.

That’s why I give one cheer to Mike Pence. By showing up he helped us remember that America can be and must be e Pluribus Unum; Out of Many, One.

In 1995, the world of baseball had its eyes on Cal Ripken. Throughout that summer he was edging closer and closer to a record number of consecutive games played. On September 6, 1995, he broke a record held by Lou Gherig for over 50 years by playing 2,131 games. He kept the record going until September 19, 1998, playing a total of 2,632 games. I was living in Washington, DC at the time so the news of Ripken coming closer and closer to the record was everywhere. I also remember that some wag wonder what was so important about showing up for work every day. Looking back, I kind of wondered that myself. But Ripken showed an attention to duty. He showed up. There are reasons when you can’t show up of course, but Ripken was willing to be there. Showing up never seems sexy, but it matters it matters a lot.

So, thanks for showing up Vice President Pence. Because it made a difference.

A middle-aged pastor living in Minneapolis. I write about politics, religion, sexuality, and autism.

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