|Joe Biden and Mike Pence (Image: WFLA)|
So, the United States has a new President. In November's general election, Joe Biden stormed to victory against a disgruntled Donald Trump who will never accept that seven million more people wanted his opponent, and not him, to win that election. He made sure that the world knew how livid he was by the thought that he wasn't as popular (for the second time) in several key states. Only a couple of short weeks ago, he encouraged his supporters to express their anger for the apparent ill-nature of his defeat. And they did, by storming Capitol Hill at the time when Congress finalised the election result. It was mind-boggling and rather horrifying to watch. It brought me memories of watching the London Riots unfold almost ten years ago.
Hopefully, what the world witnessed on Capitol Hill was a storm in a tea cup. The US has opened a new chapter, with 46th President Biden and 49th Vice-President Kamala Harris at the helm. I was pleased to see their inauguration run so smoothly. Watching it live on TV, I felt a sense that the country is returning to a state of political equilibrium. The challenge for Biden and Harris now is to keep this momentum going, which will be a challenge as their focus turns to defeating Covid-19, which the US has by far the highest death count for, and social diversity, as communities continue to divide across all states.
One thing struck me from watching the inauguration; the appearances of country superstar Garth Brooks - a devout Republican - and Mike Pence, Trump's Vice-President, and it's the latter who I want to focus on. Over the past four years, Pence was a shadow of his President, not being able to show his true colours - apart from being a loyal colleague of the administration he was part of. Yet, during the Capitol Hill riot, he was the target of some outrageous taunts, purely because he officially declared Biden as the winner. While he initially refused to accept defeat, he did what he needed to do on the day of the riots, and those loyal to the 45th President did not like it one bit.
No doubt, Pence being targeted this way must have lost him a little sleep. Nobody deserves to be verbally threatened in that way, for doing something that had to be done - confirming that democracy, not conspiracy theories, win elections. And because of this, Pence lost touch with someone who he would have confided to in times of need - Trump, who offered no sympathy and hadn't spoken to his Vice-President for days after the riots. In a very short space of time, Pence went from being Trump's closest and most loyal allies to a nobody. Make no mistake, this is Trump's style and has been for years. Pence is just the latest victim.
I'm not trying to sympathise with Pence. He followed the Trump agenda to the letter and has the right to be scrutinised for the administration's policies almost as much as his President. Yet, looking back on various reports, it seemed apparent that Trump didn't really want Pence as his running mate to begin with. According to the New York Times, Pence was the choice of Trump's aides due to his credentials and possessing a more favourable reputation in Washington - perhaps a sensible Republican, rather than someone who was a little radical and left-field like the eventual 45th President.
I don't blame Pence for accepting the Vice-President job either - if you're an ambitious politician, you take opportunities like this, even if you don't see eye-to-eye with your boss on key policies. They don't come every day. If you can't run for President, being a Vice or Secretary of State is the next best thing.
When researching Pence's history, I was almost stunned to discover that he isn't a life-long Republican. Up until the early 1980s, he sided with the Democrats. He was raised a Democrat, voted Jimmy Carter over Ronald Reagan in 1980 and cited John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King as figures who he was inspired by. His allegiance from the party of blue to red happened almost overnight. In earnest, he turned Republican at a time when Reagan was at the height of his power and it almost deemed 'cool' to be a supporter of his. Even today, Reagan is very desirable among Americans.
All things considered; Pence's political career is far from over. Being Trump's Vice-President, he was always bound to be on the receiving end of serious stick from the media and users of social media. That would have been the case for any Vice-President of Trump's. Someone had to take the job. Today, Pence is his own man. He could have followed his President's protests to the end, attend his send-off party and boycott Biden's inauguration, but he chose not to follow Trump's footsteps and followed tradition like a grown up. This was a big deal.
For Pence, attending Biden's big day was one small step towards rebuilding his image. Could he play an integral role in the Biden administration? The 46th President has made clear that he wants to include a wide spectrum of political talent when it comes to making significant policy changes. It's clear he wants to represent all of America, and not focus on those who boost his ego. I hope he recognises that Pence is the bigger man than he was made out to be over the past four years by including him in some of his plans. Pence may not return to the party in blue, but he has history with them which can be tapped into. Washington has never been as bruised as we see it today. This is Biden's (and Pence's) opportunity to heal wounds.