Vice presidents don’t often get a chance to change history, unless they become close advisors to the man in the Oval Office (Al Gore, Dick Cheney), or succeed him following death or resignation (Andrew Johnson, Gerald Ford), or get elected to the presidency themselves (George H.W. Bush).
But Vice President Mike Pence may be in a position to be not only the most important person in the Trump administration but very possibly the most important man in America right now.
Mike Pence stands at the confluence of two major trends in American history, the decline of the Old Politics symbolized by Washington D.C., and the rise of the New Politics symbolized and dominated by Donald Trump.
How President Trump decides to utilize this unique human asset to bridge the transition will determine whether his presidency is a success or failure.
The Old Politics is what Trump calls the Swamp: an amalgam of bureaucrats, lobbying groups and associations, power brokers, and professional politicians buttressed by a punditocracy and mainstream media who act as their echo chamber, along with pollsters who conjure up “public opinion” in order to sway office-holders in one direction or another.
The New Politics is driven by visceral distrust and hatred of the Old Politics. It thrust Donald Trump into office against all expectations; it may do the same with Judge Roy Moore. Its home is not Washington but the nation at large, and what drives it is social media and their attendant apps.
That power should not be underestimated. Right now we have seen social media’s power to polarize and inflame. But over the long haul its real impact will be empowering individuals to connect and act together to address issues of genuine national concern, not just the ones that appear on the front page of the New York Times. In that sense, Trump’s Tweets are actually the wave of the future as social media becomes a tool for taking away the mainstream media’s ability to define the national agenda, whether it’s kneeling during the national anthem or the deep state’s reluctance to prosecute wrongdoing when it’s a Democrat or one of their own.
Eventually there will even be apps for voting in elections including presidential elections, that will use voice and facial recognition and 3-D fingerprint analysis to authenticate voters.
Freedom will be an app we literally hold in our hand. The New Politics based on the sovereign individual, and crowdsourcing the sovereignty of the people, will spell the end of Old Politics as we know it, and the birth of a new America.
But for now the Old Politics still holds sway. Its practitioners see Trump as an existential threat, because they sense he represents a future that must eventually sweep them away. They can no longer control the agenda, but they can at least obstruct—which is what they’ve done with the effort to repeal ObamaCare, and which they now threaten to do with tax reform.
No doubt Trump imagined his formal status as president would be enough to overcome their opposition, especially within his party. It hasn’t happened. Instead, Trump needs a spokesman who has the trust of both the Old and the New Politics, and who can negotiate the dark dangerous currents that run between them.
That man is Mike Pence. We know Pence is comfortable with, and loyal to, President Trump. But he is also trusted and respected by New Politics avatars like Steve Bannon and Old Politics stalwarts like Mitch McConnell. In fact, NeverTrumpers in the GOP camp make no secret of their hope that the impeachment of Trump will leave them with the happy result of Pence as Chief Executive—or even that he might lead a coup d’etat to topple the hated Donald.
In their dreams. But the fact remains that Trump needs to make full use of this unique resource sitting in the vice presidential mansion. The election of Donald Trump was a political earthquake. What we all need now is someone who can sift through the rubble, give comfort to the survivors, but also prepare the way for reconstruction on new more solid foundations. Not many of us have a destiny; Mike Pence may be one who does.