By MARSHA MERCER
Former Vice President Mike Pence’s speech at the
University of Virginia Tuesday night was more like a hamburger than raw meat.
His remarks were as friendly and unfussy as a
fast-food burger with a smear of spicy mustard. He was respectful, approachable
-- “You can call me Mike” – and traditionally conservative.
His audience was polite and attentive as Pence boldly allied
himself with the Constitution, Thomas Jefferson, his Christian faith, freedom,
liberty, mom and apple pie. OK, he didn’t mention pie, though he did say he’s
been married to a schoolteacher for 36 years, they have three kids and “the
highest title I will ever hold is spelled D-A-D.”
Serving as vice president was “the greatest honor of
my life,” he said, and he bragged on the last administration’s record. Never
once did he mention Jan. 6, 2021, the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, or the
protesters that shouted, “Hang Mike Pence” as he and members of Congress hid.
Pence’s theme was “How to Save America from the Woke Left,” so, of course, he declared “Wokeness is running amok in our public schools and universities” and critical race theory is “nothing more than state-sanctioned racism.”
He blamed the Biden-Harris administration for crime, high
inflation, the worst border crisis in American history and a “tidal wave of
left-wing policies that threaten to wipe out all the progress we made in four
His prescription was for young people to join the
fight for liberty, but when a student asked if he would run for president in
2024, Pence said, “I will keep you posted.”
Republicans are waiting for Trump to actually say whether
he’s running again. In any case, he ruled out Pence as his running mate.
Democrats are waiting too, although President Joe
Biden said last year he will run with Vice President Kamala Harris as his
“Rush Limbaugh on decaf,” as Pence describes himself as
a talk radio show host in the 1990s, may be the least scary of the GOP
politicians who may compete for the White House in the election 200-plus days
This not a high bar in a Republican field that
includes Senators Tom Cotton of Arkansas, Ted Cruz of Texas and Josh Hawley of
Missouri as well as Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.
Pence is on a speaking tour of universities sponsored
by Young America’s Foundation, a conservative organization. His views on
marriage, trans and gender issues have made him persona non grata to some
and a hero to others.
In an editorial last month titled, “Dangerous Rhetoric
is not Entitled to a Platform,” the editorial board of U.Va.’s student-run
newspaper, The Cavalier Daily, warned Pence’s rhetoric “directly threatens the
presence and lives of our community members,” including the LGBTQ community,
and demanded the speech be called off.
In response, 17 professors, including political
scientist Larry Sabato, wrote in a letter to the editor: “This
speech-is-violence argument is not only wrong – no calls for violence will be
issued April 12 – but also contradicts the letter and the spirit of the First
Amendment, which generally creates space for a wide range of views to be
expressed so long as the relevant speech does not incite violence.”
A handful of students protested outside Old Cabell
Hall Tuesday, but in the auditorium, which was nearly full, everyone played
nice. When a student asked Pence what he would do or say if one of his children
came out to him as gay, he replied: “I’d look them in the eye and tell them, `I
Then he told the student if they got to know each
other, “You’d know the Pences love everybody.”
Love is an odd political strategy, to say the least. The
recent Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearings for Ketanji Brown
Jackson as an associate justice of the Supreme Court were viewed as an audition
for the presidential campaign, and several likely GOP contenders bared their
teeth in full, snarling mode.
Pence barks, but he wags more. He won praise for
upholding the Constitution during the electoral vote count last year. He calls
himself “a Christian, a conservative and a Republican,” in that order.
We’ll see if that’s enough to compete successfully against
his party’s mean boys.
©2022 Marsha Mercer. All rights reserved.