Donald Trump has shown time and again that loyalty is a one-way street pointed solely in his direction. Just ask Jeff Sessions. For going out on a limb and being the first Senator to endorse Trump, Sessions endured months of public humiliation in Trump’s Twitter feed as Attorney General before finally being canned.
So it’s not surprising that Trump is now questioning the faithfulness of Vice President Mike Pence. According to The New York Times, Trump has been asking aides and advisers whether Pence is loyal. The Times says that Trump has “repeated the question so many times that he has alarmed some of his advisers,” and adds that “the advisers say those kinds of questions usually indicate that he has grown irritated with someone.”
The irony of Trump turning Pence can’t be overstated. For one, Pence has taken the art of bootlicking to levels unseen in politics outside of North Korea. In one meeting, Pence managed to praise Trump every 12.5 seconds. Pence also likes to wax poetic about Trump’s shoulders, enough so that it begins to sound like a fetish.
For another, Trump probably owes his election to Pence (and to James Comey’s interference). It’s easy to forget now that the religious right viewed Trump with skepticism and for good reason. Trump was a thrice-married casino owner whose political views changed more often than his hair color. His embrace of right-wing ideology smelled of opportunism. He needed someone to vouch for him as a true believer.
That someone was Pence. With his strong ties to the evangelical community, Pence was the ideal person to introduce Trump to the conservative Christian leadership and convince them that Trump would fulfill their agenda. Of course, Pence got to rescue his failing career in the process.
It’s been a sub-dom relationship ever since. But one thing has changed. Trump has established his credentials with the religious right on his own. He’s given them two seats on the Supreme Court, for which they will be forever indebted. Now instead of flinching at Trump’s foibles–like his adultery–people like Franklin Graham and Tony Perkins actively defend him. Perkins famously gave Trump “a mulligan” when news of his relationship with porn star Stormy Daniels became public.
So, it’s actually logical for Trump to wonder if he needs Pence any more. Pence served his purpose as a middleman, but Trump doesn’t need anyone to intervene on his behalf with conservative Christians anymore. Pence is dispensable. Conservative Christians have put their faith in Trump, and if Trump decides Pence needs to go, they will go along with that decision.
Not that we are complaining. Pence is the most ruthlessly anti-LGBTQ in American history, and he is responsible for the hiring of hundreds of fundamentalist Christians in the White House and beyond. Even Trump knows it, repeatedly teasing him about Pence’s obsessive antipathy to all things gay.
Trump and Pence both disavowed the Times reporting, which is a pretty good indication that it’s true. Just a week before the story broke, Trump surprised Pence at a news conference by asking Pence if he would run with him again. But Trump goes back on his word with such alacrity that such a request means nothing.
Ideally, from Trump’s perspective, there wouldn’t even be a vice president because no one will ever replace him. Maybe Trump has gotten wind of Pence’s belief that God has chosen him to be “president in waiting” and finally sees Pence’s overweening ambition. Perhaps Trump views his veep as a potential rival. Whatever the reason, no one in Trump’s orbit escapes his narcissism and ruthlessness, as Pence is now learning.
Pence has managed to do a lot of damage to LGBTQ rights from his position, like cooking up the ban on transgender military personnel. Dumping him might be the best thing that Trump has ever done for us. Of course, his replacement would probably be every bit as bad. But it would be nice to see Pence get his comeuppance for giving us the disaster that is the Trump presidency.